The Civil War
25 years after the original broadcast, WMHT will air the award-winning film, re-mastered, over five consecutive nights beginning September 7, 2015.
“THE CIVIL WAR was a milestone in the history of documentary film and television,” John F. Wilson, SVP & chief TV programming executive at PBS said. “When THE CIVIL WAR premiered, the nation became increasingly riveted by the story and the filmmaking. To date, it remains the highest-rated series in the history of American public television. Twenty-one years later, the re-mastered film remains relevant and modern. The storytelling and use of music, experts and personal narratives, along with a stunning collection of period photographs, are just as poignant today as when it premiered.”
THE CIVIL WAR attracted an audience of 40 million during its premiere in September 1990. The New York Times called it a masterpiece and said that Ken Burns ”takes his place as the most accomplished documentary filmmaker of his generation.“ Tom Shales of The Washington Post said, “This is not just good television, nor even just great television. This is heroic television.” The columnist George Will added, “If better use has ever been made of television, I have not seen it and do not expect to see better until Ken Burns turns his prodigious talents to his next project.” The series has been honored with more than 40 major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, Producer of the Year Award from the Producers Guild, People’s Choice Award, Peabody Award, duPont-Columbia Award, D.W. Griffith Award and the Lincoln Prize, among dozens of others.
The Cause — 1861 (Episode One)
What caused the war? Beginning with an examination of slavery, this episode looks at the causes of the war and the burning questions of union and states’ rights. John Brown leads a rebellion at Harper’s Ferry, Abraham Lincoln is elected president, Fort Sumter is fired upon and both sides rush to arms. Introducing the series’ major figures — Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant — the episode concludes with the disastrous Union defeat at Manassas, where both sides realize it is to be a very long war.
A Very Bloody Affair — 1862 & Forever Free — 1862 (Episodes Two and Three)
'A Very Bloody Affair — 1862'--1862 sees the birth of modern warfare and the transformation of Abraham Lincoln’s war to preserve the Union into a war to emancipate the slaves. Political infighting threatens to swamp Lincoln’s administration, and Union General George McClellan wages an ill-fated campaign on the Virginia peninsula. The episode follows the battle of ironclad ships, camp life and the beginning of the end of slavery. Ulysses S. Grant’s exploits come to a bloody resolution at the Battle of Shiloh, and rumors swarm about Europe’s readiness to recognize the Confederacy.
Simply Murder — 1863 & The Universe of Battle — 1863 (Episodes Four and Five)
“Simply Murder — 1863”--A nightmarish Union disaster at Fredericksburg precedes two clashes in the spring of 1863: at Chancellorsville in May, where Robert E. Lee wins his most brilliant victory but loses Stonewall Jackson; and at Vicksburg, where Ulysses S. Grant is prevented from taking the city by siege. There is fierce northern opposition to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and increasing desperation on the Confederate home front. Lee decides to invade the North again to draw Grant’s forces away from Vicksburg.
“The Universe of Battle — 1863”--The Battle of Gettysburg is the turning point of the war. For three days, 150,000 fight to the death in the Pennsylvania countryside culminating in Pickett’s legendary charge. Vicksburg falls to Union forces, draft riots rage in New York, black troops join the fight for the first time and western battles transpire at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. At the dedication of a new Union cemetery at Gettysburg, Lincoln struggles to put into words what is happening to his people.
Valley of the Shadow of Death — 1864 & Most Hallowed Ground — 1864 (Episodes Six and Seven)
“Valley of the Shadow of Death — 1864”--Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee are pitted against each other in an extraordinary series of battles from the wilderness to Petersburg in Virginia. With Grant and Lee finally deadlocked at Petersburg, we move to the ghastly hospitals in both the North and South, and follow Sherman’s Atlanta campaign through the mountains of northern Georgia. As the horrendous casualty lists increases, Abraham Lincoln’s chance for re-election begins to dim and with them, the possibility of Union victory.
“Most Hallowed Ground — 1864”--The presidential campaign of 1864 sets Abraham Lincoln against his old commanding general, George McClellan. The stakes are nothing less than the survival of the Union itself. Opinion in the North has turned strongly against Lincoln and the war, but 11th-hour Union victories at Mobile Bay, Atlanta and the Shenandoah Valley tilt the election to Lincoln, and the Confederacy’s last hope for independence dies. In an ironic twist, Robert E. Lee’s Arlington mansion is turned into a Union military hospital and the estate becomes Arlington National Cemetery — the Union’s most hallowed ground.
War Is All Hell — 1865 & The Better Angels of Our Nature — 1865 (Episodes Eight and Nine)
“War Is All Hell — 1865”--William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea brings war to the heart of Georgia and the Carolinas and spells the end of the Confederacy. Following Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration, Petersburg and Richmond finally fall to Ulysses S. Grant’s army. Robert E. Lee’s tattered Army of Northern Virginia flees westward towards Appomattox, where the surrender of Lee to Grant takes place. Meanwhile, John Wilkes Booth begins to dream of vengeance for the South.
“The Better Angels of Our Nature — 1865”--On April 14, five days after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Abraham Lincoln is assassinated. Lincoln is buried, John Wilkes Booth is captured and the war finally comes to a close. The series ends by considering the consequences and meaning of a war that transformed the country from a collection of states to the nation it is today.