History

The Civil War

Between 1861 and 1865, Americans made war on each other and killed each other in great numbers if only to become the kind of country that could no longer conceive of how that was possible. What began as a bitter dispute over Union and States' Rights, ended as a struggle over the meaning of freedom in America.

Making The Civil War: 25 Years Later

28m 19s

Ken Burns, Ric Burns, Buddy Squires, and Allen Moore discuss the making of The Civil War.

Episodes

  • 1865: "War Is All Hell"/"The Better Angels of Our Nature": asset-mezzanine-16x9

    1865: "War Is All Hell"/"The Better Angels of Our Nature"

    S1 E5 - 2h 14m

    Follow Sherman’s March to the Sea, Richmond’s fall to Grant’s army, and Lee’s surrender to Grant. Follow the events of Lincoln’s assassination and burial, and Booth’s capture, as the war finally comes to a close. Explore the consequences and meaning of a war that transformed the country from a collection of states to the nation it is today.

  • 1864: "Valley of the Shadow of Death"/"Most Hallowed Ground": asset-mezzanine-16x9

    1864: "Valley of the Shadow of Death"/"Most Hallowed Ground"

    S1 E4 - 2h 18m

    Visit ghastly hospitals in the North and South and follow Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. While causalities mount, Lincoln’s re-election chances dim. Learn why the stakes were high for the 1864 presidential campaign, where Lincoln faced George McClellan. Also follow Union battle victories at Mobile Bay, Atlanta and the Shenandoah Valley, and the creation of Arlington National Cemetery.

  • 1863: "Simply Murder"/"The Universe of Battle": asset-mezzanine-16x9

    1863: "Simply Murder"/"The Universe of Battle"

    S1 E3 - 2h 34m

    Follow Lee, Jackson and Grant through battles and northern opposition to the Emancipation Proclamation. Watch the Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point of the war, unfold. See Vicksburg’s fall, New York draft riots, the first African-American troops, western battles at Chickamauga and Chattanooga — and Lincoln’s dedication of a new Union cemetery at Gettysburg.

  • 1862: "A Very Bloody Affair"/"Forever Free": asset-mezzanine-16x9

    1862: "A Very Bloody Affair"/"Forever Free"

    S1 E2 - 2h 21m

    See the birth of modern warfare and Lincoln’s war to preserve the Union transform into a war to emancipate the slaves. Follow the battle of ironclad ships, camp life and the beginning of the end of slavery. Re-live the war’s bloodiest day, on the banks of Antietam Creek, and the brightest: the emancipation of the slaves.

  • 1861: "The Cause": asset-mezzanine-16x9

    1861: "The Cause"

    S1 E1 - 1h 40m

    Beginning with a searing indictment of slavery, this first episode dramatically evokes the causes of the war, from the Cotton Kingdom of the South to the northern abolitionists who opposed it. Here are the burning questions of Union and states' rights, John Brown at Harpers Ferry, the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the firing on Fort Sumter, and the jubilant rush to arms on both sides.

Extras + Features

  • Secessionitis: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Secessionitis

    S1 -

    In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President, and the South was horrified. Seven Southern states seceded in the time between Lincoln's election and inauguration. The Confederacy inaugurated Mississippi senator Jefferson Davis as President. Introduction to Mary Chesnut, wife of a prominent Southern planter and diarist.

  • Fort Sumter: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Fort Sumter

    S1 - 2m 35s

    Confederate gunners fired on Ft. Sumter in Charleston, SC on April 12, 1861. Ft. Sumter fell 34 hours later. It was a bloodless opening to the bloodiest war in American history.

  • A Thousand Mile Front: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    A Thousand Mile Front

    S1 - 3m 27s

    General George McClellan takes command of the Union army with an elaborate plan to destroy the Confederacy, but does nothing. U.S. Grant is assigned to desk duty; William T. Sherman resigns, close to suicide.

  • Was it Not Real?: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Was it Not Real?

    S1 - 5m 9s

    Four million slaves were freed yet it would take another century for African Americans to win 'freedom.' History is not 'was' but 'is.' Until we treat each other as equals the Civil War will never be over.

  • Bottom Rail on Top: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Bottom Rail on Top

    S1 - 7m 49s

    Lincoln issues the first federal draft call, but for $300, men can hire substitutes and most of the wealthy elite do so. Resistance to the draft causes riots throughout the North. Lincoln authorizes the first African-American troops. The 54th Massachusetts regiment, under Robert Gould Shaw, attacks Fort Wagner, South Carolina.

  • 1938 Newsreel: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    1938 Newsreel

    S1 - 3m 9s

    1938 was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The Civil War defined us as a nation. To understand the American character the Civil War must be studied.

  • Appomattox: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Appomattox

    S1 - 11m 7s

    April 7, 1865 - Grant writes to Lee. April 9, 1865. Lee sends word that he will surrender. Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant meet at Appomattox to work out the terms of the surrender. The formal surrender comes three days later. In Washington, Lincoln quietly rejoices. A few blocks away, John Wilkes Booth plots.

  • The Gettysburg Address: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    The Gettysburg Address

    S1 - 5m 50s

    Lincoln feels he has failed the American people, his audience at Gettysburg, and the memory of the dead with his short address, yet the eloquence and grandeur of the 269 words became enshrined as a standard against which all speeches that came thereafter were measured.

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