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Ken Burns: The Civil War [25th Anniversary Edition] [Blu-ray]
  • SKU: 30116033
  • Release Date: 10/13/2015
  • Rating: NR
  • 5.0 (1)
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Ken Burns' Civil War, Episode 9: The Better Angels of Our Nature
Although the Civil War basically came to a close following Lee's surrender to Grant in the spring of 1865, sporadic fighting continued. Jefferson Davis remained defiant to the very end, dreaming of escaping to Texas and somehow revitalizing the Confederate cause. By the time of his capture, however, even Southerners reviled and blamed their president for the loss of the war. The aftermath of the war proved awesome for both sides. Over 600,000 had died during the four years of fighting. In the South, one out of every four men of fighting age had been lost. African-Americans, free for the first time, wandered the roads searching for work and food. Also sobering was the unexpected assassination of President Lincoln a few days after the surrender at Appomattox. As the funeral train carried the President back to Springfield, IL, citizens met the train at each stop, overwhelmed with grief. The legacy of the Civil War, establishing the predominance of the federal government and dismantling the institution of slavery, forever stands as a dividing point in American history. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Ken Burns' Civil War, Episode 5: The Universe of Battle - 1863
Two pivotal events would change the course of the Civil War in 1863. General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia traveled to Pennsylvania, hoping to strike a victory deep in the enemy's territory. The battle that ensued, however, owned more to chance than an orderly plan. When Confederate troops came to the town of Gettysburg to look for shoes, they encountered Union forces. The three-day battle culminated in a disastrous Confederate charge under the command of General George E. Pickett, resulting in a stunning defeat for Lee. Lincoln would travel to the battlefield three months later to deliver the Gettysburg Address. Grant, meanwhile, continued his siege of Vicksburg until the 31,000 Southern troops ran low on food and surrendered. This gave the Union control of the entire Mississippi river, cutting off supplies to Confederate troops. While these events offered encouragement to the North, the draft, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the enlisting of black soldiers led to a backlash. This would cumulate in a deadly New York Draft Riot where Irish mobs attacked African-Americans at random, resulting in 100 deaths. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Ken Burns' Civil War, Episode 6: Valley of the Shadow of Death 1864
In May of 1864, the two foremost generals of the North and South finally met in battle: the withdrawn Grant, fresh from a string of victories, and the beloved Lee, struggling to hold together an army short on men and supplies. In Virginia, the Union army began its relentless pursuit of the smaller Confederate force, fighting fierce battles at Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor. In Petersburg, the two armies stalled. Lee and his troops remained entrenched for ten months, withstanding sun, rain, flies, and sharpshooters. Throughout the wilderness campaign, Union casualties proved so heavy that critics of the war labeled Grant a butcher. The casualties on both sides overwhelmed hospitals, leading many to look on these facilities as warehouses for the dying. Meanwhile, Grant's friend, General Sherman, began to move south from Chattanooga, TN, pushing General Johnston's troops back until both armies halted before Atlanta. Lincoln was pleased with both generals, but the extended war had undermined his popularity. He badly needed a victory to support his dwindling chances for re-election in the fall. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Ken Burns' Civil War, Episode 1: The Cause - 1861
The Cause -- 1861 opens Ken Burns' epic series on the Civil War, detailing the multiple factors that led the North and South to war in 1861. In 1860, four million African-Americans were held in bondage in the South, serving as forced labor to harvest cotton on vast plantations. The institution of slavery, with its harsh treatment of African-Americans by their owners, led to an abolitionist movement in the North. Harriet Beecher Stowe and William Lloyd Garrison called for an end to slavery in the United States. The Dred Scott case, "Bleeding Kansas," and Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin increased North/South tensions over the slavery issue, but it was radical John Brown who added the final spark. Although Brown's attack on Harper's Ferry in 1859 failed to start a slave revolt, he became an idealized symbol to the abolitionists. The incident, however, led to more distrust in the South. When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, Southern states began to secede from the Union. On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War. When Union forces retreated following the Battle of First Bull Run on July 21, hopes for a brief war evaporated. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Ken Burns' Civil War, Episode 2: A Very Bloody Affair - 1862
When Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861, the United States faced the worst crisis of its 75-year history. Because of Lincoln's lack of experience, many believed -- including his own cabinet -- that he wasn't qualified to be president. Convinced that the war could be over in three months, Lincoln chose George B. McClellan to build the Army of the Potomac; when it came time to pursue the enemy and fight, however, McClellan hesitated. In other theaters, the ironclad ships of the Confederate and Union Navies, the Merrimac and the Monitor, fought an epic four-and-a-half hour battle, revolutionizing naval warfare. In April, the troops of Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Sidney Johnston became embroiled in a murderous battle at Shiloh, MS. The battle's 23,000 casualties proved the bloodiest battle (up to that time) in American history, exceeding the combined casualties of the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War. Landmines, repeating guns, and the longer range of the new minie ball assured that this battle was only a harbinger of things to come. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Ken Burns' Civil War, Episode 4: Simply Murder - 1863
As the war continued, the hardships and the human cost became more evident. Many soldiers had little to eat and inadequate clothing, while others became addicted to alcohol. Soldiers also suffered when their officers made mistakes. At the battle of Fredericksburg in December of 1862, Union General Ambrose E. Burnside sent troops on a suicidal charge, leading to 12,000 casualties. As President Lincoln continued to search for the right general to lead the Union forces, many Northerners were unhappy with the war effort. An antiwar group calling themselves Copperheads openly criticized the president, leading many to be imprisoned. Meanwhile, Jefferson Davis, with governors asserting states' rights and objecting to the draft, found it as difficult to preside over the Confederacy. On May of 1863, the Union suffered a devastating defeat at the battle of Chancellorsville, VA. The death of General Stonewall Jackson, however, proved a serious setback to the Confederacy. Further south, General Grant began laying siege to Vicksburg in an attempt to cut off Confederate access to the Mississippi River. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Ken Burns' Civil War, Episode 3: Forever Free - 1862
In 1862, Confederate Generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee came to prominence. Jackson and 18,000 troops successfully pinned down two armies with more than twice as many soldiers in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia after General Joseph E. Johnston was severely wounded during the battle of Seven Pines. Lee faced General John Pope at the Second Battle of Manassas, a Union defeat that found Lincoln once again turning to George B. McClellan for military leadership. When the general failed to pursue Lee's army after the battle of Antietam, however, the president permanently removed McClellan from command. As the war continued, abolitionists and African-American leaders like Frederick Douglass pressured the president to recognize abolishing slavery as the central issue. Lincoln had insisted that the conflict was about preserving the Union, not about slavery, but five days after the battle of Antietam, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation also shifted the moral cause of the war, making it less likely that England or France would aid the South. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Ken Burns' Civil War, Episode 8: War Is All Hell - 1865
After winning Atlanta in September of 1865, General Sherman proceeded to take the war to the people of Georgia: His army would cut a path to the sea, living off the land and destroying anything of value along the way. They tore up railroads, twisted railroad ties, and burned houses, causing approximately 100 million dollars worth of damage on the 425-mile trip. The Union Army's march into South Carolina would prove even more destructive. The Confederate government, meanwhile, had begun to disintegrate. After Lee abandoned Petersburg and traveled west, Richmond, the Confederate capital, was defenseless. Jefferson Davis and his cabinet relocated to Danville, VA, while fleeing Southerners looted and burned the city. Food became a scarce commodity in the South and many Confederate soldiers deserted after receiving letters of the harsh conditions at home. Lee and his dwindling army continued west, hoping to join Johnston's forces in North Carolina, but were finally surrounded by Grant's army. On April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, VA. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Ken Burns' Civil War, Episode 7: Most Hallowed Ground - 1864
By the summer of 1864, the Union faced its darkest hour. Although its troops and resources far outnumbered those of the South, campaigns against Petersburg and Atlanta were bogged down. Northern protesters complained about Grant's massive losses and General George McClellan, once commander of the Union army, was nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate. Without a decisive victory, Republican Lincoln believed he would lose the election. The life of a soldier, meanwhile, continued as before. In lulls between battles, soldiers played cards and baseball; they gambled on cock fights and boxing matches; and they drank and visited houses of prostitution. Men continued to enlist and re-enlist, and during the summer, Congress passed legislation to give equal pay to African-American soldiers. Imprisoned soldiers faced severe conditions, none worse than those held at Andersonville prison in Georgia. The stalemate of the war ended on August 31 when Sherman successfully hurled his army against John Bell Hood's forces: on September 1, Union troops marched into Atlanta. This victory helped to assure Lincoln's re-election against McClellan in the fall. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

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