Synopsis by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
Ken Burns' epic series begins with the causes of the Civil War in 1861 and ends with the war's aftermath in 1865. A combination of photographs, interviews, and narration create a sweeping historical documentary. Commentary and anecdotes by historian Shelby Foote add another level of authority to the film while providing the viewer insight into distant events and personalities. While Burns covers the major battles and personalities, he also emphasizes the plight of African-Americans and the common soldier. Each of the nine segments concentrates on a particular part of the war, allowing the viewer to isolate episodes of interest. For instance, episode five, The Universe of Battle, follows General Robert E. Lee into Pennsylvania for the devastating battle of Gettysburg. Social events are also given coverage. Each episode opens with a list of events simultaneously taking place around the world, while a more detailed treatment is provided for domestic affairs. Accounts of the draft riots in the North and famine in the South help to place the war within a larger social context. At the end of the nine episodes, Burns' ambitious series has offered a complete account of the causes of the war, the personalities of the generals and politicians who directed it, and the domestic and foreign events that shaped the war's outcome.
High Historical Importance