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The Civil War 

A comprehensive survey of the American Civil War.
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Top Rated TV #15 | Won 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 8 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »
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Series cast summary:
 Mary Chestnut 9 episodes, 1990
 Ulysses S. Grant 9 episodes, 1990
Paul Roebling ...
 Walt Whitman / ... 9 episodes, 1990
George Black ...
 Robert E. Lee 9 episodes, 1990
David McCullough ...
 William Tecumseh Sherman / ... 9 episodes, 1990
 Pvt. Elijah Hunt Rhodes 9 episodes, 1990
Charles McDowell ...
 Pvt. Sam Watkins 9 episodes, 1990
Horton Foote ...
 Jefferson Davis 9 episodes, 1990
 George Templeton Strong / ... 9 episodes, 1990
 Horace Greeley / ... 9 episodes, 1990
Terry Courier ...
 George McClellan 9 episodes, 1990
Jody Powell ...
 Stonewall Jackson / ... 9 episodes, 1990
 Benjamin F. Butler 9 episodes, 1990
 Various / ... 9 episodes, 1990
Betsy Apple ...
Carol Craven ...
Marissa Copeland ...
Halo Wines ...
David Marks ...
Ronnie Gilbert ...
John Hartford ...
Walt MacPherson ...
 Various / ... 9 episodes, 1990
Bradford Washburn ...
Jesse Carr ...
Wendy Tilghman ...
Joe Mattys ...
 Himself - Writer / ... 8 episodes, 1990
Ed Bearss ...
 Himself - Historian 6 episodes, 1990
Barbara Fields ...
 Herself - Historian 5 episodes, 1990
James Symington ...
 Himself - Former Congressman 4 episodes, 1990
Stephen B. Oates ...
 Himself - Historian / ... 4 episodes, 1990


This highly acclaimed mini series traces the course of the U.S. Civil War from the abolitionist movement through all the major battles to the death of President Lincoln and the beginnings of Reconstruction. The story is mostly told in the words of the participants themselves, through their diaries, letters, and Visuals are usually still photographs and illustrations of the time, and the soundtrack is likewise made up of war-era tunes played on period instruments. Several modern-day historians offer periodic comment and insight on the war's causes and events. Written by Eric Sorensen <Eric_Sorensen@fc.mcps.k12.md.us>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It divided a country. It created a nation.


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

23 September 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Az amerikai polgárháború története  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


The song used as General Grant's theme is Kingdom Come (a.k.a. Year of Jubilo), a minstrel show song written in 1862 by Henry Clay Work. It has appeared in other movies, including Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and several cartoon shorts by Tex Avery. The original lyrics are very offensive by modern standards; the first line is "Say, darkey, have you seen de massa wif de moustache on his face?" See more »


Contrary to this documentary (and many historians) Winfield Scott never recommended Robet E. Lee for anything more than a "significant command" nor did Lincoln offer Lee command of the Union Army.

An advisor to the President, Francis P. Blair, DID offer Lee command of the Defenses of Washington, via letter, but there are NO records that Lee. An Lincoln ever met in person. See more »


Narrator: A week before the battle of Bull Run, Sullivan Ballou, a major in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers, wrote home to his wife in Smithfield.
Sullivan Ballou: July 14, 1861. Washington, D.C. Dear Sarah, indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days-perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I'm no more. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I'm engaged, and my courage does not ...
See more »


Featured in WatchMojo: Top 10 Documentary Mini Series (2015) See more »


Marching Through Georgia
Written by Henry Clay Work
See more »

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User Reviews

Great documentary by a great documentarian
2 May 2002 | by See all my reviews

This is by far the best documentary I've ever seen. History is my favorite subject to study and I have seen a lot of documentaries and "The Civil War" by Ken Burns is by far my favorite.

The Civil War is my favorite subject in history to study and Ken Burns does and excellent job at spacing out the sequence of the war in this set, basically two videos per year of the war. Many people stereotypically think of documentaries as dull and boring, but Ken Burns definately does not let "The Civil War" fall into that stereotype. Thats why this documentary is not only good for learning but the soundtrack, the scenery and everything else put into it makes you really appreciate and get a feel for the Civil War era. As you watch through the videos from Fort Sumter through Antietam and Gettysburg and up to Appomattox, you can really get the fealing of how the actual Yankee and Rebel soldiers felt during these times. burns does not only focus on the battles which would stand out as the most interesting part of a war, but he gets into the personal lives of the soldiers, the soldiers' families, abolitionists and slaves.

David McCullough has a wonderful voice as the narrator and it was also nice to hear some familiar voices for some of the characters such as Jason Robards, Morgan Freeman, and Sam Waterston. The interviews by Edwin Bears, Shelby Foote and other historians were always nice to hear among the documentary.

Overall a very well done documentary on the Civil War. If you are interested in American history in general this and "The West" also by Ken Burns are an excellent choice to see.

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