Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

The Civil War


  • The Cause
  • A Very Bloody Affair
  • Forever Free
  • Simply Murder
  • The Universe of Battle
  • Valley of the Shadow of Death
  • Most Hallowed Ground
  • War Is All Hell
  • The Better Angels of Our Nature
  • Series: The Civil War
  • Rating: *****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Series (public): $450.00
  • Date: Copyright 1989. Released 1990.
  • Descriptors: United States - History - Civil War.
  • Production Information: Live action, Stills. Produced by Ken Burns, Ric Rurns. Videos: 9. Color, b&w. Includes Teacher's guide, Timeline poster, Index, Civil War map. Closed captioned. 99, 69, 76, 62, 95, 70, 72, 69, 68 min.
  • Production Company: Florentine Films
  • Available from: PBS Video 1320 Braddock Pl. Alexandria, VA 22314-1698 (703)739-5380
  • Cataloging: ||United States - History - Civil War, 1861-1865
  • Print Entry #: 1:1880
  • Reviewer: Brian Taylor

    Wow! This comprehensive video series on the US Civil War will meet just about any expectations a school and public library video selector could have of a program on this monumental topic, with the exception of brevity. Following both people and events, the programs also present commentary by historians, punctuating the narrative with observations and anecdotes. Two of these historians, Barbara Fields and Shelby Foote, add much in the way of interest and depth; Fields speaks from a Northern perspective and Foote from a Southern one. From the thousands of remaining photographs taken during the conflict, the producers have chosen a numerous and varied collection; there are also selections from the writings of diarists Mary Chesnut and George Templeton Strong, and excerpts from the written tales of the experiences of two soldiers, who seem to have participated in most of the major campaigns of the war.

    Producer Ken Burns has edited the series in a way that will appeal to both general and school audiences. Individuals and families can view episodes as they would any television program. Classes can view partial segments of episodes, as the series is accessible by both alphabetical and subject-grouped indexes. The "major players" in the conflict are liberally quoted by a dubbing cast that would make any Hollywood casting director envious - Sam Waterston, Julie Harris, Jason Robards, Morgan Freeman, and many others. Technically, the films are appealing to both ear and eye. Although the majority of footage is of archival stills, the camera gently moves up and down and from side to side on these photos, giving the viewer an illusion of movement. The audio is excellent. The music is of equally high caliber, with liberal selections of period music.

    Major themes and issues of the war are dealt with especially well thanks to the points of view of historians Foote and Fields. In the final episode, Foote points to the Civil War as the last political battle establishing the Constitutional dominance of the federal government. Fields sees the war as a battle for civil rights, an ongoing struggle not yet resolved.

    Belonging alongside Alistair Cooke's America, this series deserves a place in any library video collection that can afford the purchase price.

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