Death and the CIvil War (PBS, American Experience 2012)

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gem

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
"Based on the best-selling book by Drew Gilpin Faust, this film by Ric Burns will explore how the American Civil War created a "republic of suffering" and will chart the far-reaching social, political, and social changes brought about by the pervasive presence and fear of death during the Civil War." - American Experience, PBS (2012)

 

gem

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/arts/television/death-and-the-civil-war-by-ric-burns-on-pbs.html

A Wave of Staggering Loss, in a Country Unprepared
‘Death and the Civil War,’ by Ric Burns, on PBS
By NEIL GENZLINGERSEPT. 17, 2012

PBS’s “American Experience” can feel formulaic, but the episode on Tuesday, “Death and the Civil War,” makes itself wrenching and riveting by throwing out some of the formulas that have become familiar in documentaries about the war.

The program, written and directed by Ric Burns, focuses on one overwhelming fact of the Civil War that others bury in an avalanche of minutiae: An unprecedented number died during the four years of fighting.

There are no detailed maps of troop movements in Mr. Burns’s treatment. The great generals show up only for cameos. Yes, actors give dramatic readings of letters, and the camera technique is straight out of “The Civil War,” the breakthrough documentary on which Mr. Burns worked with Ken Burns, his brother. But unlike other such works, “Death and the Civil War” avoids the temptation to wander. It never loses focus on its sobering subject.

In one revelatory segment after another, it explores what it was like for people of the day to be confronted with all that death in so short a span. Monday was the 150th anniversary of Antietam, still the bloodiest day of battle in American history. New research has found that the death toll in the war, long put at just over 618,000, was probably about 750,000.

“Transpose the percentage of dead that mid-19th-century America faced into our own time: Seven million dead, if we had the same percentage,” says Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard, whose book “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War” is the basis for the program. “What would we as a nation today be like if we faced the loss of seven million individuals?”

Photo
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The documentary "Death and the Civil War," written and directed by Ric Burns, includes photographs like this one of soldiers who died in battle. Credit Library of Congress
Like the book, the program is divided into subsections — “Dying,” “Burying,” “Accounting” — that treat different aspects of wartime death, and each reveals a country that was completely unprepared for the losses the war brought. Most people, we’re told, at first expected the conflict to be brief and to be a gentlemanly, low-casualty affair like some of the wars that had come before. No one understood what the combination of large armies and modern weaponry would do, or how bringing thousands of men together in camps would be an invitation to infectious diseases.

“The war has the misfortune of being fought at a time when military tactics, military strategy was a step behind technology,” the historian J. David Hacker says, “and being fought about 10 years before we really had a proper understanding of what causes disease, how to prevent disease from breaking out and how to treat what diseases we have.”

American Experience

Death and the Civil War

Produced for PBS by WGBH Boston. Written and directed by Ric Burns; Mark Samels, executive producer; Li-Shin Yu, editor; Robin Espinola, Bonnie LaFave and Mr. Burns, producers; Oliver Platt, narrator; original concept developed by Paul Taylor; Buddy Squires, Stephen McCarthy and Allen Moore, cinematographers; music by Brian Keane.
 
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wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I watched the first half hour. It takes an effort to get through.
The meaning and significance of the Civil War is captured.
 

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Because of the political structure of the Confederacy, there were only two ways out of the horror, in my view.
The United States could agree to separation, or the United States could accumulate decisive victories that destroyed the Confederacy.
 
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gem

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
I watched the first half hour. It takes an effort to get through.
The meaning and significance of the Civil War is captured.
I agree with you I've watched the whole thing (not all at once) and it brings home the extreme toil that no one expected and how the government and people from both sides tried to deal with it.
 

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
It explains the aftermath of Shiloh. The politicians wanted to shunt the responsibility of the war onto the generals, that command errors caused the casualties. By the end of the Seven Days campaign, Shiloh was not that important. Also, Grant did not fight another Shiloh until: he went to the Virginia theater and led an army in fighting Robert E. Lee.
 

gem

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
Because of the political structure of the Confederacy, there were only two ways out of the horror, in my view.
The United States could agree to separation, or the United States could accumulate decisive victories that destroyed the Confederacy.
What do you mean by political structure and how was it depend on that?
 
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wausaubob

Major
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Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I don't think the people had much say on the progression of the war in the Confederacy. Some of the men could escape to the United States, but loyalists had no ability to vocally dissent to the conduct of the war. The Confederacy did not have to surrender until every man of military age had been killed. The United States still had competitive elections and still had to pay its bills with the bond purchasers.
 

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
After watching this documentary, I see why Vicksburg was so important. With the year of death sweeping from Shiloh, to Fredricksburg, and Chanc., Vicksburg was a definite result that changed the strategic situation and made it possible to think about the end of the war.
 
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