1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free!
Dismiss Notice
Join and Become a Patron at CivilWarTalk!
Support this site with a monthly or yearly subscription! Active Patrons get to browse the site Ad free!
START BY JOINING NOW!

So how accurately did the Ken Burns documentary get the history of the war

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by lastcat3, Mar 2, 2008.

  1. lastcat3

    lastcat3 Cadet

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Messages:
    15
    How good do you guys think the Ken Burns documentary got the war (at least in regards to the battles).

    The Ken Burns documentary has always been my main source of history on the war that I have looked at (havn't ever read many books about it).

    This messageboard is cool by the way. I have always been interested in the Civil War but generally it is hard to discuss it because most people don't know a whole lot about it. It's also nice to see that this board looks to be pretty active as well.
     

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. blue_zouave

    blue_zouave Sergeant

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    817
    Dear Lastcat, the Ken Burns documentary got a LOT of people started on in depth study of the ACW, including me. Historically, he did OK -- he has the right people in the right places at the right time.

    This board is a great source of information. I'll leave it to others to give a good basic list of general books about the Civil War. My interest is 19th century medicine -- I'm not a battle wonk except for Chickamauga. :D

    Welcome aboard,

    Zou
     
    AndyHall and OldBrainsHalleck like this.
  4. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    29,331
    Location:
    Right here.
    Everytime I watch it I find another mistake. That said, he did okay in the accuracy department. I keep watching. If you just don't listen to the Shelby Foote portions you'll raise the accuracy percentage significantly, but there are still problems outside of Shelby.

    Regards,
    Cash
     
    StephenColbert27 likes this.
  5. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    34,934
    Location:
    Near Kankakee
    Lastcat: Anytime someone tries to distill 4 years of history into a few hours, some things are going to be missed and some rather complex, important ideas and movements and tactics and strategies are going to be condensed past recognition.

    I don't fault Burns for the inaccuracies; we here are all freaks and would probably find fault with the way you tie your shoes. In fact, we sometimes fault those who were running the war for the way they did it.

    Welcome aboard. However, I will caution you: Hang around long enough and you're going to find something that interests you so you'll buy a book and you'll start reading it. Before you're finished you'll find something else, so you'll buy a book and start reading it. It doesn't stop.

    ole
     
  6. clara_barton

    clara_barton Private

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
    Messages:
    76
    Wonderful ... have you read Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs? Do I get to ask you why Chickamauga ... maybe, George Henry Thomas?

    Thanks,
    clara
     
  7. lastcat3

    lastcat3 Cadet

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Messages:
    15

    I get a subscription off of netflix and I pulled up the documentary on it and read some of the reviews and within the reviews many of them said Shelby wasn't a good person to be talking about it (which surprised me because he was the main historian that the documentary looked to).

    So anyway what are some of the things that the documentary and Shelby Foote got wrong?
     
  8. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    29,331
    Location:
    Right here.
    The whole "it made us an is" thing is wrong. The idea that Lee thought of Virginia as his country was wrong. The idea that the south would never have joined the Union if they thought they couldn't secede is wrong. The claim the south never had a chance is wrong.--Darn near every word out of Shelby's mouth was wrong.

    Outside Shelby's errors, the big one that sticks in my mind right now is claiming that Pope took command of the Army of the Potomac between McClellan's supposed two stints in command. That's wrong. Pope commanded the Army of Virginia, which had some units of the Army of the Potomac transferred to it. McClellan retained command of the reduced Army of the Potomac. When Pope was defeated and sent to Minnesota, the Army of Virginia disbanded and the troops taken from the Army of the Potomac were returned to it. Throughout, McClellan was still in command.

    Regards,
    Cash
     
    StephenColbert27 likes this.
  9. lastcat3

    lastcat3 Cadet

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Messages:
    15

    Ahh, you know I wonder in regards to the Pope thing rather some of that stuff was intentional. You know like when they create movies based on true stories sometimes they will blend two different stories together. Possibly they did that to cut down a little bit on some of the information they would have to include. Also because only the people very knowledgeable about CW events would pick up on something like that.
     
  10. larry_cockerham

    larry_cockerham Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011 Honored Fallen Comrade

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    10,198
    Location:
    Nashville
    While Shelby Foote may well have been excelled many times with respect to his accuracy, he managed to draw some attention to the subject. That has a certain inestimable value as far as keeping the memory of the southern soldier alive (Union ones, too). Shelby's charm was in his soft southern drawl and his ability to spin a yarn on camera, whether absolutely accurate or not. Heck, some of my stuff ain't exactly right. I keep trying. Shelby would too, were he here.
     
    Andersonh1 likes this.
  11. lastcat3

    lastcat3 Cadet

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Messages:
    15
    Is Shelby still alive does anybody know?
     
  12. lastcat3

    lastcat3 Cadet

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Messages:
    15

    I just looked it up on wikipedia and it said he passed away in '05. Like you said regardless rather all his stuff was completely accurate or not he was a good television personality.
     
    wausaubob likes this.
  13. timewalker

    timewalker Cadet

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2008
    Messages:
    1,123
    Location:
    Flower Mound, Texas
    He died in 2005.

    I always thought Foote's strength was not as a historian, but as a story teller. To many people, he made the documentary. He was engaging and is what many people came away with from the documentary. I think that is why Ken Burns used him. He could hold the camera. Having gone to one of his speeches in person, he knew how to hold a crowd.

    His three volume history of the Civil War is not great history, but it is great story-telling. And that is how history started out....
     
    wausaubob likes this.
  14. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    29,331
    Location:
    Right here.
    He died.

    Regards,
    Cash
     
  15. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    29,331
    Location:
    Right here.
    I agree completely. Shelby's trilogy is a work of art. And like I said, I keep watching the Burns series--though I usually cringe when Shelby starts talking. :smile:

    Regards,
    Cash
     
  16. blue_zouave

    blue_zouave Sergeant

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    817
    Dear Miss Clara,

    Actually, I'm an admirer of the unfortunate William Starke Rosecrans. :D

    I started studying Chickamauga as research for my novel (a long time in the writing, and still pre published!) I thought that the Eastern Theater had been done to death, so I chose the Western Theater for the setting.

    I have nindeed read Dr. Bollet's book -- one of the best on the subject.

    Zou
     
  17. Stephen Poleskie

    Stephen Poleskie Cadet

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2008
    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Ithaca, New York
    Misinformation

    About the only thing most Civil War books agree on is where the battles were fought, and when; athough you will notice that the Union and the Confederates usually had different names for the same place. That said, Ken Burns' highly publicized documentary was as accurate and as inaccurate as most Civil War offerings. The only aspect of the war I would consider myself an expert on, having published a book on T. S. C. Lowe would be the Balloon Corps. I did notice that when Burns flashed a picture of Lowe's generator wagons, used for inflating the balloons, parked on the mall in Washington D. C., he referred to them as sutler's wagons. But then Professor Lowe, despite his significant contributions, has been pretty much left out of history. In Bruce Catton's The Civil War, which has several photographs of Lowe's observation balloons, including one with Lowe himself, T. S. C. Lowe's name does not even appear in the index. If you are interested in learning more about Lowe, and his efforts to establish a balloon corps you might enjoy my book The Balloonist, The Story of T. S. C. Lowe, Inventor, Scientist, Magician, and Father of the U. S. Airforce, available at most libraries, or from Amazon.com. Stephen Poleskie
     
  18. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Colonel Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2008
    Messages:
    17,391
    Location:
    Virginia
    Dear Stephen Poleskie,

    In addition, Professor Lowe sent the first telegram from the balloon "Enterprise" to the men on the ground. Making history for first air to ground communications.

    Although the balloons were extremely useful, they do have weaknesses which is the fact that once shot at--punctures the balloon--it crashes.

    Just some thoughts.

    M. E. Wolf
     
  19. Stephen Poleskie

    Stephen Poleskie Cadet

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2008
    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Ithaca, New York
    Lowe's First Telegraph Message

    Dear M.E. Wolf;

    You are correct. On June 18, 1861, T. S. C. Lowe did indeed send down the first aerial telegraph message from his balloon "Enterprise" to President Lincoln. Lowe's balloon was tethered on the mall at the site that is now the Air and Space Museum. The balloon was then pulled down, and towed to the lawn of the White House, where Lincoln greeted Lowe from an upstairs window and invited him to dinner. I have published a pamphlet describing this event, which is an excerpt from my book The Balloonist, which I would be happy to send you, or anyone else, at no charge. Just send your address to me by e-mail at SPoleskie@aol.com.

    Lowe's balloon was forced down only once. This was on the only free-flight he attempted during the war. He was shot at by pickets from his own side while atempting to return. The troops had not been alerted of his mission, as he was not being blown back to where he had begun. They did not, however, shoot holes in his balloon. Preparing to land Lowe had let most of the air out of his balloon and was not able to clear a hill that was in his way. He crashed behind Confederate lines, and was rescued by his wife, Leontine, a French actress, who drove out in a wagon disguised as a farm woman. Most of the time his balloon, and those of the other members of his corps were flown higher than the Rebel guns were capable of reaching. The danger came when the balloons were ascending, or being pulled down. This information is detailed in my book, The Balloonist, The Story of T. S. C. Lowe, Inventor, Scientist, Magician, and Father of the U. S. Airforce, Frederic C. Beil, Publisher, Savannah, availabe at most libraries or from Amazon.com.
     
    Cavalry Charger likes this.
  20. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Colonel Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2008
    Messages:
    17,391
    Location:
    Virginia
    Dear Stephen Poleskie,

    I'm so glad that we have an 'author' and expert on the balloon flights of Professor Lowe.

    Hope your book sells well. I'm sure it will be a good read.

    Sincerely,
    M. Wolf
     
  21. DJ Psychomike

    DJ Psychomike Cadet

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2008
    Messages:
    203
    Location:
    Chicago
    When I lived in the South not a day went by that I didn't see Confederate bumperstickers, HELL NO WE AIN'T FERGETTIN' was a popular one or DON'T BLAME ME I VOTED FOR JEFF DAVIS. When I got to Chicago I expected to see HELL YEAH WE WON bumperstickers or CONSTITUTION OR NOT BULLETS WIN! but- nothing.

    When the Burns documentary came out all that changed. I started running into people who were reading about the war and could talk to them about it.

    But you know, there was a whole lot in that series about Abe Lincoln. Almost nothing about Jefferson Davis! That's like covering World War 2 and forgetting to mention Hitler! (Not that I compare the two mind you)

    No question it got a lot of people interested in the war. But the Southern side was the least accurate of the show!
     

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Share This Page


(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)