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This was my first Ken Burns series. I was very mixed about it, as a history aficionado. The experiential parts, from diaries, etc. were excellent. They gave a very good feel for the war. For further reading to get a little bit more on that aspect, Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust is an excellent treatment of it. It presaged what happened to England, France, Germany, and Russia in WW1, but they all knew that their Great War was going to different. Ric Burns also had an episode on The American Experience, "Death and the Civil War" that I missed. Might give you a lighter but still effective treatment.

If you want a comprehensive history of the events leading up to the Civil War, going back to the colonial period, you cannot go wrong with the two volume set by William Freehling The Road to Disunion: Vol. 1 Secessionists at Bay 1776-1854. This discusses all the previous secession crisis and how various politicians and parties came together to prevent it. Vol. 2 Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 shows how through a series of opportunities seized by the right people at the right moment and just plain dumb luck the secessionists go the upper hand and fomented disunion. His first book shows some definite anti-Southern bias (for example in his descriptions of individuals and the language chosen) but his facts are very solid, as is his interpretation. The second book has less language bias in it, but if you've already read about the Civil War has less new material. The first Volume is brilliant, albeit quite long at 656 pages. If you read his history, you will understand the South's Secession was all about power and maintaining it, and how slavery was pivotal to this. You might say it had nothing to do with slavery, and everything to do with slavery.

Freehling also wrote The South Against the South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War that is a well done but very dry analysis of it. My daughter's godmother was interested in the book as an ancestor of hers had been a freed slave joined the Union army and who served on a garrison on the Mississippi. She even asked me how I could read it, the book was so dry. I didn't find it to be that way at all, but fair warning.

Ken Burns series is not, and I do not believe was meant to be, a detailed nuts and bolts history of the actual war itself. It gives you a good enough overview that the experiential parts of the documentary will make sense for someone who is not familiar with the conflict. There are hundreds of excellent books on the military forces and the battles, as well as the politics. I watched the OP when it first came out, and I had the impression that his political analysis of what happened on both sides may have been a little more comprehensive than his military history.

FYI this is a very popular video at Public Libraries, so you may want to check their online catalog first.
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#3
This was my first Ken Burns series. I was very mixed about it, as a history aficionado. The experiential parts, from diaries, etc. were excellent. They gave a very good feel for the war. For further reading to get a little bit more on that aspect, Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust is an excellent treatment of it. It presaged what happened to England, France, Germany, and Russia in WW1, but they all knew that their Great War was going to different. Ric Burns also had an episode on The American Experience, "Death and the Civil War" that I missed. Might give you a lighter but still effective treatment.

If you want a comprehensive history of the events leading up to the Civil War, going back to the colonial period, you cannot go wrong with the two volume set by William Freehling The Road to Disunion: Vol. 1 Secessionists at Bay 1776-1854. This discusses all the previous secession crisis and how various politicians and parties came together to prevent it. Vol. 2 Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 shows how through a series of opportunities seized by the right people at the right moment and just plain dumb luck the secessionists go the upper hand and fomented disunion. His first book shows some definite anti-Southern bias (for example in his descriptions of individuals and the language chosen) but his facts are very solid, as is his interpretation. The second book has less language bias in it, but if you've already read about the Civil War has less new material. The first Volume is brilliant, albeit quite long at 656 pages. If you read his history, you will understand the South's Secession was all about power and maintaining it, and how slavery was pivotal to this. You might say it had nothing to do with slavery, and everything to do with slavery.

Freehling also wrote The South Against the South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War that is a well done but very dry analysis of it. My daughter's godmother was interested in the book as an ancestor of hers had been a freed slave joined the Union army and who served on a garrison on the Mississippi. She even asked me how I could read it, the book was so dry. I didn't find it to be that way at all, but fair warning.

Ken Burns series is not, and I do not believe was meant to be, a detailed nuts and bolts history of the actual war itself. It gives you a good enough overview that the experiential parts of the documentary will make sense for someone who is not familiar with the conflict. There are hundreds of excellent books on the military forces and the battles, as well as the politics. I watched the OP when it first came out, and I had the impression that his political analysis of what happened on both sides may have been a little more comprehensive than his military history.

FYI this is a very popular video at Public Libraries, so you may want to check their online catalog first.
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Quote from Mr. Harley
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This was my first Ken Burns series. I was very mixed about it, as a history aficionado. The experiential parts, from diaries, etc. were excellent. They gave a very good feel for the war.
...
Ken Burns series is not, and I do not believe was meant to be, a detailed nuts and bolts history of the actual war itself. It gives you a good enough overview that the experiential parts of the documentary will make sense for someone who is not familiar with the conflict.
Thank you, this is what I wanted to know about the series
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Why doesn't Amazon allow us to resell most used DVDs and Blurays after watching them? Would make this purchase much easier.
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Thank you Mr. Harley for a thorough analysis of the analysis of the "War of Northern Aggression", as some down here still call it.
First, you'll find I have a very mixed opinion about President Lincoln. He was one of the most dangerous Presidents in US History, though ironically because of his ethics he did not turn us into a dictatorship, though arguably only because he didn't need to. Many of the precedence used against the abuses of the modern "Patriot Act" and the Bush administration came from cases decided over abuses by Lincoln and his Administration. He was very honest from the start. His truly primary goal was to, in his own words, "...preserve the Union." That he did, come what may.

He was also willing to throw his party stalwarts under the bus so to speak. He offered to give slavery special constitutional status, that would only give the ability to abolish it to State Governments. Think about it. If they had taken him up on it, South Carolina and Texas could still be slave states!

But if he was willing to do this, why the Secession? The source I mention above, Freehling's Road to Disunion looks at all the steps taken towards it up until the actual moment. Remember, the Civil War was an accident, and the Southern Democrats were relying on a hung electoral college to shove in a President the rest of the country didn't. They came very, very close to pulling it off, too.

The Secessionist movement was pushed by a relative minority it most of the Southern States (especially South Caronlina) to preserve their power and privileges. They had effective veto power over the Federal Government, if not control, from the election of Washington until Lincoln. In fact the only state that may have truly had a majority of its voting population "vote" for secession was Alabama. Certain other states, like Virginia and South Carolina, were massively undemocratic, and wanted to keep it a that way.

If the US Constitution defined Treason as a death penalty offense, and also contained clauses about putting down rebellions, well, that was pretty much what secession was except by a prettier name (to misquote and butcher the quote simultaneously - "It's only rebellion in the third person, as it your rebellion. In the first person, our Secession, it is perfectly legal). Remember, the first intervention by the Federal Government into States Rights was the Fugitive Slave Act and the spending of $50,000 (millions in today's money) deploying US Marshals and troops to Boston to recover a single slave. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/d....tb00977.x

A nicely stated analysis is made below in the link taking up that line of thought, and calling out the Lost Cause myths.
http://www.businessinsider.com/am...war-2015-7
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#8
Excellent documentary of the Civil War. I doubt there's any better.

I sometimes wish the South had been allowed to go its own way. Maybe we wouldn't be having the social and political divisiveness we're experiencing today,
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Excellent documentary of the Civil War. I doubt there's any better.

I sometimes wish the South had been allowed to go its own way. Maybe we wouldn't be having the social and political divisiveness we're experiencing today,
That's wishful thinking. We've been at war with Germany and Japan and since then relationships have been pretty great with no huge resentment. England had a civil war and doesn't have the same divide.

America's problem has more to do with its urban/rural divide and lack of critical education.
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I'd look elsewhere if you want the "full" history of the Civil War. I was a History Prof for 4 1/2 years and let me tell you, this series leaves A LOT out based on Mr. Burns ideology.

When I first saw it it was good but after I actually studied the subject, it became obvious what was going on.....
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That's wishful thinking. We've been at war with Germany and Japan and since then relationships have been pretty great with no huge resentment. England had a civil war and doesn't have the same divide.

America's problem has more to do with its urban/rural divide and lack of critical education.
Poor analogies. Germany and Japan are separate countries with different cultures. A different sitauation than being forced to exist as a common nation. England is not multicultural to our extent, and that civil war was far in the past and not a cultural divide, but purely political.

Our situation is both a political and cultural divide and is ongoing.
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Wow, 6 disc set together, nice find.
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#13
Quote from kaiblu
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That's wishful thinking. We've been at war with Germany and Japan and since then relationships have been pretty great with no huge resentment. England had a civil war and doesn't have the same divide.

America's problem has more to do with its urban/rural divide and lack of critical education.
Quote from Richard8655
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Poor analogies. Germany and Japan are separate countries with different cultures. A different sitauation than being forced to exist as a common nation. England is not multicultural to our extent, and that civil war was far in the past and not a cultural divide, but purely political.

Our situation is both a political and cultural divide and is ongoing.
Without arguing the pros and cons of your points, the actual biggest difference with the United States was the success of anti-Reconstruction terror campaign in the South, the North's war weariness, and then the Lost Cause paradigm. Unlike all three countries - Great Britian (Scottish, Welsh & Cornish), Germany (non-Prussians), and Japan (Hokkaido and the original indiginous population) - where after various conflicts the losers were marginalized at best, ground down to almost nothing in the worst cases - in the South the successful and brutal resistance by the resident whites prevented this.

Slavery was successfully transitioned to peonage (Jim Crow), and the "Lost Cause" narrative more or less successfully at the least became viewed as an "alternative history", and at it's most successfully over 2-3 generations replaced the mainstream history with their version, which included both massive distortions as well as downright lies. It celebrated the South's action as heroic, and presented the North as villians. Follow my web links above, and you'll realize just the degree of that success.

There's a simple test about the "truth" of the "Lost Cause." Look at the history of the South as it regained it's autonomy, and the fate of black Americans. In fact at it's height in the time on both sides of WW1, if you look at the erection of monuments to the Confederate cause, they won the conflict of public memory resoundingly. In Kentucky we had under 10 monuments for the Union side, and over 60 Confederate ones. This from a Union State, which supplied between 2-3 troops to the Union for every one that fought for the Confederacy. Of course Kentucky had less of a plantation class controlling the state before the conflict, and had free blacks who actually had rights (unlike many other Slave States that were steadily taking those away).

I think Lincoln was an effective, though dangerous, man who could have destroyed Democratic tendencies in the United States. Even if you ignore the plight of slaves, the Slave States had the worst anti-Democratic tendencies, with ones like South Carolina and Virginia especially egregious. Remember, the Slave States had heavily engaged the Federal Government in intervening in anti-slave states, started the killing in Kansas, and had via stacking the Supreme Court finished destroying the compromises that had been holding the slavery issue in abeyance.

In the Secession Crisis under Andrew Jackson, South Carolina had NOT seized Federal Installations. In 1860-61 the South fired the first shots of the war at Federal installations to force the issue. The firebrands, as they were known, did so deliberately, so Humpty-Dumpty couldn't be put back together again. They've written letters about this strategy at the beginning of the war, where they were deliberately rushing Secession and making sure things escalated into armed conflict.

Lincoln's offer to permanently enshrine slavery with special protections showed how far he was willing to compromise. Think about it. Also even if the Lincoln had been willing to let the South secede, there would have been war anyway. Many Southerners, including Jefferson Davis, were talking about how the southern third of California had a climate naturally conductive to the institution of slavery. Plus they would have insisted on the return of runaway slaves, and would have sent operatives far in the North to kidnap free blacks (remember Ten Years a Slave was a pre-Civil War best seller in the North) and probably conducted Slave Patrols in the Union areas across the border from the new Confederacy. IMHO a conflict was inevitable with the people who forced secession anyway.
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You might say it had nothing to do with slavery, and everything to do with slavery.
The best statement in your review. Many still believe that it was all about states' rights and nothing about slavery. Sadly, they're hugely mistaken.

Ken Burn's documentary was to give the viewers the basics. In that, he suceeded. It's up to the viewres to educate themselves further if they fully want to understand the events that led up to, during, and after.
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#15
for additional reading on the Civil War, I highly recommend Shelby Foote's 3-volume set. It almost reads like a novel and he does such a great job describing the major (and minor) players, what their aims were, troop movements, etc.
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