Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Civil War

A couple of weeks ago I watched all nine episodes (11 hours!) of Ken Burns' The Civil War. This sprawling documentary is breathtaking. Richly informative and detailed, it is also has a powerful and consistent emotional core, always coming back to the brutality of slavery, the horror of war, the daily struggle with deprivation. It focusses very much on battles and military strategy, which is only so interesting to me, but these come to life through the characters -- McClullen and Grant and Lee as generals, and the intimate and descriptive letters of several soldiers.

Some things that stayed with me: how religious American society was at that time; the writings of Frederick Douglas; Lincoln's oratory and determination; the violent carnage; the oddity of people being loyal to their state (Lee didn't care about secession or slavery, he cared about remaining loyal to Virginia); the sheer numbers of dead and wounded; the technological and social advancements that developed quickly out of necessity; the evocative and so effective way still photography was used (I watched it in HD)...

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