Tag Archives: Ken Burns

Does the American Civil War Need a Theme Song?

Like so many, I have been captivated by the mournfully lovely tune “Ashokan Farewell.” I am sure most of us first heard it when we were watching Ken Burns’s The Civil War, and wondered about it. I knew I had … Continue reading

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Telling History vs. Marking Art: “Story is a central component of ‘history’”

Part eight in a series The ability to evoke emotion easily stands out as The Civil War’s greatest strength: From its opening shot of a canon silhouetted against a fire-orange sky and the use of the Oliver Wendell Holmes quote … Continue reading

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Telling History vs. Making Art: Communicating “the incommunicable experience of war”

Part seven in a series “We have shared the incommunicable experience of war,” Oliver Wendell Holmes says at the beginning of Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War. Burns could not have picked a more appropriate quote to start his film … Continue reading

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Telling History vs. Making Art: The Civil War’s great storyteller

Part six in a series. No written work embodies the tension between art and history more fully than Shelby Foote’s mammoth three-volume The Civil War: A Narrative. Few people realize Foote was a novelist before he became the “warm and … Continue reading

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Telling History vs. Making Art: Killer Angels, real and fictional

Part five in a series. In my last post, I began to discuss Michael Shaara’s aesthetic choices for constructing The Killer Angels as he did, and how he adopted a Lost Cause-interpretation of Robert E. Lee as a central choice … Continue reading

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Telling History vs. Making Art: The ways we remember the war

Part two in a series “We may say that only at the moment when Lee handed Grant his sword was the Confederacy born,” wrote Robert Penn Warren during the Civil War’s centennial; “or to state matters another way, in the … Continue reading

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Telling History vs. Making Art: “a tension between Art and Science”

Part one in a series As a battlefield guide at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park (FSNMP), I frequently speak with folks who’ve come to the battlefields because they’ve read The Killer Angels, which in turn inspired them to come … Continue reading

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America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union. A Review

Fergus M. Bordewich. America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012. Pp. x, 480. It all started with slavery and a war. Before 1848, most white Americans … Continue reading

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