As I sat last night and watched the re-released historic documentary by Ken Burns, I was taken back to 1990. At that time I was in the 8th grade and had an interest in history. I can remember distinctly watching (as my VCR recorded each episode) on my small TV. I still remember hearing the story of Sullivan Ballou and getting chills (still got them last night, even though I know it is just one of MANY similar stories). The series and its stories hooked a young 14 year old, and today I am still hooked.
Many Civil War bloggers and historians have taken this opportunity to pick apart accuracy, interpretation and criticize the film for not focusing on slavery more. I, for one, believe The Civil War holds up, even today. Nothing is perfect for sure, but Ken Burns captured the interest of many Americans with his documentary. And he did so by being historically accurate AND captivating. Bringing the story of America’s greatest tragedy to a mass audience led to a deep interest by the general public in Civil War history and more importantly, Civil War battlefields, historic sites and preservation. Just ask any Park Ranger who worked the front lines in 1990 and look at the founding of the Civil War Trust in 1991.
So, what are your thoughts on Ken Burns’ The Civil War 25 years later? How did the mini-series shape your interest in the American Civil War? Does it hold up? What would you change about it, if anything?
Be sure to watch Ken Burns’ The Civil War airing on PBS this entire week. Also watch for previews of PBS’ new historic drama Mercy Street, based on a Civil War hospital located in Alexandria, VA, airing in January 2016.