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The Civil War

Airs Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV

Promotional photo of a Civil War cannon.

Credit: Courtesy of Florentine Films

Above: Promotional photo of a Civil War cannon.

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of the landmark series in 2015 with this in-depth overview of the iconic documentary. See video clips and interviews with Ken Burns, Geoffrey Ward, Ric Burns, Buddy Squires and others.

Ken Burns' THE CIVIL WAR is the saga of celebrated generals and ordinary soldiers, a heroic and transcendent president and a country that had to divide itself in two in order to become one. Voices for the series include Sam Waterston, Jason Robards, Julie Harris, Jeremy Irons, Morgan Freeman, Paul Roebling, Garrison Keillor, Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur Miller and Studs Terkel. Historian David McCullough narrates.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Courtesy of Ken Burns

Give $13 /mo or $156 during our TV Membership Campaign (Nov. 28-Dec. 27) and receive “The Civil War 25th Anniversary Edition” DVD or Blu-ray set. This gift also includes enrollment in the myKPBS Savers Club plus additional online access to more than 130,000 merchant offers and printable coupons, as well as a KPBS License Plate Frame (if you're a new member). The book, “The Civil War – The Complete Text” by Geoffrey Ward, Ken Burns, Ric Burns, is available at the $72 level, and a combo package with the DVD or Blu-Ray set plus the book is at $180.


Episode One: "The Cause - 1861" repeats Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 at 9 p.m. - What caused the war? Beginning with an examination of slavery, this episode looks at the causes of the war and the burning questions of union and states’ rights. John Brown leads a rebellion at Harper’s Ferry, Abraham Lincoln is elected president, Fort Sumter is fired upon and both sides rush to arms. Introducing the series’ major figures — Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant — the episode concludes with the disastrous Union defeat at Manassas, where both sides realize it is to be a very long war.

Episode Two: “A Very Bloody Affair - 1862” repeats Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 9 p.m. - The year 1862 brings the birth of modern warfare and the transformation of Abraham Lincoln’s war to preserve the Union into a war to emancipate the slaves. Political infighting threatens to swamp Lincoln’s administration, and Union General George McClellan wages an ill-fated campaign on the Virginia peninsula. The episode follows the battle of ironclad ships, camp life and the beginning of the end of slavery. Ulysses S. Grant’s exploits come to a bloody resolution at the Battle of Shiloh, and rumors swarm about Europe’s readiness to recognize the Confederacy.

Episode Three: “Forever Free - 1862” repeats Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 10 p.m. - Convinced by July 1862 that emancipation is now morally and militarily crucial to the future of the Union, Abraham Lincoln must wait for a victory to issue his proclamation. But there are no Union victories to be had, thanks to the brilliance of Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. With Lee’s September 1862 invasion of Maryland, the bloodiest day of the war takes place on the banks of Antietam Creek, followed shortly by the brightest — the emancipation of the slaves.

Episode Four: “Simply Murder - 1863” repeats Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 9 p.m. - A nightmarish Union disaster at Fredericksburg precedes two clashes in the spring of 1863: at Chancellorsville in May, where Robert E. Lee wins his most brilliant victory but loses Stonewall Jackson; and at Vicksburg, where Ulysses S. Grant is prevented from taking the city by siege. There is fierce northern opposition to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and increasing desperation on the Confederate home front. Lee decides to invade the North again to draw Grant’s forces away from Vicksburg.

Episode Five: “The Universe of Battle - 1863” repeats Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 10 p.m. - The Battle of Gettysburg is the turning point of the war. For three days, 150,000 fight to the death in the Pennsylvania countryside culminating in Pickett’s legendary charge. Vicksburg falls to Union forces, draft riots rage in New York, black troops join the fight for the first time and western battles transpire at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. At the dedication of a new Union cemetery at Gettysburg, Lincoln struggles to put into words what is happening to his people.

Episode Six: “Valley of the Shadow of Death - 1864” repeats Thursday, Sept. 10 at 9 p.m. - Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee are pitted against each other in an extraordinary series of battles from the wilderness to Petersburg in Virginia. With Grant and Lee finally deadlocked at Petersburg, we move to the ghastly hospitals in both the North and South, and follow Sherman’s Atlanta campaign through the mountains of northern Georgia. As the horrendous casualty lists increases, Abraham Lincoln’s chance for re-election begins to dim and with them, the possibility of Union victory.

Episode Seven: “Most Hallowed Ground - 1864” repeats Thursday, Sept. 10 at 10 p.m. - The presidential campaign of 1864 sets Abraham Lincoln against his old commanding general, George McClellan. The stakes are nothing less than the survival of the Union itself. Opinion in the North has turned strongly against Lincoln and the war, but 11th-hour Union victories at Mobile Bay, Atlanta and the Shenandoah Valley tilt the election to Lincoln, and the Confederacy’s last hope for independence dies. In an ironic twist, Robert E. Lee’s Arlington mansion is turned into a Union military hospital and the estate becomes Arlington National Cemetery — the Union’s most hallowed ground.

Episode Eight: “War Is All Hell - 1865” repeats Friday, Sept. 11 at 9 p.m. - William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea brings war to the heart of Georgia and the Carolinas and spells the end of the Confederacy. Following Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration, Petersburg and Richmond finally fall to Ulysses S. Grant’s army. Robert E. Lee’s tattered Army of Northern Virginia flees westward towards Appomattox, where the surrender of Lee to Grant takes place. Meanwhile, John Wilkes Booth begins to dream of vengeance for the South.

Episode Nine: “The Better Angels of Our Nature - 1865” repeats Friday, Sept. 11 at 10 p.m. - On April 14, five days after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Abraham Lincoln is assassinated. Lincoln is buried, John Wilkes Booth is captured and the war finally comes to a close. The series ends by considering the consequences and meaning of a war that transformed the country from a collection of states to the nation it is today.

Ken Burns is on Facebook, and you can follow @KenBurns on Twitter.

THE CIVIL WAR Video Playlist

Watch all seven videos: "All Night Forever," "The Gettysburg Address," "Gettysburg," "Newsreel," "Fort Sumter," "The Cause" and "Was it Not Real."

Ken Burns discusses his Emmy winning series THE CIVIL WAR

Burns’s epic documentary brings to life America’s most destructive — and defining — conflict. THE CIVIL WAR is the saga of celebrated generals and ordinary soldiers, a heroic and transcendent president and a country that had to divide itself in two in order to become one.

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