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Documentaries > Ken Burns: The Civil War

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message 1: by Joy H. (last edited Mar 03, 2011 06:14AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 172 comments I've been reading Gone With the Wind and it sparked my interest in the Civil War. I found a wonderful documentary about the Civil War at Netflix:
"Ken Burns: The Civil War" (1990) (9 episodes) (streamable)

The photographs bring it back so vividly. I was surprised that they were able to take such great photos back then in the 1860s.

It goes into great detail about the battles and the strategies which were used. Even though that part doesn't interest me, there are many other parts which did. Shelby Foote offers some interesting background information.

There are wonderful quotes throughout all the episodes; some of them are read by many current celebrities who have wonderful voices.

Also read aloud are the evocative letters written by the soldiers to their folks back home. There must be quite a collection of those letters kept in archives. I was surprised that so many have been preserved and then used in this documentary.

The entire documentary is a great piece of work. It's astounding to think of the research which must have gone into it.

message 2: by Joy H. (last edited Mar 03, 2011 06:00AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 172 comments During the documentary, a very old black woman is shown reading the following sad poem:
Dear Madam,

I am a soldier, and my speech is rough and plain.
I'm not much used to writing, and I hate to give you pain,
But I promised I would do it, and he thought it might be so
If it came from one that loved him, perhaps it would ease the blow.

By this time, you must surely guess the truth I feign would hide,
And you'll pardon me for rough soldier words, while I tell you how he died.

It was in the maw of battle. Fast rained the shot and shell.
I was standing close beside him, and I saw him when he fell.
So I took him in my arms, and laid him on the grass.
It was going against orders, but I think they let it pass.

'Twas a minne ball that struck him. It entered at his side.
But we didn't think it fatal 'til this morning, when he died.

"Last night, I wanted so to live. I seemed so young to go.
Last week I passed my birthday. I was just 19, you know.
When I thought of all I planned to do, it seemed so hard to die.
But now I pray to God for Grace, and all my cares gone by."

And here his voice grew weaker, as he paused and raised his head.
And whispered, "Goodbye, Mother." And your soldier boy was dead.

I carved him out a headboard, as skillful as I could
And if you wish to find it, I can tell you where it stood.
I send you back his hymnbook, the cap he used to wear,
The lock I cut the night before, of his bright, curly hair.

I send you back his bible; The night before he died,
I turned its leaves together, and read it by his side.
I keep the belt he was wearing; He told me so to do.
It has a hole upon the side, just where the ball went through.

So now I've done his bidding. I've nothing more to tell.
But I shall always mourn with you the boy we loved so well.

I searched online for info re the source of the above poem and found the following facts, although the sources of the info weren't given:

The poem was "recited by Daisy Turner, the 104-year-old daughter of a former slave turned soldier for the Union."

"Submitted to both New York and Atlanta newspapers anonymously in 1864."

message 3: by Terry (new)

Terry Mulcahy | 1 comments A Google search, under Google books gave me this hit:

The Rebellion Record: "A Soldier's Letter by Mary C. Hovey."

The question is, who was Mary C. Hovey? The poem must be have been very popular in its day, because Daisy Turner recited it by heart (no mean feat by the way).

A few small points about the poem: it is not a patriotic piece and does not extol the virtues of the war and this may explain why it was published anonymously.

It is a timeless elegy that succinctly captures images of time and place, sketches a few valued possesions that speak to people, culture, and their values.

Access to an academic data base would likely reveal more.

message 4: by Joy H. (last edited Apr 09, 2011 08:29AM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 172 comments Terry, thank you so much for this information! I'll add it to my files. Yes, the poem does capture some touching images.

I see her name here (Mary C. Hovey):

Thank you for your comments. Good job searching! Well done.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I greatly enjoyed watching this whole documentary, and the Shelby Foote segments were so interesting.

I don't remember if I've watched anything else by Ken Burns. I've heard about his national parks documentary, and I think he's got an upcoming show about the 1920's.

message 6: by Joy H. (last edited Apr 10, 2011 01:17PM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 172 comments Kate, below is a listing of Ken Burns' documentaries at IMDb:

Netflix, if you're a member, also has a listing of the Ken Burns docs at:

message 7: by Mary JL (new)

Mary JL (maryjl) | 26 comments Joy: Ken Burns is a national treasure.

One added bonus of the Civil War series was the wonderful background music. It fits that time period, where more modern music would not blend as well.

I have seen the documentary twice--it is SUPERB!

message 8: by Mary JL (new)

Mary JL (maryjl) | 26 comments Just did a Google search. All the music does comes from the 19th century except one major piece.

Written in 1982, is the theme song "Ashokan Farwell". You will recognize it at once when you listen to it--it is haunting and the one piece I associate with the documentary.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 1012 comments I've enjoyed all of Ken Burns' series that I've seen: Civil War, both originally and this last week (for the 150th anniversary), Baseball, and Jazz.

Am looking forward to Prohibition - that looks interesting.

message 10: by Joy H. (last edited Apr 11, 2011 09:20PM) (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 172 comments Mary JL, below is a link to a YouTube video in which the song, "Ashokan Farewell", can be heard. The video is called "American Civil War Images to Ashokan Farewell".

Yes, it's perfect background music for the Civil War documentary. Thanks for reminding me about this beautiful tune.

There are lyrics here:
Words by Grian MacGregor. Music by Jay Ungar.

Here's a YouTube with the song being sung by a gutsy gal:
Once you get past the beginning it's OK.

PS-Here's the Wiki page. It has some interesting info about it:
"Ashokan was the name of a Catskill Region village [in NYS] that is now mostly covered by the Ashokan Reservoir."

message 11: by Joy H. (new)

Joy H. (joyofglensfalls) | 172 comments Susanna wrote: "... Am looking forward to Prohibition - that looks interesting."

Susan, yes, that does sound interesting.
Here are a couple of links:
"Ken Burns new documentary subject: Prohibition"

"Ken Burns is bringing his new film “Prohibition” to the National Constitution Center in the hopes of promoting more civil national discourse."
“...the essence of what the film is about – what happens when we don’t talk and we just yell and we don’t listen.

“You end up with laws and policies that don’t make any sense and then you can’t find a way out of it, and that’s what happened with Prohibition,” she said. “It went on for a very long time because once the two sides were set, there was no room for conversation about, ‘This isn’t working, how can we fix it, what should we do?' ”

“None of that happened for quite a long time,” He said. “It broke down the respect for law and law enforcement, corruption was pervasive. ... It was a corrosive problem.”

message 12: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 143 comments Hard to believe Ken Burns' "The Civil War" documentary is already over 20 years old.

I first watched in 1990 and was riveted during the entire run of the episodes for that week. Apparently it was one of the highest rated TV programs on PBS when they first aired.

Saw it again a few weeks ago.........
Still enjoyed watching it again ........

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 1012 comments It holds up very well.

message 14: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 1 comments I have always been interested in the Civil war and what it means in American History as a kid. I Just seen this documentary last month, which was shown likely as a pre-150th anniversary edition of the start of the War between the states, and the poetry documented within it really touched me. It was a great thing to watch, and it piqued my interest in this portion of American History even more.

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