New Series–Civil War: The Untold Story

I wanted to alert everyone to an outstanding new documentary series titled “Civil War: The Untold Story.” This series focuses on the Western Theater of the Civil War, taking a different approach from many other documentaries. It was made with several prominent Civil War historians providing excellent commentary, including Peter Carmichael, John Marszalek, Stacy Allen, and Allen Guelzo.

I have not seen the entire series, but I have watched episode five, the last one of the series. This episode focuses heavily on Kennesaw Mountain and the Atlanta Campaign, and it is outstanding. It clearly tells the story of the importance of the fighting in Georgia in 1864, spending significant time on the 1864 Election and the potential consequences of a McClellan victory.

The company which produced this series, Great Divide Pictures, has recently made new films at Shiloh National Military Park, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. Thus, some of the footage in this also appears in the visitor orientation films at several major Civil War battlefields. I think this is a huge advantage for the film. It is telling the often overlooked stories of the Western Theater of the Civil War, and it does so in a way that will engage the general public both at the battlefields themselves and on public television, where this series is scheduled to air in April (check with your local public television provider).

Among those featured is Private Sam Watkins, author of the best soldier memoir from the entire war, as well as numerous African Americans who took part in the conflict,and famous names such as William Tecumseh Sherman and Joseph Johnston. I found the conclusion of part five particularly good, as it addressed what the war meant for its participants (white and black), as well as for the nation at large. Allen Guelzo makes the case that the Civil War preserved democracy in the United States, and by doing so, helped to preserve it for the rest of the world. I am inclined to agree with him, and I think he made the point in a very poignant and powerful way.

Stay tuned for this series, as it looks to be an excellent addition to other documentaries on the war. It won’t approach the Ken Burns Civil War series in fame or scale, but it looks to be just as good in conveying the importance and meaning of the war, especially in regards to the Western Theater.

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