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09/18/2012

Fascinating TV: The American Experience with a new angle on The Civil War

Death_film_landing-dateIf you are a fan of American history, the Civil War and like a good documentary tune into PBS at 7 p.m. CT this evening for The American Experience's "Death and the Civil War."

Click here for the website and more information about the show. It is written and directed by Ric Burns.

This two-hour documentary is not just another look at America's bloodiest war. Rather than re-tell the same stories about Bull Run, Gettysburg and the rest the filmmakers looked at the war from a new angle - death, and how Americans viewed it at the time.

The numbers of American lives lost were staggering. According to this documentary, 2.5 percent of the American population died as a result of this conflict; 750,000 people died in all, more than all of the American wars combined. Never before or since had so many Americans died. African-American soldiers serving in the Union Army died at an even higher rate.

At the time, the relatively new country viewed death in a sacred way as an end of a journey. Death was treated with reverance, and a final bridge to another place that warranted very special treatment, respect and honor.

Americans learned dying in a war usually comes with nothing special. How the Americans, and the soldiers themselves, viewed and treated death changed dramatically as a result of this war. People were confronted with death in the harshest light - no story, no name, no honor, and often no identification.

This movie also recounts the birth of America's memorial day - a day to remember fallen soldiers and so many loved ones, followed by a picnic.

If you get a chance, this is worth the watch.

@MacEngelProf
tengel@star-telegram.com

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