The Civil War (1990)
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The Better Angels of Our Nature (1865) 

The North celebrated Lee's surrender and the end of the war. On April 14, Good Friday, John Wilkes Booth learned that President Lincoln, General Grant and others were to attend a play at ... See full summary »


Ken Burns


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
David McCullough ... Self - Narrator (voice)
Barbara Fields Barbara Fields ... Self - Historian
Shelby Foote ... Self - Writer / Various
James Symington James Symington ... Self - Former Congressman
Stephen B. Oates Stephen B. Oates ... Self - Historian
Sam Waterston ... President Abraham Lincoln (voice)
Julie Harris ... Mary Chestnut (voice)
Jason Robards ... Ulysses S. Grant (voice)
Morgan Freeman ... Frederick Douglass (voice)
Paul Roebling Paul Roebling ... Joshua L. Chamberlain / Various (voice)
Garrison Keillor ... Walt Whitman / Various (voice)
George Black George Black ... Robert E. Lee (voice)
Arthur Miller ... William Tecumseh Sherman (voice)
Christopher Murney ... Pvt. Elijah Hunt Rhodes (voice) (as Chris Murney)
Charles McDowell Charles McDowell ... Pvt. Sam Watkins (voice) (as Charley McDowell)


The North celebrated Lee's surrender and the end of the war. On April 14, Good Friday, John Wilkes Booth learned that President Lincoln, General Grant and others were to attend a play at the Ford theater. The Grants decided not to attend and left Washington for Philadelphia. Booth shot the President in the back of the head, and Lincoln died the next day at 7:22 a.m. The news flashed across the country via the telegraph and celebration turned to sorrow. Scattered fighting continued into May but on May 23, a victory parade was held in Washington. By July, eight of Booth's co-conspirators were found guilty and four of were hanged. Those who survived the war returned home and resumed their lives. Sherman was frequently sought as a political candidate bur flatly refused to serve in any capacity. Sheridan remained in the army and was active in the Indian wars that followed. In the South, Jefferson Davis was vilified as the true villain of the war and spent two years in custody, but was ... Written by garykmcd

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Did You Know?


Last show of the series. See more »


In the original broadcast, the narration states that President Abraham Lincoln was 54 years old when he died. The home video version has been re-dubbed so that the number is corrected to 56. See more »


Barbara Fields - Historian: It is *the* event in American history in that it is the moment that made the United States as a nation. And I mean that in different ways. The United States was obviously a nation when it adopted the Constitution, but it adopted a Constitution that required a war to be sorted out, and therefore required a war to make a real nation out of what was a theoretical nation as it was designed at the Constitutional Convention.
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Luto Quickstep
Performed by Frederick Fennell and The Eastman Wind Ensemble
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User Reviews

Tragedy, Sadness, Re-Uniting & Reflection
16 August 2007 | by ccthemovieman-1See all my reviews

As in the first episode of this nine-part series, there are so many facts and memorable statements in here it would make your head swim.

The statistics of the Civil War are staggering and unprecedented. To this day, more Americans were killed in that war than ALL the wars combined. After awhile, one almost gets numb hearing the list of physical damage done to the people of this country from this horrific time in our history.

One of the biggest losses of course, came five days after the war was officially over when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. John Wilkes Booth shooting Lincoln at the theater and Lincoln's death the following day was not described in detail here, as I assumed it would be. There were a couple of moving tributes, however, to this great man and it was interesting to hear a little about the long train trip with his casket from Washington to Springfield, Illinois, his final resting place. Little was said, too, regarding Booth's escape and end.

The rest of this concluding segment dealt with what happened afterward. Oddly, the final skirmish of the war wasn't until the following month and the South won that battle.

A large segment at the end dealt with what happened to other principal characters of this war and opinions of the war in general, and whether we are still fighting it. I was particularly moved by the tribute to Robert E. Lee and by the comments made by historian Barbara Fields. It was interesting to see the white-bearded veterans of both sides embracing years later.

I came away from this series with a great of sadness for all the suffering it brought.

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English | Latin

Release Date:

27 September 1990 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Florentine Films, WETA See more »
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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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