The Civil War (1990– )
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The Cause (1861) 

Slavery began to flourish in the U.S. at the end of the 18th century with Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin. Whereas it would take one person a day to produce a pound of clean ... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
David McCullough ...
Himself - Narrator (voice)
Himself - Writer
Barbara Fields ...
Herself - Historian
Ed Bearss ...
Himself - Historian
Mary Chestnut (voice)
Paul Roebling ...
Joshua L. Chamberlain / Sullivan Ballou (voice)
Walt Whitman (voice)
George Black ...
Robert E. Lee (voice)
John Brown / William Tecumseh Sherman (voice)
Pvt. Elijah Hunt Rhodes (voice) (as Chris Murney)
Charles McDowell ...
Pvt. Sam Watkins (voice) (as Charley McDowell)
Horton Foote ...
Jefferson Davis (voice)


Slavery began to flourish in the U.S. at the end of the 18th century with Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin. Whereas it would take one person a day to produce a pound of clean cotton, the cotton gin could produce 1000 lbs per day. Business boomed and the demand for slaves to work new cotton fields rose accordingly. Serious objections to slavery began as early as 1831 and the abolitionist movement in the North grew quickly. There was particular concern about whether new States entering the Union would be free or slave States. Some, like John Brown, added religious zealotry to the cause and his raid on the federal at Harper's Ferry in 1859 ended in failure. The Southern States were genuinely concerned that the Union would outlaw slavery altogether. There were 21 million people living in the North compared to only 9 million in the South, which included 4 million slaves. The turning point came in the election of 1860 which essentially became a referendum on slavery. The South ... Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

23 September 1990 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Sam Houston: Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win southern independence, but I doubt it. The north is determined to preserve this union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates, but when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche.
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User Reviews

Lots Of Info To Start This Series Off
12 August 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This first segment in this 9-part television series looks at the beginnings of the American Civil War: how the South felt and why it seceded from the Union; President Abraham Lincoln's election, and the beginning battles of this famous war.

This, being the longest episode of the series at 100 minutes, had a lot of facts presented. To those not well-versed on the war (such as I), this was like taking a course in American history. There are so many facts to learn and names to remember - if I want to keep up with this series -it gets taxing on one's brain. However, the program is presented in such a format that it is usually interesting. Filmmaker Ken Burns went on to use this format in his other projects, such as the series on baseball. He shows a lot of black-and-white pictures of the era, throws in some modern day color shots (which are beautiful) and adds narration to everything. The latter is in the form of letters written by witnesses of the war, or in biographies or in comments by modern-day historians. The voices are provided by a host of people, from history writers and commentators to Hollywood actors.

Those quoted most often in this opening show are two of the most eloquent men in U.S. history: Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, the black leader of his day. Also, at the end of this segment, we hear quite a bit about George McClellan, a man who got the Union armies in shape to fight.

Overall, there were too many bits of information to recall them all here.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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