The Civil War: Season 1, Episode 8

War Is All Hell (1865) (27 Sep. 1990)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary | History | War
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 61 users  
Reviews: 3 user | 1 critic

By the beginning of 1865, the Confederacy was coming to an end. Atlanta had been overrun and Sherman was marching to the sea. Lincoln approved Sherman's plan against the advice of those ... See full summary »


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Title: War Is All Hell (1865) (27 Sep 1990)

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
David McCullough ...
Himself - Narrator (voice)
Himself - Writer / Various
Ed Bearss ...
Himself - Historian
James Symington ...
Himself - Former Congressman
Mary Chestnut (voice)
Paul Roebling ...
Joshua L. Chamberlain / Washington Roebling (voice)
Walt Whitman / Various (voice)
George Black ...
Robert E. Lee (voice)
Pvt. Elijah Hunt Rhodes (voice) (as Chris Murney)
Charles McDowell ...
Pvt. Sam Watkins (voice) (as Charley McDowell)
Horton Foote ...
Jefferson Davis (voice)


By the beginning of 1865, the Confederacy was coming to an end. Atlanta had been overrun and Sherman was marching to the sea. Lincoln approved Sherman's plan against the advice of those around him. Sherman set fire to Atlanta, burning anything that could be of use to the opposition. With 62,000 men, he set off toward Savannah. While Sherman went south, the bulk of the Confederate army outside Virginia was destroyed at the battle of Franklin, Tenn. and by early January, Sherman turned northward into the Carolinas. In Virginia meanwhile, Lee's army was under-equipped and underfed. He called on the legislature to arm slaves promising them freedom after the war ended. They complied. On March 4, 1865, Lincoln was inaugurated for his second term. Grant's army was firmly entrenched outside Petersburg for some 9 months. Lee's army was dwindling with an ever increasing number of deserters and when the battle eventually came, it was only a matter of time until the Union won. Richmond was ... Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

27 September 1990 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Memorable Telling Of Appomattox
16 August 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The final 10 minutes or so of this episode, the discussing of what happened when Generals Grant and Lee met in Appomattox for the surrender of the war talks is fantastic. The description of these two men was so dramatic and so eloquently expressed that it made up for the unpleasantness in the first hour of this eighth episode.

Much of that unpleasantness has to do with the total destruction of Atlanta and much of the state of Georgia. No matter what side you take, this is tough to hear described. War seems to bring out the best and worst in men. There are some people here who did so many cruel, despicable deeds it would make you sick. There are also, of course, many incredible brave and noble men and women. Watching this, I discovered why so many people are fascinated with this part of American history and frankly - right or wrong - I can see why bitterness in the South lasted so long.

However, as it is pointed out here, General Sherman, who led this swath through Georgia had a purpose: to make war so detestable that the South would think long and hard, or perhaps never consider, ever doing battle again. He knew war was "all hell," and expressed it numerous times.

Meanwhile, we hear about what else is going on in 1865, this last year of the war; other battles, other triumphs and heartbreaks, about the slaves celebrating and some not quite sure what is safe to do. We also briefly hear about John Wilkes Booth and his hatred for Lincoln and himself. That story, in depth, I believe is on the last tape in this Ken Burns Civil War made-for-television event.

As in Burns' baseball set and other projects, he seems to have his favorites, people who get an inordinate amount of "air time." One in this series has been Mary Chestnut, who is frequently quoted. One begins to wonder why she gets so much "ink." I'm guessing one of the answers is simply because she kept such a detailed diary of the war.

Along a lighter note, I am constantly amazed how a long production like this, with no moving pictures, can look so good visually in spots. The color shots, from recent times, of the South are the prettiest. This nine-part series not only is audibly fascinating, but visually as well. The Civil War pictures, of course, were all black-and-white but at least we have a pictured record of the war. Some of those pictures, however, are pretty harsh...but that's the horrors of war.

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