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Documentary | War

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4 August 1998 (USA)  »

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New Technology, New Standards.
17 February 2014 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

The first ten minutes or so deal mostly with the Crimean War, with the French and British fighting the Russians. We don't hear much about the conflict today but it was quite a revelation in its time. It was immortalized by Tennyson in "The Charge of the Light Brigade." Instead of Napoleonic muskets, from the muzzles of which the balls flew like slow pitched sliders, rifles were used, and the Minier bullets were like fast balls.

Other new technology included pocket watches, the telegraph, and giant siege cannons. When men were killed they lay where they'd fallen and decomposed while the living wandered around the corpses. Florence Nightingale and her companions cleaned up the hospital at Scutari simply by changing the sheets and bandages and ridding the place of rats and other vermin. These were simple public health measures. No one knew about germs yet. But it saved many lives. Florence Nightingale's presence was due largely to the fact that this was the first war to be covered by journalists and photographers, which brought home conditions that had always been ignored.

At this point in the film, after the Crimean, the editing of the print on YouTube falls to pieces. While Cronkite's narration continues in a linear way, the images we see have nothing to do with the subject. When Cronkite gets into the American Civil War, there are photos of British soldiers. Then we see American soldiers in World War II chatting. A talking head appears, gesturing emphatically, but saying nothing. A reference to Jefferson Davis is accompanied by a photograph of Abraham Lincoln. At about the half way point the sound cuts out entirely for several minutes. It's hard to imagine how the film could be so botched up. The problem must lie with the uploading because it couldn't possibly have been broadcast in this condition.

At any rate, the Civil War was changed by the use of the railroad. It saved the Confederates at the First Battle of Bull Run. And Union General Sherman introduced the concept of total war in his march through Georgia, destroying crops, other foodstuff, and houses. Civilians were deliberately made to pay. Sherman is much reviled but his aim was exactly the same as that of the bombing campaign over Germany in World War II -- to deprive the enemy of the means to wage war.

The sound is lost so often during the last third of the program that it's not worth watching.


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