Since modern West Point bears little physical resemblance to the Academy of 1842, the West Point scenes were filmed at Jefferson College outside Natchez, Mississippi. Local military school cadets and R.O.T.C. students involved in the film were granted permission to grow their hair for six months for the proper period look.
Having entered West Point in 1842, George Hazard and Orry Main were part of the Class of 1846, perhaps the most famous and most talented graduating class in West Point history. George B. McClellan, Thomas J. Jackson, and George Pickett introduced themselves to George and Orry. McClellan ranked second in that illustrious class. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson ranked seventeenth. George Pickett (later famous for "Pickett's Charge" at Gettysburg) ranked at the bottom of the class. All of them rose to the rank of General. Ranked first in that class, was Charles Seaforth Stewart. The highest rank Stewart achieved was Colonel.
According to an extra from North and South, Book II (1986), during the big Manassas scene with pandemonium amongst the soldiers and the crowd, the wide angle shot was not staged, there was real panic. Something had gone wrong, a gun went off when it wasn't suppose to, somebody else ran a direction they weren't supposed to go, and it all caused a stir.
James Read's great-great-uncle, Sebaldus Hassler, fought and died with the Union Army, falling in battle at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on May 20, 1863. Read's great-great-grandfather, Sampson T. Groves, served in the First Ohio Volunteer Heavy Artillery until his honorable discharge on July 25, 1865, after which he lived to a ripe old age.
Production took two years, and involved eighty-seven hundred pieces of wardrobe (lead actresses each wore twenty-eight to thirty-five different costumes), nine hundred forty scenes, a five hundred forty page teleplay, and twenty-five million dollars.
Living history groups with the expertise to re-create the Mexican-American War battle of Churubusco (1847) filmed the battle in a field near Natchez, Mississippi. In mid-May 1984, fourteen re-enactor units from a dozen states took a week to stage the largest authentic encampment of Mexican War re-enactors ever held. More than one hundred forty people arrived at their own expenses, bringing their own (mostly handmade) period-correct uniforms, hand weapons, and artillery, caissons, limbers, battery wagons, field ambulances, tenting, and camping equipment. The production company provided water, hay, feed, and straw for horses, reimbursement for powder, and donations to each of the participating units.
Philip Casnoff was nearly passed over for the role of Elkanah Bent because the producers thought he was too short. Casnoff won them over when he did a practice scene in which he slammed another actor against a wall and yelled at him viciously. Casnoff noted that for the audition, he summoned his feelings of rage from being recently mugged in a parking lot.
When the historic structures were correct, but the furnishings were not, or priceless antiques were so fragile they could not be used, the company brought in their own pieces, such as the bronze and marble statuary valued at more than two hundred thousand dollars that decorated the house used for the New Orleans bordello.
The publicity shot of George and Orry in uniform that is used as the main art work for the DVD collection, the flags behind them are a U.S. flag and a Texas flag. The photo was taken during the filming of the Churubusco scenes, and the only flags available on set were the U.S. and Texas flags.
With the exception of military or servants' garb, none of the main characters wear the same thing twice in the miniseries. Two exceptions are, Ashton (Terri Garber), who wears a purple dress for when she arrives, and departs Mont Royal, and Madeline (Lesley-Anne Down), who wears the same dress when she visits her father when he is on his death bed, and when she leaves Mont Royal after Ashton tells her that her mother was a prostitute.
Filming of the miniseries resulted in four marriages among the cast and crew. Read and Kilbourne, who played opposite each other, married in 1988 and now have two children. Frakes and Francis, who had previously played opposite each other on the failed NBC soap Bare Essence, also married in 1988. Lesley-Anne Down married assistant cameraman Don E. FauntLeRoy in 1986. They met during filming of Book I when both were married to other people, and eventually obtained divorces. Garber married screenwriter Chris Hager, whom she met in 1985 when he worked as a grip on the set of North and South: Book II. They had a daughter, Molly, in 1986, and later divorced.
Several actors and actresses also appeared in the Star Trek franchise. Jonathan Frakes (Stanley Hazard) appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) as Commander William Riker. Kirstie Alley (Virgilia Hazard) appeared as Lieutenant Saavik in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Jean Simmons (Clarissa Main) appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) as a retired Starfleet Admiral. John Anderson (William Hazard) appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987). Mitchell Ryan (Tillet Main) appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987). David Ogden Stiers appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987).