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The Civil War 

2:23 | Trailer
A comprehensive survey of the American Civil War.




Top Rated TV #32 | Won 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 11 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Series cast summary:
Sam Waterston ...  President Abraham Lincoln 9 episodes, 1990
Julie Harris ...  Mary Chestnut 9 episodes, 1990
Jason Robards ...  Ulysses S. Grant 9 episodes, 1990
Morgan Freeman ...  Frederick Douglass / ... 9 episodes, 1990
Paul Roebling Paul Roebling ...  Joshua L. Chamberlain / ... 9 episodes, 1990
Garrison Keillor ...  Walt Whitman / ... 9 episodes, 1990
George Black George Black ...  Robert E. Lee 9 episodes, 1990
David McCullough ...  Self - Narrator 9 episodes, 1990
Arthur Miller ...  William Tecumseh Sherman / ... 9 episodes, 1990
Christopher Murney ...  Pvt. Elijah Hunt Rhodes 9 episodes, 1990
Charles McDowell Charles McDowell ...  Pvt. Sam Watkins 9 episodes, 1990
Horton Foote ...  Jefferson Davis 9 episodes, 1990
George Plimpton ...  George Templeton Strong / ... 9 episodes, 1990
Philip Bosco ...  Horace Greeley / ... 9 episodes, 1990
Terry Courier Terry Courier ...  George McClellan 9 episodes, 1990
Jody Powell Jody Powell ...  Stonewall Jackson / ... 9 episodes, 1990
Studs Terkel ...  Benjamin F. Butler 9 episodes, 1990
Jeremy Irons ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Derek Jacobi ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Gene Jones ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Jerome Dempsey ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Laurence Fishburne ...  Various / ... 9 episodes, 1990
Betsy Apple Betsy Apple ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Carol Craven Carol Craven ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Marissa Copeland Marissa Copeland ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Halo Wines Halo Wines ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
David Marks David Marks ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Pamela Reed ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Ronnie Gilbert Ronnie Gilbert ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
M. Emmet Walsh ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Hoyt Axton ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
John Hartford ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Walt MacPherson Walt MacPherson ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Colleen Dewhurst ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
LaTanya Richardson Jackson ...  Various / ... 9 episodes, 1990
Bradford Washburn Bradford Washburn ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Jesse Carr Jesse Carr ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Wendy Tilghman Wendy Tilghman ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Joe Mattys Joe Mattys ...  Various 9 episodes, 1990
Shelby Foote ...  Self - Writer / ... 8 episodes, 1990
Ed Bearss Ed Bearss ...  Self - Historian 6 episodes, 1990
Barbara Fields Barbara Fields ...  Self - Historian 5 episodes, 1990
James Symington James Symington ...  Self - Former Congressman 4 episodes, 1990
Stephen B. Oates Stephen B. Oates ...  Self - Historian / ... 4 episodes, 1990


This highly acclaimed mini-series traces the course of the U.S. Civil War from the abolitionist movement through all the major battles to the death of President Lincoln and the beginnings of Reconstruction. The story is mostly told in the words of the participants themselves, through their diaries and letters. Visuals are usually still photographs and illustrations of the time, and the soundtrack is likewise made up of war-era tunes played on period instruments. Several modern-day historians offer periodic comment and insight on the war's causes and events. Written by Eric Sorensen <Eric_Sorensen@fc.mcps.k12.md.us>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It divided a country. It created a nation.


TV-14 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Shelby Foote and Horton Foote were distant cousins. Their great-grandfathers were brothers. See more »


Contrary to this documentary (and many historians) Winfield Scott never recommended Robet E. Lee for anything more than a "significant command" nor did Lincoln offer Lee command of the Union Army.

An advisor to the President, Francis P. Blair, DID offer Lee command of the Defenses of Washington, via letter, but there are NO records that Lee. An Lincoln ever met in person. See more »


Narrator: A week before the battle of Bull Run, Sullivan Ballou, a major in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers, wrote home to his wife in Smithfield.
Sullivan Ballou: July 14, 1861. Washington, D.C. Dear Sarah, indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days-perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I'm no more. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I'm engaged, and my courage does not halt...
See more »


Spoofed in Histeria!: The U.S. Civil War: Part 2 (1998) See more »


Ashokan Farewell
Written by Jay Ungar
Performed by Fiddle Fever
See more »

User Reviews

Ken Burns' Masterpiece
4 May 2001 | by DMP-2See all my reviews

This series is excellent, probably the best ever. Ken Burns brilliantly captures all of the elements of one of America's greatest disasters. Shelby Foote and all of the other authors and historians that took part in this series were excellent. Foote especially was great for bringing some really good incite on the war. Also Sam Waterston gives an excellent performance as the voice of Abraham Lincoln. Morgan Freeman also does an excellent job as Frederick Douglass. Not to leave anyone out, all the voice-overs were superb. Its a great way to spend 9 1/2 hours, if you have them. But, if you don't have time to watch all, I highly recommended seeing "The Cause" (part 1) and "The Better Angels Of Our Nature" (Final part). They both are truly masterpieces on their own.

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Release Date:

23 September 1990 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Civil War See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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