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American Experience: Death & The Civil War (2012)

 NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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Death and The Civil War
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American Experience: Death & The Civil War + This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Vintage Civil War Library)
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Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Pbs (Direct)
  • DVD Release Date: September 18, 2012
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0089VX0UO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,278 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

From acclaimed filmmaker Ric Burns, "Death and the Civil War" explores an essential but largely overlooked aspect of the most pivotal event in American history. With the coming of the Civil War, and the staggering casualties it ushered in, death entered the experience of the American people as it never had before - permanently altering the character of the republic, and the psyche of the American people. Based on Drew Gilpin Faust's groundbreaking book, "This Republic of Suffering," the film tracks the increasingly lethal arc of the war down through the struggle, in the war's aftermath, to cope with an American landscape littered with the bodies of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death And The Civil War During the Sesquicentennial September 13, 2012
Without a doubt, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust put the Civil War on the bestseller lists again. Published in 2008, Faust's work illuminated for many a new view of Ken Burns' Civil War 1990 series. Popular culture treats the American Civil War differently than scholars, buffs and reenactors treat the war. For popular culture the market place is a battlefield; products vie for mass attention and sales. Now during the 150th sesquicentennial of 1862, the public will likely take a glance at the Civil War. Ric Burns' Death and the Civil War will premiere on Tuesday September 18th on public broadcasting television. Based upon Faust's bestselling non-fiction work, Death and the Civil War is a sobering reminder that the Civil War was a landscape turned red by 750,000+ deaths in four years.

At 120 minutes, Burns' pace is deliberate and provocative. The opening segment is jarring. A few moments before his death, a Mississippi soldier begins writing a letter to his father. The man bleeds onto the paper has he haltingly reveals his last thoughts about his life, service, death and afterlife. Within this 12 minute preface viewers' hearts may begin to break. The images that Burns selects include photography from the era; within the images there are ghosts, individuals who moved during the 30 second to a minute and half exposure time. There are subtleties in the images and texts that may move past the causal viewer; such may be the estimate that of the 750,000+ deaths 50% were not identified by name.

The chapters are each about 15 minutes in length: Death, Burying, Naming, Honoring, Believing and Doubting, Accounting, and Remembering.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Civil About It September 18, 2012
The subject matter holds no allegience to North or South...only to the grave. If you're familiar with Ken Burns you know what to expect & you won't be disappointed. Less of the "talking heads" than in previous works which I'm glad to see. I have no doubts it will join the ranks of great American History documentaries particularly in this genre.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound and moving September 24, 2012
By N. Perz
D&TCW is a profound and moving piece of work. In many ways, the style seems similar to the rightfully famous Ken Burns series, "The Civil War" from the 1990s (another must-see classic). Haunting in presentation and heart-wrenching in substance, this documentary goes very far beyond the existential questions of perceptions of death, society's relationship with death, and the ways in which the Civil War turned these values/beliefs upside down. It is a testimony to the depths of humanity (and, sometimes, the lack thereof) of individuals as well as of society.

There's really nothing I can write that will adequatly convey the impact of this documentary. This is a must-see for every American.

Recommneded in the strongest possible terms.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Think WE Have It Bad NOW??? October 24, 2013
I've studied, researched, & collected 19th Century mourning etiquette, death, funerals, memorabilia & grief for many years and lectured on it. Present day talk of sex and how we came to be has replaced Victorian attitudes toward death: children were told the stork brought babies but were involved in deaths at home, where it most commonly took place. It was expected, prepared for, and all details were handled at home, including the funeral. There was no such thing as an undertaker until the Civil War & embalming was not common until then but became necessary when the bodies of soldiers, most of whom died in the South, needed preservation in order to be shipped home for burial---thus the many industries created: the undertaker, "mourning houses" that supplied the proper attire & accesories, rules of etiquette & dress that grew ever more complicated until after WW1. We think of those people then as obsessive, yet they were allowed to grieve openly, publicly; today, we are expected to return to work and "get over it" in a short time---we avoid and deny death, leaving all the details to the funeral director. There are many reasons for this, which I cover in my lectures, but suffice it to say that The Victorians dealt with it because they expected it.
I saw this documentary and although I am a Civil War historian as well, I had never delved into the citizens left to deal with thousands of dead soldiers & animals when the warring armies lit out of town. This film is stunning, despite its subject matter, and I have the book that it is based on. The documentary is EXCELLENT! Today's citizens, mostly women & children, could never handle what these people had to do, yet they set about burying the dead as soon as possible with no resources but their own & it was a horrific & daunting task.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Documentary Film Making at its best August 16, 2013
Format:Amazon Instant Video
This film has to be taken for what it is...a documentary about how death was viewed/dealt with/changed during the Civil War, it's impact on the soldiers and civilian population at the time, as well as after the fact. It addresses the cultural significance to death at the beginning and through the entire time of the civil war.

I am the Daughter/Granddaughter/Great Granddaughter of morticians, so death is my family business. But I never really thought about hos the social aspects of death would have been changed by the war. It's not a topic that is addressed in schools, as are many of the, what are considered, distasteful topics of life.

I am very glad that I watched this.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A poignent and moving documentary that I would recommend to anyone interested American Civil War. Beautifully done.
Published 22 days ago by one old dog
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Like it
Published 23 days ago by Ed Cosper
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Very interesting look at how some of the practices we regard as routine for our fallen soldiers came to be.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars It's ok.
If you got nothin else to it.
Published 1 month ago by shannon cauthen
5.0 out of 5 stars this is by far my favorite and so i purchased two
i watched this, initially, on netflix. i am something of a buff on the topic, not an expert. this dvd is so information packed i have watched it about a dozen times and i am... Read more
Published 1 month ago by helen0225
5.0 out of 5 stars It's hard to say "I Love It" about this heart-breaking documentary
It's hard to say "I Love It" about this heart-breaking documentary, but it provides great depth of understanding to aspects of that era that most of us are oblivious to. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mimi
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the $$
Learned so much about life at the time of the Civil War. I had watched the program on PBS and then bought the DVD because I wanted to watch it again.
Published 2 months ago by Kate S.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the Faint of Heart
Good historical piece, but kind of bland in presentation. Concentrates a little too much on showing dead bodies.
Published 2 months ago by Michael Harvey
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent in many ways.
Published 2 months ago by prmath
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great video! Can be a little depressing but very informative.
Published 2 months ago by Larry C. Clark
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