Saturday, February 13, 2010

Post-Ken Burns Blues

Your Blogging Boy, snowed in and school-less for the week, got through all of Ken Burns's The Civil War , finishing yesterday.

Beyond giving me a good overview of the war's chronology, personalities, and battles, the documentary's best part was the prominence of Shelby Foote's commentary. I know that Foote's three-volume "narrative" of the Civil War gets a bad rap from some, but what was evident to me was that (1) the guy knew the war like the back of his hand, and (2) he took great pleasure in recounting the funny/odd/illustrative little stories from the war, never failing to give an awkward little laugh at the end. I appreciated the passion and he was a unique addition to the series.

Other strong points:
-In-depth treatment of Lincoln, Grant, and Lee;
-Clear description of military details (which this novice appreciated);
-Decent look at issues of race and slavery, including treatment of abolitionism/Unionism in the North, John Brown, Frederick Douglass.

Weak points:
-No coverage of West Virginia's separation from Virginia in 1863;
-More generally, not much coverage of political and legal issues for the governments (whether USA or CSA), including habeas corpus, the departure of Southern congressmen and senators to the Southern government, and the CSA's legal status in the eyes of the U.S.;
-Not much coverage of the flip-side of the North's Unionism/abolitionism dichotomy -- states' rights v. Slave Power (if they were at all opposed), plus moral arguments for slavery.

All in all, a great eleven or so hours -- I'm glad I did it all at once. Now, however, I'm aching for more Civil War but I'm lacking in time, so books won't do just now (though recommend away! I've only read Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering and half of McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom). Are there any other good documentaries of the Civil War? Are Gettysburg and Gods and Generals worth my time?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Very Best Place to Start

Is right here. I'm busy and I have no reader-friends to begin with, but maybe chewing on this'll get my mind-grapes working when I have a few minutes to spare.

Thanks to HK for this one.