Key battles and the immense implications of the Civil War's staggering death toll are explored.
From 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. The work of contending with death on an unprecedented scale propelled extraordinary changes in the inner and outer life of Americans-- posing challenges for which there were no ready answers when the war began -- challenges that called forth remarkable and eventually heroic efforts as Americans worked to improvise new solutions, new institutions, new ways of coping with death on an unimaginable scale. Based on Drew Gilpin Faust's groundbreaking book, This Republic of Suffering -- and broadcast in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American history -- the film tracks the increasingly lethal arc of the war, from all but bloodless opening, through the chaos of Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg -- 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, many unburied, most unidentified.