The Civil War in HD


As I was growing up two movies helped shape my lifelong love of Civil War history. One was the 1993 film Gettysburg and the other was Ken Burns’ landmark documentary The Civil War. Both films sparked within me a deep fascination with this time period. I was encouraged to learn more on my own, both inside and out of the classroom, and I read many wonderful books along the way including James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom.

Lincoln and McClellan confer in the generals headquarters tent at Antietam on October 4, 1862.

Lincoln and McClellan at Antietam on October 4, 1862. Photo: Library of Congress

Now, 25 years after its original broadcast, The Civil War returns to PBS. The film will air across five consecutive nights September 7-11, and represents the first time the documentary will be shown in high definition. The film went through a painstaking two-month process during which every frame of the original negative was scanned in 4K, or Ultra High Definition. According to a press release from PBS,  “This is the first time the film will be seen with the exact same fidelity and framing as the negative that Burns and his co-cinematographers Allen Moore and Buddy Squires shot over 25 years ago.”

While there has been an abundance of new and fascinating research published about the Civil War over the past 25 years, I still believe Ken Burns’ The Civil War stands as an accessible and informative starting point on the topic. Hopefully the HD rebroadcast of the documentary will help introduce a new generation to a love of history.