Beginning with a searing indictment
of slavery, this first episode dramatically evokes the
causes of the war, from the Cotton Kingdom of the South
to the northern abolitionists who opposed it. Here are
the burning questions of Union and States’ rights,
John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, the election of
Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the firing on Fort Sumter and
the jubilant rush to arms on both sides. Along the way
the series’ major figures are introduced: Abraham
Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses
S. Grant and a host of lesser-known but equally vivid
characters. The episode comes to a climax with the disastrous
Union defeat at Manassas, Virginia, where both sides
now learn it is to be a very long war.
Detailed Episode Description with time code:
Prologue :00 -:01:29
Anecdote about Wilmer McLean who "could rightfully
say, 'the war began in my front yard and ended in my
1.1 Chapter 1 - THE CIVIL WAR Series Title
:01:30 - 10:20
Introduction to the war and to the important characters
in the series.
1.2 Chapter 2 - The Cause :10:21 - :12:28
America in 1861-most of the nation's 31 million people
live peaceably on farms and in small towns.
1.3 Chapter 3 - All Night Forever :12:29
The brutal reality of slavery and its importance to
the Southern cotton economy; the invention of the cotton
1.4 Chapter 4 - Are We Free? :19:13
The abolitionist movement: William Lloyd Garrison starts
publishing The Liberator in 1831. Rise of Harriet Tubman,
Wendell Phillips, and Frederick Douglass. Growing rift
between North and South over slavery. Death of Elija
P. Lovejoy, white abolitionist. Introduction to John
1.5 Chapter 5 - A House Divided :23:36
Events leading up to secession: Uncle Tom's Cabin published
in 1850; Supreme Court's Dred Scott Decision; political
conflict over entry of new states in the Union. In 1858
Lincoln writes, "a house divided against itself
1.6 Chapter 6 - The Meteor :27:46
John Brown raids the arsenal at Harper's Ferry in 1859,
and is captured by Colonel Robert E. Lee. The Southern
militia now becomes a viable instrument; it is the beginning
of the Confederate army.
1.7 Chapter 7 - Secessionitis :32:44
In 1860 Abraham Lincoln is elected President. The South
is horrified. Introduction to George Templeton Strong,
New York lawyer, and diarist. Seven Southern states
secede in the time between Lincoln's election and inauguration.
The Confederacy inaugurates Mississippi senator Jefferson
Davis as President. Introduction to Mary Chesnut, wife
of a prominent Southern planter and diarist.
1.8 Chapter 8 - 4:30 a.m. April 12, 1861
:47:11 - :52:09
Southern artillery attack a battalion of Northern troops
inside Fort Sumter, off the coast of South Carolina
in the first battle of the Civil War. When Union forces
surrender, the South is jubilant. Walt Whitman writes,
"all the past we leave behind with Sumter."
1.9 Chapter 9 - Traitors and Patriots
:52:10 - 1:04:16
Lincoln calls for 75,000 volunteers -- Davis asks for
100,000. Introductions to: Northern soldier (and diarist)
Elisha Hunt Rhodes, Southern soldier (and diarist) Sam
Watkins. U.S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Nathan
Bedford Forrest and Robert E. Lee.
1.10 Chapter 10 - Gun Men 1:04:17
The first Union troops arrive in Washington. Wherever
the Union army goes in the South, slavery crumbles.
Slaves fleeing their plantations for the Union lines
are considered "contraband" of war and are
not returned to their former owners.
1.11 Chapter 11 - Manassas 1:12:18
When the Union army marches into Virginia, Confederate
troops engage them at the Battle of Bull Run/Manassas.
The battle, thanks in part to "Stonewall"
Jackson, is a Southern victory with an unprecedented
5,000 casualties. Union troops limp back to Washington.
1.12 Chapter 12 - A Thousand Mile Front 1:24:08
General George McClellan takes command of the Union
army with an elaborate plan to destroy the Confederacy,
but does nothing. U.S. Grant is assigned to desk duty;
William T. Sherman resigns, close to suicide.
1.13 Chapter 13 - Honorable Manhood
1:31:18 - 1:34:50
Sullivan Ballou, a Northern soldier, writes a letter
home to his wife before the Battle of Bull Run.
Click here for
the Educator's Index PDF (208k)
[The Educator's Index is an alphabetical and timecode specific listing of topics covered in each episode.]