Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Ken Burns on PBS
The Civil War. A Film by Ken Burns
Images of the Civil War
The Film, Past and Present
Episode Descriptions
Broadcast Schedule
Why Re-master?
Music of the Civil War
Film Credits
Video Clips
The War
The Filmmakers
In the Classroom

Episode One: The Cause (1861)
Slaves at work on Pope's Plantation near Hilton Head, South Carolina

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.

Click here for a detailed description of this episode.


Copyright 2002 WETA. All rights reserved.