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The Last Days of the Civil War
Studio: A & E Home Video
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Editorial Reviews:
Packed with nearly six hours of historical material, The Last Days of the Civil War provides a fascinating study of a nation in the painful throes of transition. The five History Channel programs compiled here effectively combine to form a multifaceted account of the pivotal events of 1864-65, when the bloodshed of civil war slowly brought forth a government (in the words of President Abraham Lincoln) "of the people by the people for the people," that would define the United States as it progressed toward the 20th century. The cornerstone of this two-disc set is "April 1865: The Month That Changed America," which thoroughly examines the most tumultuous month in U.S. history, encompassing Gen. Robert E. Lee's ill-fated campaigns including carnage at Sailor's Creek and eventual retreat from Richmond, Virginia, and Confederate surrender to Gen. U.S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Add the brutal efficiency of Sherman's March, Booth's plot to assassinate Lincoln, and administrative mistakes that put Lee at a strategic disadvantage, and you begin to see (with input from authoritative scholars, authors, and historians) how Union victory was purely a matter of circumstance.

While the factual details and expert interviews grow somewhat redundant (as does the repeated use of archival photos and documents), the sheer accumulation of historical detail makes this set a perfect complement to Ken Burns's epic documentary The Civil War, which clearly influenced these programs. "The Tragedy at Cold Harbor" examines the war's lesser-known catastrophic battle, while biographical portraits of Lincoln, Lee, and Confederate president Jefferson Davis reflect major events through the lives of the war's most influential leaders, north and south. Geared toward viewers with a basic awareness of Civil War history, these programs depict the inevitable chaos of an erratic war, unleashed in a country that needed to rip itself apart before it could reunite to forge a new and brighter future. --Jeff Shannon

Product Details
  • Format: Black & White, Color
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: A & E Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: August 26, 2023
  • Running Time: 400
  • Language: E (E), D (D)
  • ASIN: B0000A14WH
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 Based on 4 reviews.
  • Sales Rank: 4987

Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

5April, 1865., May 18, 2023

I bought this DVD in 2003 and decided to view it again the other night, finding it just as entrancing now as then.

The 2-disc set is divided into two parts, with the first disc being largely based on Jay Winik's spectacular bestselling book, APRIL, 1865; the program includes several notable writers and educators, such as William Davis, James Robertson, and Brian Pohanka among others of the Civil War on hand to give comments. Further, this first disc is broken down into April 1865: The Month That Saved America, and Civil War Combat: The Tragedy At Cold Harbor.

The second disc comes from A&E; network prior to the History Channel going on the air; the disc has a biography of Abraham Lincoln, and General Robert E. Lee, with a Civil War Journal biography of Jefferson Davis. A final added feature is a copy on two screens of the Gettysburg Address.

My wife and I bought this at one of the Virginia battlefield sites in 2003 prior to returning home after visiting the old and new Cold Harbor battlefields near Richmond, and Appomattox Court House. We both enjoyed viewing these discs again.

If you are interested in the 1864-1865 Lee-Grant Overland Campaigns in Virginia, or the end of the war from Richmond to Amelia Court House to Sayler's Creek and finally Appomattox Court House, these discs will bring you untold enjoyment.

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful:

"The Last Days of the Civil War" gives the viewer a fascinating look at the end of the American Civil War, our greatest test as a nation! The Five Impressive Documentaries include:

-"April 1865: The Month That Saved America." A detailed account of the last month of the Civil War. It shows how the outcome of the war was in question even after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.

-"Civil War Combat: The Tragedy of Cold Harbor." An intense and moving look at the battle that brought about the end of Napoleonic tactics, and ushered in the era of trench warfare.

-"A&E; Biography: Abraham Lincoln." A closeup look at the man who led America through it's darkest hour.

-2 "Civil War Journal" Documentaries that look at the lives of CSA President Jefferson Davis and CSA General Robert E. Lee.

This set gives an accurate look at the end of America's greatest conflict! Historians and non-historians alike will not be disappointed! Grade: A+

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:

4Another Excellent History Channel Documentary, Nov 12, 2022
This exceptional History Channel documentary looks at the last month of the Civil War. Lincoln is ready to sue for peace; Booth awaits his chance to eliminate the enemy of his country; Despite the fall of Richmond, Davis is determined to fight on; Sherman continues to burn his way through the heart of the Confederacy; Lee rallies his army time and again to continue the fight; Grant fearing a guerrilla war offers to parley with a reluctant Lee. So much was in the balance in the last month of the Civil War that this documentary spends 6 entertaining and interesting hours investigating what happened, why it happened, and the men who made it happen!

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful:

4A little of the old and the new:, Oct 3, 2023
Before purchasing this DVD set, I had hoped that I was purchasing material I never saw before. I was sort of disappointed to see that the History Channel had put together a compilation of previously aired shows featuring rather old material. There are three biographies that cover Lincoln, Lee and Davis. The Lee and Davis episodes are entirely taken from the Civil War Journal series. On disc #2, a look at the Cold Harbor Battle is brought in but that came from the Civil War Combat Series. Again, these are not new productions and can be found or represented in other series availabe from the History Channel. Most welcome was the copy of the documentary called April 1865 that recently aired earlier this year (2003). April 1865 takes a look at the end of the Confederacy and how the nation dealt with the ending of the war and the loss of President Lincoln.

Had I known that this DVD set contained old material I already have, I probably would have settled to buy only the copy of April 1865. Together, all of the programs are very informative and contain a lot of great insight although I would have prefered new material. Quality wise, this is a great set, though I give it a 4 because a lot of the material is older and not new.


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