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Posted on Mar 23, 2011 in Books and Movies

Ken Burns’ ‘The Civil War’ Commemorative Edition DVD – Review

By Jerry D. Morelock

Ken Burns’ The Civil War Commemorative Edition DVD Set. PBS, 660 minutes (6-disc set). Release date: March 29, 2011.

PBS has done history fans a big favor by releasing a Commemorative Edition DVD set of Ken Burns’ ground-breaking, Emmy-winning documentary series, The Civil War as we enter the first year of the war’s sesquicentennial (2011–15). Forty million viewers were glued to their TV sets when the acclaimed, 9-episode series was first broadcast on consecutive nights, September 23–27, 1990, and Burns’ masterpiece quickly became the “gold standard” of the genre. Burns’ innovative use of 16,000 archival photographs, paintings and newspaper images, voice-overs of actor dramatic readings of correspondence, diary entries, memoirs and speeches from the period, expert commentary by renowned Civil War historians such as Ed Bearss and Shelby Foote, a marvelous narration by David McCullough, and a haunting musical score combined to create a compelling “Civil War experience” that totally engrossed audiences. The original VHS version of the series was a best-seller, as were the companion book (written by Burns, Geoffrey C. Ward and Richard Burns) and the series soundtrack.


Actually, this new DVD set is better than the original broadcast—the series was digitally remastered and the sound remixed in 2002, and this Commemorative set includes 52 additional minutes of never-before-seen interviews with Ken Burns and Shelby Foote, interview outtakes and a 16-page booklet with photographs and battle details. This new 150th Anniversary of the Civil War Commemorative DVD set is definitively a “must buy” and we highly recommend it.


Jerry D. Morelock, PhD, Armchair General Editor in Chief.

Also Recommended: Weider History Group’s Special Edition magazine, 1861: Hell Breaks Loose with an Introduction by Harold Holzer. This collection of 31 stories of the Civil War’s first year is the first in a series of annual collector’s editions to commemorate the war’s sesquicentennial (2011–15). It is available at HistoryNet Shop for $11.95 (price includes shipping and handling).

Also recommended are the WHG Special Editions Lincoln’s Genius ($9.95) and Lincoln In His Own Words ($9.95), also available at HistoryNet Shop. Click on covers below for more information.

1 Comment

  1. Burn’s series is pathetic and contributes little to the understanding of the conflict. Gone with the Wind has more historical reality than Burn’s.