A new five part documentary entitled Civil War: The Untold Story will air on PBS television stations beginning in April 2014. The film is from Great Divide Pictures, a company that has produced several historical documentaries for TV as well as films shown in National Park visitor centers, and is narrated by actress Elizabeth McGovern, who is currently seen on PBS in the popular British import series Downton Abbey.
According to producer Chris Wheeler, “the film is not just about who we were then. It’s about who we are now”. The focus of the documentary is on battles in the Western Theater such as Shiloh, Chickamauga, Vicksburg, and the battles in the Atlanta Campaign; plus the role of African Americans in the war. The story is told using both live action battle reenactments and interviews with Civil War historians. Based on the film’s trailer, the battle scenes are grimly realistic. And speaking of the trailer, here it is:
I wouldn’t consider the war in the west to be an “untold story” but it is true that the eastern campaigns do get more attention and the fighting outside of the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia corridor could use a well produced, historically accurate documentary as we commemorate the Civil War sesquicentennial. I’m looking forward to viewing the series and seeing if it fills the bill.
Sneak previews of the series were shown in February at various Civil War related National Park Service sites and other locations, and these preview showings will continue throughout March. Since PBS stations don’t all broadcast shows at the same time, check local listings of the station in your area for air dates and times. For more information see the Civil War: The Untold Story’s Facebook page.
150 Years Ago in the Civil War
Until late February 1864, the highest authorized rank in the Union Army was that of Major General. As the war continued, there were a lot of Major Generals, with a seniority system based on when the rank was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, a system that was strictly adhered to by the generals themselves. President Abraham Lincoln wanted Major General Ulysses S. Grant to assume command of all Union Armies, and to emphasize the point, Congress revived and the President approved, the rank of Lieutenant General for the first time since George Washington held that rank. On March 1st, Lincoln nominated Grant as Lieutenant General and the Senate confirmed the nomination on March 2nd. Grant and Lincoln met for the first time on March 8th in the White House, and the next day the President officially presented the general with his new commission.
With Grant now in command of all Union Armies, Major General William T. Sherman took over his old job as commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi. Major General James B. McPherson assumed command of the Army of the Tennessee, replacing Sherman. Grant did not intend to direct the armies from Washington, and by the end of the month he had established his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac in Virginia. While Major General George Meade remained commander of the Army of the Potomac, he was in an awkward position with the general in chief in such close proximity.
On Wednesday, February 19, 2014, Jeopardy! devoted a whole category to Civil War slang during the semi-final matches of the 2014 College Championship tournament. The category appeared in the 2nd or Double Jeopardy! round.
The contestants got the first two clues:
$400 – from the Latin for life, vittles meant this. WHAT IS FOOD?
$800 – A picket was someone on this duty. WHAT IS GUARD? (also, SENTRY)
The last 3 clues stumped all three students. Nobody attempted an answer on:
$1200 – A Confederate soldier could be called by this first name, whether he was “marching home” or not. WHAT IS JOHNNY.
Alex Trebek mentioned “Johnny Reb” and the song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” That song, however, was sung on both sides of the conflict and did not specifically refer to the Boys in Gray. Johnny Reb and Billy Yank were the stereotypes for the two sides. Like most 2 word nicknames, they eventually got reduced to one word and it was not uncommon at all to refer to a Confederate soldier as Johnny. Union soldiers weren’t called Billy though. That was reduced to just Yank.
Merle Kilgore wrote a song named “Johnny Reb” that was recorded by rockabilly singer Johnny Horton in 1959 and went to No. 10 on the country charts. Continue reading “Civil War Slang Gets a Whole Category on the Quiz Show Jeopardy!” »