A recent rereading of historian Shelby Foote's wonderful three volume history of the American Civil War motivated me to acquire and rewatch Ken Burns' PBS documentary on the same war.
I don't particularly like Burns. I find his work preachy, predictable, and overly inclined to reduce complex moral questions (as viewed in their time) to simple manichean stories straight out of a comic book. That's present in The Civil War, but less so than in any of his later work. On watching it now, almost 20 years after my first and only other viewing, I'm surprised at how strong it remains, how well it holds up. If you've never seen it, or like me, you saw it in the 80s and moved on, it's a remarkable long form documentary on an epic subject, exactly the sort of thing for which television is better suited than cinema.
I'm also struck by the little accidents of history Burns illustrates so well, such as the course of emancipation, which was never a certain thing, or the happenstances of birth and death which could have derailed the North's (in retrospect almost sure) victory, such as the deaths of Stonewall Jackson and Albert Sidney Johnston, or that the horrifying yet brilliant Nathan Bedford Forrest, perhaps the best general in American history, was born of low family in an aristocratic society and so had to work his way up from the bottom when in a meritocracy he would have commanded Confederate forces in the west by late 1862.
Anyway, highly recommended.