The Cause
1861
Part of the Series: Ken Burns: The Civil War

PBS
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Election of Abraham Lincoln spawns secession of seven states led by South Carolina. Confederate States form provisional government before Lincoln is inaugurated, take over two southern forts. Neither side believes there will be war, but attack on Fort Sumter by Confederate forces signals beginning of conflict. Both sides mobilize quickly.…
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Sectional tensions over slavery subside with the Compromise of 1850; resurface as western states seek territorial and then state status. Railroad expansion plans ignite bloodshed in Kansas and Missouri. Parties sectionalized; Whigs disappear, Republicans emerge. Lincoln-Douglas debates foreshadow future Harper's Ferry Raid convinces South they'll never be safe in the…
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Between 1861 and 1865, this epic American story of struggle and survival was written in blood, and in this series is told mostly from first-hand accounts and in the spoken words of the participants themselves, through their diaries, letters, and memoirs. The series concludes with Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court…
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Episode six begins with a biographical comparison of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee and then chronicles the extraordinary series of battles that pitted the two generals against each other from the wilderness to Petersburg in Virginia. In 30 days, the two armies lose more men than both sides…
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The battle between pro-slavery and free-soil contingents rises to fever pitch. During his raid on Harpers Ferry, John Brown is captured, then executed, becoming a martyr for the cause. Abraham Lincoln is elected president in 1860. Southern states secede, war breaks out and the conflict unexpectedly drags on. On New…
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The episode begins with the presidential election of 1864 that sets Abraham Lincoln against his old commanding general, George McClellan. The stakes are nothing less than the survival of the Union itself: with Grant and Sherman stalled at Petersburg and Atlanta, opinion in the North has turned strongly against the…
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It's September 17, 1862 and President Abraham Lincoln needs a victory in order to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and end slavery in the South. But Robert E. Lee has other plans - invade the North. When Lee's strategy falls into the hands of the Union Army, the result is the…
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This episode opens with a dramatic account of the turning point of war: the Battle of Gettysburg, the greatest ever fought in the Western Hemisphere. For three days 150,000 men will fight to the death in the Pennsylvania countryside, culminating in Pickett's legendary charge. This extended episode then goes on…
A Very Bloody Affair - 1862
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1862 saw the birth of modern warfare and the transformation of Lincoln's war to preserve the Union into a war to emancipate the slaves. Episode Two begins with the political infighting that threatened to swamp Lincoln's administration and then follows Union General George McClellan's ill-fated campaign on the Virginia Peninsula,…