Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Documentary Review: Civil War 2: A Very Bloody Affair: Ken Burns

The title of this second episode refers to the Battle of Shiloh.  General Grant had established a line, and was waiting for General Don Carlos Buell to reinforce him so they together could march on Corinth, Mississippi.  However General Albert Sidney Johnston took the initiative, hoping to attack Grant before he could be reinforced.  The attack began April 6, 1862.  Initially the federals were able to collapse the federal line, and were pushing to Pittsburg Landing.  They met a defending force of Generals Benjamin Prentiss and G.H.L. Wallace which put up a fight at the sunken road (not really sunken) and the area became known as the hornet's nest.  It wasn't until the Confederates brought up 50 artillery that they were able to overcome this area and force surrender.  By then it was too late to continue much fighting around Pittsburg Landing and force Grant to retreat.  Johnston lead the last charge at the hornet's nest, in which he was wounded. 
The femoral artery was shot, and with his surgeon unavailable, he bled out and died, leaving G.B.T. Beauregard in command.  After the first day Beauregard reported to President Jefferson Davis that he expected to clean up Grant the next day.  For his part, Grant did not feel defeated.  When his second in command met him, this conversation ensued: " 'Well, Grant,' said Sherman, 'we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?' 'Yes,' Grant replied, 'lick 'em tomorrow, though.' "
With reinforcements from Buell, the Union army was able to counter attack and control the field the next day.  Shiloh represented the bloodiest battle in American history to that point.  In face more casualties occurred in this battle than all other battles combined to that point.  "Union casualties were 13,047 (1,754 killed, 8,408 wounded, and 2,885 missing); Grant's army bore the brunt of the fighting over the two days, with casualties of 1,513 killed, 6,601 wounded, and 2,830 missing or captured. Confederate casualties were 10,699 (1,728 killed, 8,012 wounded, and 959 missing or captured)."  (Wikipedia)   There are at least 30 battles to come, which will be just as bloody.
As for the Eastern theater, Lincoln after many months delay, finally got General George McClellan to move.  He landed at Fort Monroe, and the peninsula southeast of Richmond.  However instead of attacking strait off, he got the slows and the fears, thinking the Confederate forces were much larger than the actually were.  By the time he moved, the Confederates had reinforced.  He got to within nine miles of Richmond, with only token resistance.
They other story told in this episode was that of the first ironclad battle.  The Confederates had no navy, but took a scuttled ship, re floated it and lined it with an iron hull.  It went to contend with the federal navy, and the first day, nothing could stand in its way.  However, the next day it met the Merimac, a Union iron clad with a revolving turret designed by Robert Fulton.  The two vessels battled to a stand still.  From this day, the navies of the world were obsolete. 
This episode continues the account of the bloody affair, and tells the first terrible bloody battle.  There are at least 30 battles, which will be just as bloody yet to come.  The episodes is spiced with comments from Frederick Douglas (read by Morgan Freeman) on how the war has to become one of the struggle for freedom for the slaves.
Also the account of the writing of the lyrics for the "Battle Hymn of the Republic".  It was written to the music of "John Brown's Body" by Harriet Beecher Stowe:
 Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage
Where the grapes of wrath are stored
He has loosed the fateful lightening
Of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on

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