How do you distill more than 200 years of history into 12 hours of television? Centennial, a popular and successful mini-series based on James Michener's novel took over 20 hours to tell its story. The writers, editors, producers, and directors of America: The Story of Us, faced a daunting task deciding what to leave in and what to omit. In addition to satisfying their own board of directors, Bank of America is the sponsor.
One critic complained that the series is focused more towards youth. Well, what's the average reading level of the majority of our country today? Through the first six episodes I feel that they've done an admirable job. It's hard to find a segment of our society that has been omitted up through the Civil War — or otherwise treated without a societal nod at political correctness. Neither CNN nor FOX get any of my attention, but co-workers keep me up to date and I cannot say that I'm aware of significant partisan complaints about biased coverage.
Episode 5: "Civil War"
Robert E. Lee and the South were doomed from the beginning and didn't know it. Lee was a brilliant leader and strategist on the battlefield and won significant victories even when outnumbered two to one. Newt Gingrich compared Lee favorably with George Patton. It's ironic that Patton, who eschewed politicians would be praised by one, in this case, to great effect. However, Lee's most formidable opponent was not on the battlefield. It was a quiet man who had resources (secret weapons) at his disposal that would eventually turn the tide of the war, even when his field commanders would not. Abraham Lincoln used the railroad, telegraph, and the previously established industry of the North in ways never before seen in war.
By 1862, armies for both the North and the South were using the most modern weaponry of warfare available — the mini ball. This ammunition was accurate to 600 yards, could be reloaded eight times faster than traditional weapons, and caused tremendous damage to the human body. In spite of the fact that these soldiers used these modern bullets, their commanders were still using outdated battle tactics. They simply lined up in the open and shot at each other. No wonder over 600,000 died. Fascinating depictions of how these weapons worked and the devastation they wrought was clearly displayed by THC's use of remarkable computer generated images.