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    SUBJECTS — U.S./1860 - 1865;
    MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness.
    Age: 12+; No MPAA Rating; Documentary; 1989; Nine Episodes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.

    Description:     This engrossing documentary employs still pictures from the period and photographs of places, letters, objects and works of art, interspersed with interviews of historians. These films show the horror of war and capture the pathos of America's bloodiest conflict. Every child should see them.

    Benefits of the Movie: "The Civil War" is a work of scholarship that ties together the historical conflicts and trends that led to the bloodiest war in American history. They include: states rights vs. a strong central government; the development of the technology of warfare; abolition vs. slavery; and the different economies of the North and South.

    Possible Problems: None.

    Parenting Points:     If your child is interested in the Civil War, a few episodes of this film will increase his or her understanding of this period of American history. Ask and lead your child through the answers to a few of the Discussion Questions about the episodes that you have seen.

    TWM also suggests (especially if your child is not particularly interested in the Civil War) two excellent dramatic presentations of episodes in that conflict: Glory and Gettysburg.

Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities


QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   There are quick discussion questions in the section on each episode.



    Discussion Questions:


    1.  QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION: Why was Abraham Lincoln willing to see ten thousand men and boys die or be maimed in a morning? What was his primary goal in fighting the Civil War?

    2.  Was John Brown right to try to start a slave revolt?

    3.  The abolitionists, people who believed that slavery was wrong and that it had to be eliminated at all costs, were considered radicals by most of the people in the Union during the Civil War. Would you consider them to be radicals?


    4.  QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION: What was McClellan's fatal flaw as a Union general?

    5.  Since most Southerners didn't own slaves, what were the Confederate soldiers fighting for?

    6.  What were the Union soldiers fighting for? Why would they obey the orders of incompetent generals and be cut down like a scythe cuts wheat and yet the survivors would often regroup and march again?

    7.  Why were the casualty rates so much higher in this war than in any past war?

    8.  See also discussion questions in the Learning Guide for "Gettysburg."


    9.  QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION: Why did President Lincoln sign the Emancipation Proclamation?

    10.  What would have happened had Frederick Douglass and the abolitionists not pushed so hard to add the goal of eradicating slavery to the Union cause in the war? Would Lincoln and the North have come to this conclusion anyway?

    11.  Which slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation and which were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution?

    12.  Assume that the South had won, and slavery had been preserved. What would have happened to the South and slaves when mechanization came and large numbers of slaves were no longer needed?


    13.  What difference would modern medicine have made in the number of Union and Confederate soldiers who died while they were serving in their armies?

    14.  Were there any Southerners fighting for the Union?

    15.  QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION: Why was the North able to win the war despite the fact that most of its generals were incompetent?

    16.  See also discussion questions in the Learning Guide for "Glory".


    17.  QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION: Why was Grant the general for whom Lincoln had been looking?

    18.  Had the South won, would America have been able to save the West during World War I and World War II?

    19.  What is an "acoustic shadow"?

    20.  What error did Lee make in ordering Picket's charge?


    21.  QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION: Robert E. Lee was worshipped by his soldiers and by Southerners generally. He was respected by Northerners for his prowess as a general. But there is another less positive view of General Lee. Listen to the argument and tell us what you think. Lee had been a brilliant officer in the U.S. Army before the Civil War. At the beginning of the war, President Lincoln offered Lee the command of the Union Armies, but Lee joined the rebellion because he felt that his highest duty was to his home state of Virginia. This was despite the fact that Lee did not agree with secession. In fact, the secession movement was a retrograde regionalism and an invalid political theory. This theory, in practice, would have done immense harm to the cause of democracy by demonstrating that the leading democratic nation in the world could not hold itself together. Lee had to have been aware of this when he joined the rebellion. In addition, the Confederacy that Lee fought to establish was dedicated to the barbaric, corrupt and utterly criminal institution of slavery. However, Lee himself disliked slavery. On the other hand, had Lee remained loyal to the Union, the rebellion would probably have been over in a matter of months. The argument continues that many hundreds of thousands of American boys, Northern and Southern, died horrible deaths because of Lee's decision to defect to the Confederacy. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

    22.  What was the nickname of U.S. Grant?

    23.  What was the relationship of the military campaign of the Spring, 1864, to the presidential elections of November, 1864?


    24.  What was the goal of the Union naval blockade on the South?

    25.  QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION: Why did the South think that secession was the second American Revolution?

    26.  Is assassination ever justified as a means of causing change? What if Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot had been assassinated? Would the world have been a better place? Was the assassination of Julius Caesar justified? Would Iraq or the U.S. have been better off if someone had assassinated Saddam Hussein instead of the U.S. mounting an invasion to topple his regime? See Julius Caesar.

    27.  How can it be said that the Union fought the war with one hand tied behind its back?

    28.  Did the South ever really have a chance? Justify your answer.


    29.  QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION: Was the federal government (read that Lincoln) justified in having General Sherman make his march to the sea, targeting Southern civilians and laying waste to great swathes of the South?


    30.  How would the history of the country have changed if Lincoln had not been assassinated and had been able to serve his full second term?

    31.  QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION: What would have happened if the North had followed through with Reconstruction and made the South retain the progressive reforms such as universal education and voting rights for the former slaves?

    32.  Has the conflict between the North and South been resolved? Is it relevant any more?


    33.  Had Lee stayed in the Union Army, how long do you think the Civil War would have lasted?

    34.  After the Battle of Gettysburg, General Meade was criticized for not following up on the victory and trying to crush Lee's Army. This "failure" especially angered President Lincoln. However, most of General Meade's officers agreed with him that the battle had been won and an attack on Lee's army would have risked turning victory into defeat. What do you think?

    35.  What do you think would have happened if the Union had lost the battle of Gettysburg?

    36.  Was the Battle of Gettysburg a turning point in the Civil War?

For a movie worksheet for this film, see Film Study Worksheet for a Documentary.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

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For suggested answers:    click here.

Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided is another PBS documentary about the Civil War.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!

For suggested answers:    click here.

For suggested answers:    click here.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    1.  In the Civil War, defensive technology (such as rifles with longer range and better accuracy and repeating rifles) gave defenders a great advantage. Can you explain why tens of thousands of soldiers on each side, in battle after battle, had the commitment and the courage to march in regular order against the withering fire of the defenders while those around them fell with hideous and usually fatal wounds?

For suggested answers:    click here.

    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)

    1.  Patriotism is love of one's own country. A civil war, however, fractures the concept of country. People on each side believe that their opponents have betrayed a principle that is vital to the nation and that they have become traitors as a result. What principles did each side of the Civil War espouse?

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

For suggested answers:    click here.

    Bridges to Reading: There are many books about the Civil War. Some are listed in the Learning Guide to The Red Badge of Courage. A companion guide to the films is called The Civil War, an Illustrated History.

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: See the topic in the Heritage Index for: U.S./1860 - 1865.



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