Gail Hairston


College: Arts and Sciences

Episode of PBS' Civil War Series Previewed at Worsham Theater

Published: Mar 24, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 24, 2014) — The University of Kentucky and Central Kentucky community have a unique experience awaiting them this week, a sneak peak at episode 4 of the upcoming PBS series “Civil War: The Untold Story.”


The visually stunning and absorbing five-hour documentary series breaks new ground by examining the Civil War through the lens of the Western Theater, battles in the strategic lands between the Appalachians and Mississippi River. Narrated by Elizabeth McGovern of the popular PBS series “Downton Abbey,” “Civil War: The Untold Story” is set to premiere nationally on public television stations in April 2014. The historical series will air regionally on Kentucky Educational Television Sundays at 3 p.m. and KET2 Sundays at 10 p.m., beginning April 6. 


Admission is free to the UK screening of “Civil War: The Untold Story: Episode 4, Death Knell of the Confederacy,” which focuses on the Battles of Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and the 1864 Campaign for Atlanta. The episode will be screened at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 26, in Worsham Theater in the UK Student Center. Filmmaker Chris Wheeler will introduce the film, and UK Associate Professor of History Amy Murrell Taylor, who is featured as one of the eminent on-camera historians in the series, will lead an expert panel discussion following the screening. The event is sponsored by the UK College of Arts and Sciences.


“This film offers an unflinching look at the suffering, hardship, death and destruction that was the Civil War,” Taylor said.  “The end of slavery and the triumph of freedom are central to its story, but so too is the enormous human cost that America’s deadliest war inflicted along the way. ‘Civil War: The Untold Story’ relies on the latest in Civil War scholarship to dramatize the war as it was lived and experienced.”


UK’s event is one of 25 exclusive previews being held around the U.S. in cities, including New York, St. Louis, Memphis, Atlanta, Gettysburg and more. To view video clips, images and additional information on the series, follow on Facebook: .


Filmed with sweeping cinematic style on the actual sites these epic battles were fought, the series painstakingly recreates authentic scenes in a thoroughly authentic manner, adding to the sheer magnitude of history. The series also uses state-of-the-art 2D and 3D graphics, fascinating archival imagery and incisive expert commentary by Civil War historians and scholars to provide new insights on one of the bloodiest and most defining eras in our nation’s history.


The series highlights the battles, the causes and politics of war, but also provides new insights into the relatively unexplored impact on Southern civilians and women, especially the roles that African Americans played in the conflict, from enslaved to emancipated to enlisted.


“The film is not just about who we were then. It's about who we are now," said the series’ producer/director Chris Wheeler. “In a nation arguably as divided today as we were 150 years ago, ‘Civil War: The Untold Story’ is a compelling, relevant program that we believe will strike a powerful chord with Americans today.”


Timed to coincide with the 150-year anniversary of the pivotal “Campaign for Atlanta,” the series also chronicles the presidential campaign of 1864 in which Abraham Lincoln was nearly defeated. The authenticity of uniforms, voiceovers and scenery, makes it seemingly impossible to distinguish this modern adaptation from the actual war so many years ago.


“Civil War: The Untold Story” is produced for public television by Great Divide Pictures, which, in addition to numerous cable television documentaries, has created more than 25 films shown in National Parks Visitor Centers around the country.  The series is sponsored by Nashville Public Television and will be distributed to public television stations nationally by American Public Television (APT).


Following are brief synopses of all five episodes of “Civil War: The Untold Story,” including Episode 4, which those attending the April 26 event at UK will view.


Episode One – “Bloody Shiloh”

With the 1860 election of anti-slavery candidate Abraham Lincoln, 13 states from the South secede and form the Confederate States of America. Union military leaders, along with Lincoln himself, realize that ending the rebellion rests on controlling the Mississippi River. In February 1862, Union forces, led by an obscure general named Ulysses S. Grant, establish a foothold in southern Tennessee near a simple log structure known as “Shiloh Church.” On April 6, 1862, a Confederate force of over 40,000, led by General Albert Sidney Johnston, launches a surprise attack on Grant. The fighting in the hellish terrain surrounding Shiloh is some of the most brutal of the entire war. By day’s end, victory is in sight for the attacking Confederates. But Johnston has been struck in the leg by a bullet, and bleeds to death in 20 minutes. The death of Johnston is a harbinger of a great change that will soon sweep over “Bloody Shiloh.”


Episode Two“A Beacon of Hope”

In the disaster at Shiloh, Union General Ulysses S. Grant sees victory. On the night of April 6, 1862, Grant’s beleaguered army along the Tennessee River is reinforced. The next morning, Grant’s counterattack leads to victory. The defeated Confederate force of 40,000 retreats south to Corinth, Miss. At Shiloh, the Confederates lose arguably their best opportunity to change the outcome of the war. The shocking combined casualty count of 24,000 men is more than in all the wars fought to that date in the United States. Many of the nearly 4 million slaves across the South see the war as an opportunity to seize their own destiny. Thousands of escaping slaves, dubbed ‘contrabands,’ seek refuge with Union forces advancing into the South. At Corinth, Miss., the Union army sets up a ‘contraband camp.’ The former slaves begin building a community that includes a school, hospital and church. As thousands of slaves flee northward, the question asked all over America is this: are they still slaves or are they now free? In a cottage overlooking Washington, D.C., Abraham Lincoln begins drafting a “proclamation” whose message will boldly answer that question.


Episode Three – “River of Death”

Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation does not only free slaves in the rebelling states. It changes the war from one of reunification, to one of ending slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation also gives African Americans freedom to fight. By war’s end, some 200,000 will enlist. In truth, Lincoln’s proclamation is an empty promise without the power of the United States Army to enforce it. In 1863, Ulysses S. Grant begins a campaign to take Vicksburg, Miss., a Confederate citadel overlooking a strategic section of the lower Mississippi River. In May, Grant begins laying siege to the city of 4,500. Mary Loughborough is one of the many terrified civilians who have dug caves into the hillsides for protection. Clutching her 2-year old daughter, Mary “endeavored by constant prayer to prepare myself for the sudden death I was almost certain awaited me.” On July 4, 1863, the day after Pickett’s disastrous charge at Gettysburg, the Confederates surrender Vicksburg to Grant. With the Mississippi River now under Union control, the campaign moves eastward to Chattanooga, Tenn., a rail center that Lincoln considers as important as the Confederate capital of Richmond. Eight miles south, along the Chickamauga, a creek the Cherokee call “the river of death,” Union and Confederate forces clash in what will become the biggest battle of the Western Theater. 


Episode Four“Death Knell of the Confederacy”

Sept. 19, 1863, the first day of the Battle of Chickamauga ends in a bloody draw. On the next day, the battle is determined by one of the biggest blunders of the Civil War. Miscommunication, confusion and fatigue with Union General William Rosecrans and his generals have left a gap in the Union line more than a quarter-mile wide. James Longstreet’s force of 11,000 from the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, pours through the gap and splits the Union army in two. Rosecrans and his beaten army escape to Chattanooga. Chickamauga’s combined casualties of 34,000 are only topped by the carnage at Gettysburg. In October, Rosecrans is replaced by Grant, who immediately plans an offensive. In November 1863, Grant routes the Confederate stronghold just outside Chattanooga. As they escape southward into Georgia, a Confederate officer calls the devastating defeat: “the death knell of the Confederacy.”


Episode Five – “With Malice Towards None”

In the spring of 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman’s force of 100,000 men marches from Chattanooga toward Atlanta, Ga., the industrial hub of the Deep South. Twenty miles north of Atlanta, Sherman’s army is soundly defeated at Kennesaw Mountain. Sherman’s defeat combined with Grant’s stalemate in Virginia, enrages a Northern electorate already weary of war. The presidential election is in November, and Abraham Lincoln’s chances for a second term are dwindling by the day. The Democrats nominate George McClellan. The party’s platform calls for a negotiated peace with the Confederacy in which slaveholders will be allowed to keep their slaves. If McClellan is elected, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation will almost certainly be struck down. Though victorious at Kennesaw Mountain, the outnumbered Confederate Army falls back to a defensive position at Atlanta. After six weeks of bloody conflicts around Atlanta, Sherman wires Washington: “Atlanta is ours and fairly won.” For the first time in the war, many in the North now believe victory can be achieved. Eight weeks later, the president defeats McClellan in a landslide. After the election, Sherman begins his March to the Sea. The largely unopposed march across Georgia to Savannah is a psychological blow to the Confederacy, and a stunning conclusion to the Western Theater.



MEDIA CONTACT: Gail Hairston, 859-257-3302,

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