Thursday, August 20, 2009

Discovering Civil War History

On the Leesh is working on a documentary about the Civil War. About thirty minutes after stumbling upon this story, the On the Leesh gals, especially one, realized that we need to brush up on our US history. Our backgrounds span the distance of 11th grade US History to Jess winning an award for history and reading copious matieral to this day. (I believe she's a show off - but I have no problem tapping her brain for it's plethora of knowlege). Needless to say, I could use a brush up. I purchased a variety of books on the war and Colin McRae's involvement. Wendy has lead us down a path that is very informative, perhaps too informative. Julie,Jess and I decided to divy them up and hunker down. About two weeks later we poked our heads out with a collective, "huh?" We were swamped under facts and locations and battles and names. We couldn't keep them straight. We needed an overview. Where should we start? How bout a good documentary? We figured this would give us an overview of the history and also help us see what types of documentaries are on the market.

Last night, Julie and I sat down to watch a double feature - First up, an episode of If Walls Could Talk, the HGTV show that features old houses throughout our country and the lush history that lies within their walls. Wendy and Bill's bed and breakfast was featured on the program. Since Julie hasn't made it down to Mobile yet, we thought she should see what the house looked like so she could have a mental picture when we're developing our story.

Second movie was more specific - April 1865: The Month that Saved America. This documentary is part of the History Channel's The Last Days of the Civil War set. Wendy mentioned this was helpful for her when sifting through all the documentaries out there. This set provides an overview of the key figures and events without getting into such detailed specifics. We all feel a little intimidated by Ken Burns' Civil War documentary, so we decided to start here.

April 1865, based on the best-selling book by Jay Winik, focuses on the last month of the Civil War and the series of events that brought the war to an end. As one historian put it, how a war ends is as significant is how it begins and how the battles are fought. While watching the documentary, Julie and I were thrown by the uncertainty that our country faced. On more than one occasion, the Confederacy could have prevailed: What if the freight train of supplies for the confederacy brought food as opposed to guns, ammunition and clothes? What if Lincoln or Grant and later Sherman were more blood thirsty and out for revenge? This documentary gave an amazing view into this trying time for America.

But Julie and I were left wondering, how was this able to happen? If the Confederate army wasn't able to supply their soldiers with food for over five straight days, they were eating tree bark and other unmentionables (watch the documentary), if Lee requested food from Grant at their meeting, how were they able to sustain a war for four years? We think that the answer to this question lies in Wendy and Bill's attic. Somewhere within Colin McRae's meticulous records, the secrets will be revealed.

Check back to see what else we find along the way...


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