Later in my life I have developed an interest in history. Perhaps in my youth I didn't have the patience or attention span to capture all the details and nuances of history. Now that I'm more mature, I am fascinated with how people lived or were forced to live in the past. Earlier this year, my husband and I watched AMC's Turn: Washington Spies.
This, in turn, caused me to read the book, George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade. I really enjoyed this book and was able to temper the Hollywood version of the TV series with the actual facts from the book. I understand that both have to be different - but appreciate the truth is often a bit more mundane than Hollywood can allow. If you haven't watched the series or read the book, I highly recommend both.
I love his version of character narration with the extraordinary voices of Sam Waterston, Jason Robards, Julie Harris, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Morgan Freeman, Garrison Keillor, Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur Miller, Studs Turkel, Colleen Dewhurst, Horton Foote, George Plimpton, Philip Bosco, Terry Courier, and Jody Powell, among many others. The mix of actors providing narration with the historians offering color commentary plus the letters, personal stories, hundreds and hundreds of photographs plus maps really bring this period to life. I learned more about our country's history from this masterpiece than I ever knew before.
At 23, I visited Gettysburg with my Marine Corps class of lieutenants. I appreciated it from a tactical point of view (which was the point of our visit) and will never forget the sheer horror of Pickett's Charge. But even though we read Michael Shaara's Killer Angels prior to visiting Gettysburg, it could not compare to the knowledge I gleaned by watching Ken Burn's fabulous documentary bring it to life.
What I liked about Ken Burns documentary series is that he talks about so many different aspects of the war. Of course it focuses on the politics, the finances, the generals, the young foot soldiers, and the blood baths that occurred on each battlefield (tens of thousands were killed repeatedly in single-day battles.) But he also throws in tidbits about homes being overtaken as military headquarters or hospitals and homeowners picking each final bit of produce from the garden rather than let those rebels (or yankees) eat one little green bean. The descriptions from historical documents of corn fields being razed as if they had been cut with scissors after a battle provides such description that no cinematography could add. The fine imported rugs in the parlors of family homes suddenly turned into field hospitals are completely soaked in blood as to be ruined. Entire towns losing every single young man to the war. One town lost more than 900 young men. Not a soul survived. These details that focus on the day-to-day life during the civil war create an empathy that you can feel deep within. I'm hooked. I can't wait to read and watch more.