One of the first things that sparked my interest in the Civil War was Ken Burns‘ documentary titled (very fittingly) The Civil War. Although I was only 1 when the documentary first aired on PBS, I’ve been able to watch it time and again thanks to my dad who owns the series.
Anyone who has seen the documentary knows what an impact it has upon first watching it. For me, The Civil War was the perfect combination of heartfelt anecdotes and hard information. Though I enjoy all of the documentary, the part that always has the biggest impact on me is the reading of a letter written by Sullivan Ballou. When the war broke out, Ballou left a bright political career to join the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry. Ballou was mortally wounded in the First Battle of Bull Run, but prior to going into battle he wrote a heartfelt letter to his wife, Sarah. In The Civil War, the letter is condensed, but an amazing narrator reads it while “Ashokan Farewell” – a musical piece written by Jay Ungar – plays in the background.
I think why I love the letter so much is because it serves as a constant reminder of how much those who fought in the Civil War sacrificed. To me it adds a human voice to history.
(WARNING: You may want to grab a box of tissues before you press play … this video has been known to lead to a few tears here and there.)
And if you’re at all interested in learning more about the Civil War, I would absolutely recommend Ken Burns’ The Civil War as the way to do it.