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Off-Campus Streaming Guide

Use this guide to find streaming alternatives to Media Services DVDs.

Civil War and Reconstruction Films

Titles Available as of August 2021

This is a selective list of streaming video holdings in the American University Library. Streaming guides are created by doing multiple keyword searches in the library catalog to capture as many titles on a topic as possible. For complete up-to-date streaming holdings, please refer to our streaming catalog.

African-American Lives: The Promise of Freedom

his program looks at how African-Americans defined their freedom after slavery. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. reviews courthouse records of land acquisitions, documents from the Freedmen's Bureau and the 1870 census - the first in which African-Americans were counted as citizens, not property - to trace his subjects' lineages through Reconstruction. A vein that continues throughout the series is Gates' personal story, and in this episode he seeks to confirm a family legend - that a white slaveholder is one of his 19th-century ancestors.

Aftershock: Beyond the Civil War

In 1866, the year immediately following the end of the war, America was supposed to be reuniting, healing its wounds, and moving past years of civil unrest. However, a closer look into this historic time reveals a sinister snapshot of a discordant nation caught in the midst of deadly race riots and angry insurgencies ... Examines the disturbing reality behind the murder, terrorism, and chaos that marked the uncertain period of Reconstruction in America 

American Experience: Ulysses S. Grant

Following a rich childhood on the American frontier, Ulysses S. Grant went on to be the leader not only of the Union Army, but of the United States itself. Learn more with this biography from American Experience. 

American History's Biggest Fibs: The American Civil War

In the second program of this three-part series, Lucy Worsley debunks the myths behind the American Civil War. At the Lincoln Memorial, she explains that the civil war pitted the "free" North against slave-owning Confederate states in the South, but Abraham Lincoln's personal views and the behavior of his troops toward African Americans were not as noble as they appeared. In the South, Lucy learns how history was rewritten in a bid to downplay the evils of slavery and how a 1915 blockbuster film about the Civil War relaunched the Ku Klux Klan. She visits the Georgia countryside and discovers that Gone with the Wind's technicolor depiction of the old South and contented slaves was part of a continued effort to whitewash history. Back in Washington DC, a historian explains that the next person to reconsider the Civil War's legacy was Martin Luther King. He demanded the USA honor a "bad check" written when freedom was promised at the end of the war. Finally, Lucy travels to Charlottesville, Virginia and meets locals with differing opinions on a statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee. 

The Andersonville Trial

This post - Civil War court-martial drama focuses on the trial of a Confederate officer who ran the notorious prisoner-of-war camp in Andersonville, Georgia, where over 14,000 Union prisoners died from disease, starvation, and neglect. The defendant, Captain Henry Wirz, justified his actions with a plea that he was only following orders. He believed he was relieved of any personal responsibility because he was performing his duty. The Army prosecutor contends, however, that moral men must rebel against barbaric or inhumane orders - even if they are within the framework imposed by military discipline. 

Any Place But Here

After reconstruction, white Americans began to take political and civil rights from black citizens. The first episode sets the historical scene, examining the politics, poverty and aspirations that motivated millions to escape from near slavery and segregation in Mississippi for Chicago, which promised freedom and dignity. Chicago in 1942 was home to a large, respectable black middle class as well as the "New Negroes" emerging from the war. Now it would need to prepare for and accept its new black citizens. 

The Battle of Antietam

George McClellan’s Union forces met Robert E. Lee’s near Antietam Creek. More than 27,000 soldiers were killed in less than 12 hours. It was the deadliest day in American military history. The battle marked the end of Lee’s first attempt to invade the North. 

The Battle of Appomattox

General Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army surround the Confederates as they attempt to flee besieged Petersburg. The two armies clash numerous times before General Robert E. Lee agrees to meet Grant in Appomattox Courthouse to discuss a ceasefire. They agree to terms and end the Civil War with a Confederate surrender. 

The Battle of Atlanta

William Tecumseh Sherman leads the Union Army toward Atlanta. The army fights with Confederate soldiers while cutting off the railroad lines into the city. With a change of commander, multiple missteps, and great losses the Confederate Army fails to defend the city.

Battle of Bentonville

An outnumbered force of Confederate soldiers under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston was charged with slowing the Union forces from reaching General Ulysses S. Grant’s troops in Virginia. The armies met near Bentonville, North Carolina. After four days of fighting, the Confederate soldiers were forced to surrender in what one of the last battles of the Civil War.

The Battle of Chancellorsville

With Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson’s superior tactical skills, the Confederates managed to defeat the large Union force at Chancellorsville. Jackson was shot by friendly fire during the battle and died a few days later.  

The Battle of Manassas 

Shortly after President Abraham Lincoln declared war on the states that had seceded, Union soldiers headed for the Confederate Army's position near Manassas, Virginia. Both sides thought the war would end swiftly after a short battle.

The Battle of Petersburg

Ulysses S. Grant was pushing the Union army further south. They become entrenched with Robert E. Lee’s Confederate forces outside of Petersburg, Virginia. A siege carried on for months, while Union forces destroyed Confederate supply routes. 

Battlefield Detectives: Civil War

One of the great routs, indeed one of the great shocks, of the Civil War was the Confederate defeat at Shiloh. They had chosen the battlefield; they had chosen the moment to attack; and they achieved almost total strategic and tactical surprise. Twelve hours after their surprise attack they were in a commanding position, but the next day they withdrew in disarray. For nearly 150 years Confederate failure has been blamed on the fact that they lost valuable time at the Hornet's Nest, where a detachment of Union soldiers held the line. But through forensic history Battlefield Detectives uncovers a very different story of why things went so badly for the Confederates at the Battle of Shiloh.

The Birth of a Nation (1915)  

This epic story of the Civil War as seen through the lives of two families is a controversial classic of film history as it portrays life in the South during and after the Civil War. Made without a script under the personal direction of Griffith. The fictional plot line, a romance/melodrama, is interwoven with historical events (Civil War battles, Lincoln's assassination, et al.) that are documented by the filmmaker as "facsimiles." Portrays the Ku Klux Klan as a means of suppressing black anarchy. Intended to be an authentic depiction of the Civil War era, the film was strongly criticized for its racial stereotypes and its white Southern bias. CONTENT WARNING: NONSTOP RACIST CONTENT. Please pair this movie with the documentary below.

The Birth of a Nation: The Legacy

Cinematic landmark? Revisionist history? Racist propaganda? The arrival of a new art form? Or was D.W. Griffith's epic civil war film, Birth of a Nation, all of these? This documentary explores all of these angles to what remains, even to this day, the most controversial and polarizing film ever made in America. 

Black Communities After the Civil War

In this program, historians trace the westward migration of former slaves to Oklahoma after the Civil War, where they built many thriving towns-and their subsequent exodus to Tulsa. The primary focus is on the towns of Clearview and Boley, where blacks operated thriving cotton-growing operations until 1907, when the most restrictive Jim Crow laws in American history were passed. As Ku Klux Klan activity intensified and the economy bottomed out in the 1920s, many blacks-once successful farmers and business owners-headed for Tulsa, where ghettos quickly sprang up. 

Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color (Series) 

Bloodbath

The March to War

A two-part documentary series that colorized photographs from the Civil War to show the war in more detail. Produced by A&E, this is one of the most popular series on Infobase’s Films on Demand. 

Civil War

The War Between the States rages. In 1863, the Confederate Army seems poised for victory. Following the bloody battle of Antietam, President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. Former slaves join the Union army in droves. With superior transportation (railroads), communication (telegraph lines), and battlefield technology, the Union prevails and America is on track to become a global superpower. 

The Civil War

Award winning Ken Burns docu-series. 

Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877

This archival educational film shot in 1965 examines the Civil War and Reconstruction as they affected the nation's African-American population. 

Civil War Tech

Military historians and experts detail the advances that made Civil War weaponry so deadly. The War between North and South introduced technology that was a quantum leap beyond that used in any previous conflict. The machine gun, aerial reconnaissance, advanced battlefield medicine, instantaneous communication, ironclad ships and even the first aircraft carrier all debuted during the Civil War. Investigates improvements in weapons, sea power, transportation, troop conveyance, food processing, medical care, and telecommunications. At a time when the nation was divided, Civil War technology revolutionized the way war was waged. Today, those technological milestones have evolved to ensure that our modern military has no equal in the world.

Civil War in the West

The Civil War is thought of as a conflict between North and South. But the West figured into it, too. There were more than 2,000 battles west of the Mississippi River--action stretched clear to the California coast. The rugged, wide-open West presented special challenges for armies. Soldiers had to be hearty--able to maneuver themselves and equipment through ice, snow, and mountain passes. They often improvised with whatever they had. Shovels and belts proved especially useful. Then there were the arid plains, which required armies to adapt in different ways. Men had to cover great distances in order to get food, arms, and other supplies. We'll take a look at the weapons, clothing, transportation, and tools employed on the Civil War's Western Front. Host: David Carradine. 

The Coming of the Civil War

Simmering regional differences ignite an all-out crisis in the 1850s. Professor Martin teams with Professor Miller and historian Stephen Ambrose to chart the succession of incidents, from "Bloody Kansas" to the shots on Fort Sumter, that inflame the conflict between North and South to the point of civil war.

Conclusion at Appomattox: War Ends, But Not Its Impact

In 1865, the laying down of arms was just the beginning of the long battle for equal rights facing African-Americans. After documenting the final months of the War Between the States-Lincoln's second inauguration, Sherman's march through the Carolinas, the Siege of Petersburg, the destruction of Richmond, General Lee's surrender at Appomattox, and Lincoln's assassination-this program considers the outcome of the war and its cost, Reconstruction, the century of racism and segregation following the war, and the emergence of Martin Luther King, Jr., as the voice of the civil rights movement. Commentary by Eric Foner, Shelby Foote, and James McPherson is featured. 

Destiny at Fort Sumter 

Describes the attack on Fort Sumter that began the Civil War. 

Flight to Freedom: Underground Railroad

Between 1790 and 1860, thousands of slaves fled the South for liberation on the "Underground Railroad," a system of invisible tracks and anonymous conductors who gave shelter to fugitive slaves. Through interviews with national experts, and examination of archival records and artifacts, this program provides an overview of the underground movement. In addition to interviews with descendants of slaves, conductors, and abolitionists, the program includes examples of spirituals sung by slaves as part of the "code" system, and visits homes that were used as shelters. The program highlights Rochester, NY, which was at the heart of the railroad, where passengers were hidden by Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, and many others. 

Forward to Sumter: The Beginning of War Between States

Since the penning of the Declaration of Independence, America had been steadily evolving into two distinctly different societies-and by 1861, sectional differences had reached the flashpoint. This program addresses abolitionist fervor in the industrialized North; the rising clamor for secession in the antebellum South, an agrarian economy transfigured by the cotton gin; and the political emergence of Abraham Lincoln-intertwined strands of history that, like a burning fuse, ignited the War Between the States. Commentary by Eric Foner, John Hope Franklin, Henry Steele Commager, David Donald, William Cooper, and Grady McWhiney is featured. 

Freedom Seekers: Stories from the Western Underground Railroad

Freedom Seekers brings an understanding of the regional issues relating to antebellum slavery and the antislavery movement that helped shape the western Underground Railroad. Slaves, with the help of stationmasters and conductors, had to dodge professional slave catchers, federal marshals, and slaveholders on a grueling thousand-mile journey to freedom. Viewer will learn how the Kansas/Missouri political conditions created the opportunity for the perhaps less known escape route along the western frontier. This film uses primary source documents, historians, interviews with slave descendants, moving readings and dramatic depictions to tell exciting stories of Underground Railroad activities. 

The General

When Union spies steal an engineer's beloved locomotive, he pursues it single handedly and straight through enemy lines. This silent comedy film that is inspired by a true story is regarded as one of the greatest American films ever made and was included in the Library of Congress National Film Registry. 

Guns of the Civil War

"The guns of the Civil War were the first modern weapons. A & E explores guns from the Gatling to the Springfield, that made combat more precise and deadly." 

Hearts and Hands

The film chronicles the lives of ordinary women as well as individuals such as Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Keckley, Frances Willard and Abigail Scott Duniway through the great 19th century events: industrialization, abolition, the Civil War, westward movement, temperance and suffrage. For nineteenth century women, quilts were the podium, the pulpit and the judges' gavel, which their society denied them. Their quilts speak the language of abolition, patriotism, politics, social justice and westward expansion. 

Homecoming

After the Civil War, Congress allotted 45 million acres of land to former slaves, but protest from white supremacists meant that little of it was ever actually distributed. Despite formidable obstacles some one million African Americans managed to purchase more than 15,000,000 acres of arable land by 1910. This program explores the history of those black-owned farms, from Reconstruction to the agricultural crises of the early 20th century and on to the era of federal loans and subsidies on which most farmers, black and white both, now depend. Director Charlene Gilbert weaves this history together with a portrait of her own farming family, who obtained their land in the 1930s only after the Farm Security Administration was forced to lend to African Americans. 

Immigrants and the American Civil War

Canadians, Germans, Irish and others played significant roles. This is the story of some of the most famous participants and their famous units. 

Lincoln

Burdened by a tragic family life, suicidal urges, and unsettled sexuality, Abraham Lincoln was able to employ his powerful wit and innate charm to transform his inner demons. Filmed as if through the president's own eyes, this episode of Biography captures the dark soul behind one of history's brightest lights. Interviews with leading Lincoln biographers such as Gore Vidal, Jan Morris, and Harold Holzer are also included. 

Lincoln@Gettysburg 

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proved himself a master of a new frontier-not on the battlefields of the Civil War, but in his "high-tech" command center, the War Department Telegraph Office. Field dispatches via the "Internet" of the nineteenth century gave him powers of command, communications, and control never before exercised by a commander-in-chief. The results of Lincoln's pioneering experiment in electronic leadership would ultimately lead to the fields of Gettysburg. There, one battle turned the tide of the Civil War and became the setting for the 272 words of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. This program unfolds the greatest turning point in American history, the rebirth of a nation, and the dawn of the information age. 

Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural Address

Hosted by Academy Award-winner Richard Dreyfuss and featuring Lincoln biographer Dr. Ronald C. White, Jr., this video examines President Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address, which Lincoln termed to be his "greatest speech" and his "best effort." Through Dreyfuss' delivery of the speech and White's analysis, the video brings to light the true meaning of Lincoln's words and feelings towards the Civil War, the defeated Confederacy, and American slavery.  

Long Shadows: The Legacy of the American Civil War

Ruined cities, scorched countryside, over 600,000 deaths - these were the Civil War's direct results. But its long-term effects were no less cataclysmic and are still at work in American society. From North to South, from civil rights to foreign policy, from individual to collective memory, this classic program by award-winning filmmaker Ross Spears explores the cultural, political, and economic echoes of the War Between the States. Reflections come from a wide range of distinguished guests, including former President Jimmy Carter, poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren, scholars Robert Coles and John Hope Franklin, and author Studs Terkel. Civil rights activists, West Point graduates, Vietnam War veterans, battlefield tour guides, relic collectors, and blues musicians also add commentary to this evocative study. 

The March to War

The Civil War tore the nation apart, pitting North against South and brother against brother. Over the course of four years, more than 750,000 military and civilian lives were sacrificed to make the United States a more perfect union, where the human rights of every person are guaranteed. Blood and Glory: the Civil War in Color brings this important historical event to life in a two-part documentary special as never seen before. With unprecedented access to government and private archives and using state-of-the-art technology, over 500 rare black and white photographs were painstakingly colorized to illustrate the story of the Civil War in breathtaking detail. March to War examines tensions over slavery and states’ rights that led to war, early battles, and advances in military technology that changed the nature of war itself. 

The Photographer’s War (series)

When the Civil War began, the opportunity to document the horrifying events as they unfolded and to present them to a country hungry for news from the battlefield was offered to thousands of photographers, yet few seized the moment. This is the story of two men in particular - Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardener - whose vision and determination captured the triumph, the tragedy and the drama of this country's most trying hour. 

The North

The South

Preserving the Past: A Civil War Journal Special

Learn about the campaigns of the Civil War and the battlefields that the war was fought on and how modern development is threatening to destroy those historical sites. 
Rebel: Loreta Velazquez, Secret Soldier of the American Civil War

Working as a union spy under the alias Harry T. Buford, Loreta Velasquez scandalized America when she revealed her story in her 1876 memoir, The Woman in Battle. Attacked not only for her criticism of war, but her sexuality and social rule-breaking, Velazquez was dismissed as a hoax for 150 years. But evidence confirms she existed, one of over 1,000 women soldiers who served in the Civil War.  

Reconstruction: America After the Civil War (series)

This series produced by PBS discusses Reconstruction-Era America and the hardships African Americans faced after the war. Narrated by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this series “honors the struggle of the African Americans who fought their way out of slavery and challenged the nation to live up to the founding ideals of democracy, freedom, and equality."

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Save our History: Fight for Honor: Great Civil War Battlefields

For more than a century, Civil War battlefields have stood as important reminders of a time when America, tearing itself apart over sectional differences, nearly ceased to be. But the ever-increasing suburban sprawl along America's eastern seaboard is rapidly encroaching on these hallowed sites. This program travels to the most threatened sites to draw attention to a new war: a struggle between developers hoping to pave over Civil War battlefields and preservationists working to save and restore what is left of them. What does it mean when a country chooses to not preserve certain historic sites? And can its citizens fully comprehend, or honor, the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers without saving the soil where they gave their lives? 

The Secret War: Civil War Spies

Subject to death if found guilty of treason, Civil War spies risked their lives in the name of their cause. Discover the inventive way these brave women and men furtively uncovered secrets that benefited their cause. 

Sommersby

Set in the south of the United States just after the Civil War, Laurel Sommersby is just managing to work the farm without her husband Jack, believed killed in the Civil War. By all accounts, Jack Sommersby was not a pleasant man, thus when he returns, Laurel has mixed emotions. It appears that Jack has changed a great deal, leading some people to believe that this is not actually Jack but an impostor. Laurel herself is unsure, but willing to take the man into her home, and perhaps later into her heart... 

Struggle in the Border States

Historian and author Ira Berlin talks about the challenge of convincing the border states to emancipate. Professor Berlin explains that the enlistment of African-American men helped speed the process and began to erode slavery in Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland. 

Reporting the War

Examine the newspapers and journals of the Civil War era and discover how they forever changed the outlook and face of American journalism. 

Tattered Remains

Abuses of the system threatened Reconstruction. Compare southern successes of the time including improvements in education, the rebuilding of families, and sharecropping with the violence and legal barriers that subverted the rights of black citizens. 

The Undefeated

At the end of the Civil War, Union Cavalry officer John Henry Thomas (John Wayne) and former Confederate Colonel James Langdon (Rock Hudson) lead their men into Mexico to begin a new life. Caught between Mexican rebels and the Emperor's forces, they find themselves fighting side by side and must forge an uneasy friendship in order to survive.