The Civil War (1990)
3 user 1 critic

The Better Angels of Our Nature (1865) 

The North celebrated Lee's surrender and the end of the war. On April 14, Good Friday, John Wilkes Booth learned that President Lincoln, General Grant and others were to attend a play at ... See full summary »


Ken Burns


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
David McCullough ... Himself - Narrator (voice)
Barbara Fields Barbara Fields ... Herself - Historian
Shelby Foote ... Himself - Writer / Various
James Symington James Symington ... Himself - Former Congressman
Stephen B. Oates Stephen B. Oates ... Himself - Historian
Sam Waterston ... President Abraham Lincoln (voice)
Julie Harris ... Mary Chestnut (voice)
Jason Robards ... Ulysses S. Grant (voice)
Morgan Freeman ... Frederick Douglass (voice)
Paul Roebling Paul Roebling ... Joshua L. Chamberlain / Various (voice)
Garrison Keillor ... Walt Whitman / Various (voice)
George Black George Black ... Robert E. Lee (voice)
Arthur Miller ... William Tecumseh Sherman (voice)
Christopher Murney ... Pvt. Elijah Hunt Rhodes (voice) (as Chris Murney)
Charles McDowell Charles McDowell ... Pvt. Sam Watkins (voice) (as Charley McDowell)


The North celebrated Lee's surrender and the end of the war. On April 14, Good Friday, John Wilkes Booth learned that President Lincoln, General Grant and others were to attend a play at the Ford theater. The Grants decided not to attend and left Washington for Philadelphia. Booth shot the President in the back of the head, and Lincoln died the next day at 7:22 a.m. The news flashed across the country via the telegraph and celebration turned to sorrow. Scattered fighting continued into May but on May 23, a victory parade was held in Washington. By July, eight of Booth's co-conspirators were found guilty and four of were hanged. Those who survived the war returned home and resumed their lives. Sherman was frequently sought as a political candidate bur flatly refused to serve in any capacity. Sheridan remained in the army and was active in the Indian wars that followed. In the South, Jefferson Davis was vilified as the true villain of the war and spent two years in custody, but was ... Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

27 September 1990 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Florentine Films, WETA See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Last show of the series. See more »


In the original broadcast, the narration states that President Abraham Lincoln was 54 years old when he died. The home video version has been re-dubbed so that the number is corrected to 56. See more »


Shelby Foote - Writer: Before the War, it was said 'the United States are'. Grammatically it was spoken that way and thought of as a collection of independent states. And after the War, it was always, 'the United States is,' as we say today without being self-conscious a'tall. And that sums up what the War accomplished. It made us an 'is'.
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User Reviews

Great Way to Close the Series
14 November 2012 | by Michael_ElliottSee all my reviews

The Civil War: The Better Angles of Our Nature (1990)

**** (out of 4)

The final episode in Ken Burns' wonderful documentary takes a look at the country after the war. We get stories about the Sultana explosion, the Lincoln assassination and John J. Williams who turned out to be the final man killed in the war. We also get a great conclusion that takes a look at every person mentioned in the documentary and we get to hear how they spent the final years of their life. It's rather shocking to see how many survived the war yet died soon afterwards. Also here is some video footage of Civil War soldiers who managed to live to its 50th Anniversary of the war. It should go without saying but this here is yet another terrific episode in the series and it's the perfect way to close things out. I really loved that we got mini follow-ups to all the people we had heard about throughout the series. It was great getting to hear what ended up happening to them and I also enjoyed hearing about the celebrations of these men that would happen over the following decades. Also, having video footage for those who lived into the 1900s was excellent and especially what video there was of the 50th Anniversary reunion of Gettysburg. Those who have set through the entire series should really enjoy this one as there's really no way Burns could have ended it better.

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