Mathew Brady and other photographers captured the Civil War in still photographs that remain poignant and shocking to this day. But there were no movie or video cameras in the 1860s--a fact that has generally limited modern documentarists in portraying the North-South conflict as vividly as, say, World War II.
The producers of a new, five-part television series, "The Divided Union," have made a mighty effort to get around this problem. However, the inclusion of re-enacted battles and other elaborately staged scenes probably hurt more than help the documentary, whose first hour debuted Wednesday night on the Arts & Entertainment cable network.
It's easy to appreciate the great trouble associated with dressing hundreds of extras in authentic Civil War uniforms and getting the details right down to the last epaulet. But you're still likely to be more distracted than involved when these scenes repeatedly pop up during the five-hour production.
There's no real impression that these guys firing cannons and running up hills are anything more than used car salesmen and computer programmers out for an exciting, dress-up-in-old-clothes weekend.