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"Death and the Civil War" Wins Coveted Prize

September 27, 2013 | By Public Programs Staff

"Death and the Civil War," Ric Burns' film for American Experience, has won the 2013 Erik Barnouw Award from the Organization of American Historians for "outstanding programming in television or in documentary film, concerned with American history, the study of American history, and/or the promotion of history."

The award is named after the late Eris Barnouw, a Columbia University historian and professor who was a specialist in mass media. The Organization of American Historians gives one or two awards annually to recognize excellent programs in the mass media or in documentary film that relates to the subject of American history or which furthers the study of history.

Drawing heavily on This Republic of Suffering, historian and Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust’s acclaimed book, “Death and the Civil War” explores a critical but largely overlooked aspect of the Civil War experience: the immense and varied implications of the war’s staggering and unprecedented death toll. The war created a veritable “republic of suffering,” as landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted described the wounded and dying arriving at Union hospital ships on the Virginia Peninsula. The shattering Civil War death toll transformed hundreds of thousands of individual lives and the life of the nation as well, from its understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship to the profound struggle of a deeply religious culture to reconcile these events with a belief in a benevolent God. The film examines the increasingly lethal years of the war, focusing primarily on several key battles and their corpse-strewn aftermaths, and concludes with a section on the postwar efforts toward reburial and remembrance. The program premieres in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle in American history.

"Death and the Civil War" was written and directed by Ric Burns and produced by Robin Espinola, Bonnie Lafave, and Ric Burns.

It premiered on September 18, 2012.

For more information, visit the the film's web page at

"Death and the Civil War" received an NEH Production grant.