'The Civil War' returns
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Approximately 600,000 Americans died on battlefields scattered throughout much of the eastern United States in a war that ended 150 years ago this past spring.

It was the Civil War, which might be perhaps the most ironic term used to described a conflict of this type -- given that warfare never is "civil."

The Civil War ended when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Va., in April 1865.

In 1990, a famed U.S. documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, crafted a nine-part series of films telling the story of the Civil War. He told of its triumphs and tragedies. PBS takes us back a quarter-century after the debut of that series to re-examine its meaning and context. The special airs Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Panhandle PBS.


It began ostensibly as a battle over states rights and whether states had the authority to ignore federal law if state officials believed federal statutes impinged on states' ability to govern themselves and those who lived within that state's boundaries.

The debate over the reasons for fighting the war have gone on long after the shooting stopped.

PBS seeks to look back at Burns' documentary with an in-depth overview and interviews with historians who've spent lifetime studying the great conflict and its implications on the nation that has sought to heal the wounds inflicted.

There can be no doubt, as the PBS release on the series tells us, that the Civil War was the most important conflict in U.S. history. It cost us more lives -- on both sides of the epic fight -- than World Wars I and II, the Korean War and Vietnam War combined.

Just weeks before he was shot to death, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural speech on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and gave arguably the greatest political speech in U.S. history.

Victory was in sight of the Union. The president knew it and spoke of how he intended to heal the pain that had torn the nation apart.

Lincoln concluded his speech with these words: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

The upcoming special looking back at Burns' meticulous telling of the tragedy of war may well tell us whether we've found that "just and lasting peace."