Review of PBS's Civil War documentary hit and missed

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011; 8:36 PM

Hank Stuever's review of PBS's Robert E. Lee documentary ["Dear PBS and History Channel," Style & Arts, Jan. 2] was both on target and wide of the mark.

During the Civil War sesquicentennial, television should not try to outdo Ken Burns's documentary; rather it should investigate aspects of the era that Mr. Burns all but ignored, such as the turbulent period of Reconstruction. There are new things to learn about Lee, too; just ask local author Elizabeth Pryor. She discovered a trunk of Lee's personal letters in the basement of a Burke & Herbert Bank & Trust building, and she published an excellent book based on what the letters revealed about his private beliefs.

Mr. Stuever was right that there's plenty of work left to do. We don't need another celebration exclusively extolling the importance of white generals and well-trodden battlefields. Introducing a new generation to the importance of the war and its impact on today's society requires bringing issues of race, class, gender and technology to the forefront. The war belongs to all Americans, and the sesquicentennial is a good time to learn something about it.

Gordon Berg, Greenbelt

The writer was president of the Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia from 2007 to 2008.


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