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The Great Tours: Civil War Battlefields

Explore the Civil War—right where it was fought.
The Great Tours: Civil War Battlefields is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 39.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Sadly disappointed. I had high expectations for this course with an interest in the Civil War. After all, the title told me that we would be touring the Civil War battlefields. However, we didn't. What we did was listen to two people discuss strategies of different battles with the ocasional photo or video snippet of the actual battleground. There was no "tour" involved at all. Granted, the strategies of Grant and Lee and their generals determined the outcome of the war, but then the title should have been "Civil War Strategies," and not Great Tours. Furthermore, only those battles that occurred in Virginia received any mention suggesting that Sherman's march to the sea and all the other historical sites have little to do with the war. Also, as the two people discussed each battle, they would state the outcome, which in their selection of sites were all Confederacy wins due to incompetence on the Union side, then with the last lecture they tell of Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Without already knowing the history of the war you'd wonder how Lee could win every battle and then surrender. I highly suggest you give this course a miss if you want to know more about the Civil War.
Date published: 2023-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from well done review of civil war fundamentals the two lecturers do an entertaining job of presenting lots of good narrative about major civil war battles - both excellent presenters - Caroline and Peter exhibit good chemistry and are both experts in the field - learned a lot of interesting facts (e.g., over half of soldiers in the war did not die in battle but from disease and other physical ailments) -piqued my interest enough to take the other longer TGC civil war course and possibly peruse some of the books written by the two professors
Date published: 2023-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love the discussion format After watching several Great Courses over the years, this one was probably my favorite. I REALLY appreciated having two historians sit down and have a discussion versus having one of them read off a monitor or whatever like the other courses. Yes, I believe the course could have been longer to include the western theater. I was okay with the parts of maps being briefly shown. I wanted to hear what they had to say. Peter at times overtalked Caroline. He had a lot to say and wanted to make sure he had the opportunity to say it. She was the better reader of info when those moments where they read off the monitor or whatever. I would highly recommend this course. I would recommend to the two professors to work together to create another course on the western theater. Also, I would recommend to Great Courses to consider having more courses where there are two people discussing a topic versus just reading off a monitor.
Date published: 2023-03-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mis-titled. The authors are knowledgeable, and I certainly did learn some interesting facts, but if you were looking for an actual tour of the battlefields, there really was none. It was worth the 24 dollars but I was overall disappointed. With modern technology, drones, etc it could have been so much more.
Date published: 2023-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellence!!! Depth was brought to each battle that Caroline Janney and Peter Carmichael brought to each lecture. What a joy to watch!!!
Date published: 2023-03-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing This course was deeply disappointing. This is really a lecture course about selected battles, not a tour of battlefields. This is too much talking heads, not enough tour. But even if the course were correctly labeled, it fails. What we get is two people talking, interspersed with an occasional map or photograph of the battlefield or a statue or a monument, sometimes without context. So much better use could be made of maps. Typically, at the start of a lecture, Caroline Janney or Peter Carmichael will go on for several minutes about the layout, what troops were there, who commanded them, throw out the names of some towns or physical features, where the railroads were, where the troops would be going – with only sparse use of maps or other illustrations. Later, when the two of them are talking, we get some maps or photos, but they’re too brief and insufficiently explained. When they’re talking about the troops advancing, or trying a flanking maneuver that doesn’t work, or the troops retreating, we often get no diagrams, no maps, to illustrate or put this into context. Arrows on a map can be made to move, even while they’re talking. Or, instead of two people sitting in chairs talking to each other, maybe they could walk portions of the battlefield with a video cameraperson and point things out, to give us the perspectives of what the armies at the time might have perceived. That’s what a tour might look like. Or, if they don’t want to give us an actual tour of the battlefield (which is how this course is labeled), at least they could have a map on the wall and show us what and where they’re talking about. Frustratingly, there are a few video shots of Janney and Carmichael walking a field or another site on or near a battlefield, talking and pointing something out to each other. But to us they’re silent. Why? Would it have been so difficult put mikes on them and have a video camera there, so we can see what they’re seeing and hear what they’re saying? But that’s not what this is. With current technology, I was even hoping that drones would be utilized to give a bird’s eye view of the battlefields. (In the last lecture, there is what could be a drone shot of the Appomattox Court House area, but nothing is labeled, and it’s all too brief.) Instead, we get a little video, a few still shots, but not enough, and not sufficiently tied together. This course shows insufficient attention to basic pedagogy. I’ve been to Gettysburg and Antietam. My amateurish photos and videos, if accompanied by appropriate narration, would give a much better idea of what is being looked at and how and why it matters in the bigger picture of those battles. I have stood at the “copse of trees” and “the angle” at Gettysburg, but those are barely mentioned here, and not shown at all in any close-up. I had high hopes that this production would far exceed what I was able to do. But instead, we get the talking heads describing what a good job the park service has done on the trails at Antietam, but with no identifiable depiction of said trails or of what you can see from the trails. As for Gettysburg, we get some photos, mostly at a distance, of Little Round Top and some other sights, but not nearly enough. For example, one must walk in and around Devil’s Den to appreciate it, and a photo at a distance is in no way sufficient. Another example: in Lecture 12 on the Wilderness campaign, they make it a point to tell us that the Lacy House has been beautifully restored and is worth seeing. Great. Let’s see it. But no, not even a still photo. We are told that the state park services has beautifully restored Appomattox Court House – but we don’t see it, except for one brief aerial view of what we assume is the area. It may even depict the Wilmer McLean house where the surrender took place – but we don’t know. Caroline Janney and Peter Carmichael are earnest and engaging. But Peter Carmichael can be difficult to understand. He’ll drop his voice and mumble, often on the last few words of a sentence. But he has moments of passion and sincerity, for example, in the last couple of minutes of his discussion of the battle of Fredericksburg, when he talks about the dedication it took for the Union soldiers to fight on even in the wake of that bloody disaster. The best lectures are the 6th and 11th, on the photographs and aftermath of Antietam, and on the aftermath of Gettysburg, including a discussion of the gruesome task of handling the bodies and the proliferation of monuments. These are not focused on the battles themselves, so are less frustrating. Peter Carmichael brings out a good point: why should the statute of Lee, the loser of that battle, the general taking up arms against the United States for a cause the “cornerstone” of which is human slavery, be the largest monument on the field? This course salvages three stars, and I can barely recommend it, because of the sincerity and engagement of the lecturers and because I did learn a few things. But overall, disappointing.
Date published: 2023-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Course! I have been a student of the Civil War for more than 40 years and was excited to see this course offered on Wondrium. While the comments about the title of this course being misleading are understandable (there is little actual footage of the battlefields themselves), the conversations between these two incredibly interesting and knowledgable professors were endlessly fascinating and insightful. Wondrium, please, please, please bring them back for more Civil War courses!
Date published: 2023-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from interesting course I enjoyed the format with the two professors giving their perspectives on the topics presented. One thing I found interesting was that when they were discussing the failure of Ewell to attack on the night of the first they didnt mention Lee's order to attack if "practicable" as possibly playing a role in the failure to attack. It was a nebulous order . I do agree with some others that I would like to have seen more pictures of the actual battlefields.
Date published: 2023-03-07
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In The Great Tours: Civil War Battlefields, noted Civil War historians Caroline E. Janney and Peter S. Carmichael invite you to join them on the battlefield for an on-the-ground examination of how the Civil War was fought. In 15 lectures, you’ll visit 11 different sites that take you inside many of the war’s renowned campaigns, including Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Petersburg.


Caroline Janney

More than all the letters, memoirs, and newspaper reports tracing the events of the American Civil War, it's the battlefields themselves where soldiers fought and died that best connects us to this traumatic, yet fascinating period of history.


University of Virginia

Caroline Janney is the John L. Nau III Professor in History of the American Civil War and director of the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia, where she received a PhD in History. She won the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize for her book Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee’s Army after Appomattox.

By This Professor

The Great Tours: Civil War Battlefields
Peter Carmichael

You can crack open these historical landscapes and you can get the totality of that historical experience.


Gettysburg College

Peter Carmichael is the Robert C. Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies and director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. He received a PhD in History from the Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of three books, including The War for the Common Soldier: How Men Thought, Fought, and Survived in Civil War Armies.

By This Professor

The Great Tours: Civil War Battlefields
The Great Tours: Civil War Battlefields


The Power of Place: The Civil War in Context

01: The Power of Place: The Civil War in Context

Start your journey with a closer look at why battlefields matter. Turn next to how soldiers fought. How did the rifled musket limit tactical choices on the battlefield? What was the purpose of artillery? Why did Civil War officers persist in launching frontal attacks?

27 min
Manassas: The First Battle of Bull Run

02: Manassas: The First Battle of Bull Run

Examine the first Union advance from Washington under General Irvin McDowell, whose troops were stopped short by Confederate forces under P. G. T. Beauregard at a small stream in Virginia called Bull Run. Take a tour of Henry House Hill, where the Union line collapsed, then follow the Union retreat across the Stone Bridge.

27 min
The Seven Days’ Battles

03: The Seven Days’ Battles

On June 25, 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s newly christened Army of Northern Virginia launched a series of battles that sent General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac reeling away from Richmond. Go inside this campaign, known as the Seven Days’ Battles, and discover how the bloodiest week in American history changed the course of the Civil War.

31 min
A Return to Manassas: The Second Battle of Bull Run

04: A Return to Manassas: The Second Battle of Bull Run

Go back to Bull Run for a second battle that saw the dazzling movements of Lee’s lieutenants, James Longstreet and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. On the field, you’ll stop at Brawner Farm, where fighting first erupted. Then, you’ll go to Deep Cut, a critical portion of railroad bed, and Chinn Ridge, where Union army officer Fletcher Webster met his end.

26 min
Antietam: America’s Bloodiest Day

05: Antietam: America’s Bloodiest Day

Go inside the bloodiest day of the Civil War at the battlefield at Antietam. Here, you’ll learn how the terrain—cornfields, woods, farm lanes, and creeks—obscured troop formation and left soldiers vulnerable to assault. Look back and consider the ferocity of the fighting, including the wounding of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and more.

27 min
After Antietam: Photography and Medicine

06: After Antietam: Photography and Medicine

Examine the aftermath of Antietam, by following in the footsteps of the war’s first photographers. You’ll explore the physical and emotional trauma the battle inflicted on the men who fought there, as well as how surgeons and nurses, including Clara Barton, cared for the wounded.

27 min
The Battle of Fredericksburg

07: The Battle of Fredericksburg

Discover how the fiasco at Fredericksburg proved what many soldiers feared when President Lincoln replaced George B. McClellan with Ambrose Burnside: They would have to pay in blood for a purely political decision. Also, consider why General Robert E. Lee was frustrated in the wake of his lopsided victory.

31 min
The Battle of Chancellorsville

08: The Battle of Chancellorsville

Explore the Battle of Chancellorsville, where an audacious Lee divided his army three times against a more numerous Army of the Potomac. Despite the Army of Northern Virginia’s victory, Lee’s losses at Chancellorsville were staggering: nearly 13,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing—and among the dead, the irreplaceable Stonewall Jackson.

35 min
Gettysburg: Day One

09: Gettysburg: Day One

Turn now to Lee’s second raid into the North, which resulted in the Battle of Gettysburg—perhaps the most well-known battle and battlefield of the Civil War. On the field, you will stop at McPherson’s Woods and Willoughby Run; Barlow’s Knoll; and Cemetery Hill, where the first day’s fighting ended with the arrival of more troops.

32 min
Gettysburg: Days Two and Three

10: Gettysburg: Days Two and Three

Continue your look at the Battle of Gettysburg with the significant moments of July 2nd and 3rd in 1863, including the battle’s most famous attack, Pickett’s Charge. You’ll spend time exploring locations like Peach Orchard; Little Round Top, and Chamberlain’s memories of its defense; and Culp’s Hill.

31 min
Remembering Gettysburg

11: Remembering Gettysburg

How does a killing ground become a healing ground? Close out your time at Gettysburg with a focus on the aftermath of the battle. You’ll learn how the Union victory became a moment of redemption for the Army of the Potomac. You’ll learn about how burials were conducted and about the creation of a national cemetery to commemorate such sacrifice of life lost.

38 min
The Wilderness

12: The Wilderness

After the Battle of Gettysburg, there would be no major military action in Virginia until the following spring, when Ulysses S. Grant joined the Army of the Potomac in the campaign that began in an area of Spotsylvania County and resulted in the Battle of the Wilderness. Explore Saunders Field and witness the disintegration of the Confederate line at Widow Tapp’s Field.

30 min
Spotsylvania Court House

13: Spotsylvania Court House

First, stop at Laurel Hill, where a Union charge dissolved into a rout and the death of Union commander John Sedgewick. Then, explore the Mule Shoe, where federal troops fought to capture a formidable series of earthworks. Lastly, visit a bend in those earthworks that came to be known as the “Bloody Angle.”

29 min
Petersburg: The Crater

14: Petersburg: The Crater

Plunge into one of the most shocking events of the entire Civil War. To break a stalemate during the siege of Petersburg, some Union soldiers dug a tunnel under Confederate lines and detonated four tons of powder. The explosion created a giant crater in Lee’s lines, but a bungled Union attack meant the siege would continue for months to come.

27 min
Lee’s Surrender: Appomattox Court House

15: Lee’s Surrender: Appomattox Court House

Conclude the series with a discussion of Lee’s surrender to Grant at the Appomattox Court House. Consider why the way the war ended was impactful then and now, and continues to resonate with Americans.

37 min