Untold story of Civil War shines light on Vicksburg

Published 10:29 am Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Vicksburg residents Malaika and Rivka Quarterman portray Mary Loughborough and her daughter during ”River of Death”, the third of the five-part  series “Civil War: The Untold Story” to be shown Thursday at Southern Cultural Heritage Center.

Vicksburg residents Malaika and Rivka Quarterman portray Mary Loughborough and her daughter during ”River of Death”, the third of the five-part series “Civil War: The Untold Story” to be shown Thursday at Southern Cultural Heritage Center.

The country had become divided when war broke out and more than 700,000 Americans died during what some still call the War Between the States.

Its stories include the battles at Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg. However, stories of battles and the people who fought them in what was known then as “the West” have been scant.

“One of the reasons the Western Theater didn’t get a lot of attention is that there is not a lot of photo history,” said Chris Wheeler, the producer and director of “Civil War: The Untold Story,” a five-part series focused on the battles between the Appalachians and Mississippi River.

More photographical evidence of the war  in and around Washington, D.C. exist, Wheeler explained, because photographers didn’t go west to shoot pictures, “but just because there weren’t a lot of photos doesn’t mean it wasn’t important,” he said.

Wheeler’s documentary, narrated by Elizabeth McGovern of the hit British period drama Downton Abbey, is set to air on PBS beginning April 20. For locals, the third installment of the five-part series, titled “River of Death” and centered on Vicksburg, will be screened at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center.

The documentary will include stories of Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Atlanta and other battles in the Western Theater, Wheeler said.

“Many historians believe that the Western Theater was where the war was won and lost,” he said.  “The five-part series will also provide new insights into the relatively unknown roles African Americans played in the conflict — from enslaved to emancipated to soldier,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said he worked closely with the National Park Services in gathering information for the documentary and interviewed more than a dozen of the nation’s top historians. That list includes Henry R. Luce, the professor of the Civil War era at Gettysburg College, Robert C. Fluhrer, the professor of Civil War studies at Gettysburg College, Amy Murrell Taylor, an associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky and Stacy Allen, the Chief Historian at Shiloh National Military Park.

“This is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen on the Civil War,” said retired Vicksburg National Military Park historian, Terry Winschel, who was also one of the historians contacted by Wheeler.

“Chris and his crew were very conscience about what they were doing.  Most people have a very shallow knowledge of the Civil War and this film will help broaden their views. Operations in the West get short changed,” Winschel said, “and this film also puts more emphasis on Vicksburg’s role in the Civil War and it helps promote Vicksburg, which is great.”

Wheeler said many of the scenes were filmed on the same grounds where the battles were fought, including Vicksburg National Military Park and Raymond Military Park.

The documentary had been in the making “on and off” for about five years, “longer than it took to fight the war,” Wheeler said. It touches on the causes of the war, the home front, the politics of war, the impact of war on Southern civilians and women and chronicles Lincoln’s 1864 presidential campaign.

“Lincoln said Vicksburg was the key to the South, which just speaks to the importance of the area,” Wheeler said.

Henry R. Luce, the professor of the Civil War era at Gettysburg College, Robert C. Fluhrer, the professor of Civil War studies at Gettysburg College, Amy Murrell Taylor, an associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky and Stacy Allen, the Chief Historian at Shiloh National Military Park.

“There is a power to this story of a time when we fought each other and our government, but the film is not just about who we were then. It’s about who we are now. In a nation arguably as divided today as we were 150 years ago, Civil War: The Untold Story is a compelling, relevant program that we believe will strike a powerful chord with Americans today,” said Wheeler.

The film is produced for public television by Great Divide Pictures, which, in addition to numerous cable television documentaries, has created more than 25 films shown in national park visitor centers nationwide.

If you go

Vicksburg National Military Park will host a preview screening of “River of Death,” episode three of a five-part documentary entitled “Civil War: The Untold Story” at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center, 1302 Adams St. For more information, call 601-631-2997, 601-636-0583 or visit www.nps.gov/vick. The show will air at 5 p.m. Sundays on PBS starting April 20.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

email author More by Terri Cowart