The Best of Civil War Minutes: Union Review
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The concept behind the Civil War Minutes video series is a great one: take little-known facts about the Civil War and have an expert explain them in short segments. Each segment would be able to stand alone, but the DVD could be also watched in a single sitting, if the viewer wanted to. With a noted historian like Michael Kraus providing the stories and acting as the face of the series, it should be a no-brainer.

At least that was how it looked on paper. What came out on the Best of Civil War Minutes: Union DVD is nothing like it should have been. Sure the section on Carte-De-Visite photography was full of things that I’d never heard of. And the section on the Officers of the Civil War was filled with things the average American doesn’t learn in high school. The section that covered Civil War Caps was a bit dull, as was the segment detailing what a Union soldier carried in his backpack. (A quick aside here, if you’re interested in what a soldier carries into battle, I suggest you find a copy of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and read the title story.)

  
 
The production quality of the video made it nearly impossible to watch. Remember the “wash your hands often” movies that we all had to endure in health class? This was about that bad. The production values on this disc are not much better than what you could do at home with a high-end digital recorder. Often, Michael Kraus, the voice of the series, nearly washes out of the video, and the picture he’s superimposed over dominates the scene. The producers must have thought that putting Kraus in a military uniform would somehow make him look more like an authority on the Civil War. Instead, it made him look uncomfortable.

The highlight of this project is Michael Kraus. He’s an expert on the Civil War, and he has a deep passion about that time in history. When he’s not busy trying to point out markings on a drum, or clamber into a Union back pack, he’s informative and more than once borders on compelling. He saves this project from the discount bin with his integrity and genuine love of the material. Kraus worked hard to make what he was doing stand out from the mess that he must have known he was being saddled with.

I have to recommend that you take a pass on The Best of Civil War Minutes: Union. The information is good, but the production value makes it just too difficult to watch.

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