Seeing this CGI image of the erecting of the Statue of Liberty in the commercial of this new documentary, I was naturally intrigued to at least watch the first installment of this series. If you are a history buff, particularly, American history, you will like it well enough. It's loaded with colorful CGI visuals and lively re-enactments of pivotal moments in the birth of the U.S.of A.
'The Story of US' is compellingly told and depicted. I did learn snatches of history that I never knew before-such as,
10% of Americans can trace their ancestry down to the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. When pushing thanksgiving, for the most part they've only talked Turkey. The Powkanoket tribe that discovered the pilgrims on their land were a friendly bunch for sure, but my big guess is they weren't stupid. They have dealt with the 'white men' before and even lost many to the plagues brought in by them. They were warring with a rival tribe and saw that the Pilgrims could be of use to them.
The Pilgrims, on the other hand were dropping like flies. More than half of them died in the first three months of landing there. They needed the food resources and farming and hunting skills that the Powkanokets could provide. The Pilgrims learned to fight and helped the Powkanokets defeat their enemies. Thus resulting in a nice, friendly meal. Okay, that's a very loose, generalized history lesson, but you get the idea.
What else was new to me? At The Landing of Kip's bay in Manhattan, over 4000 British troops came by sea to attack the Rebels. It was the biggest attack to hit Manhattan and was only superseded by the Twin Tower attacks in 2001.
I had little idea that the British took prisoners of war from the Rebels while in New York. Over three times as many Rebel soldiers died on these 'prison ships' than in actual battles! One interesting opinion was how General Washington won the war not necessarily by fighting skills, but by the fact that he outspied his enemy. They even had women spying and sending messages with the way they hung laundry and the placement of the clothing pins.
Here you have a whole legend built upon a man who 'cannot tell a lie.' But was a master of deception. Still, Washington was a brilliant General, who continually forced his soldiers to learn new strategies and war techniques, such as employing rugged and street-smart frontiersmen and early cowboys as sharpshooters and covert soldiers with improved and accurate weaponry to defeat the British in the dense forests. It was a brand new way of fighting-clandestine and dirty.
When the soldiers started dying of smallpox in Valley Forge during the rough winter, Washington used an inoculation technique learned from the African slaves. He had small amounts of pus taken from a small pox victim put into the open wounds of the healthier soldiers. The strategy worked, bringing the death toll from the thousands to the dozens.
The first 2-hour segment delves into the earliest settlers from Jamestown, to the Mayflower and then jumps into the Revolutionary war, when America was finally coming into it's own as a fledgling nation. Of course, being the smart aleck, I could only think of the chapter title in the book I last pushed on my readers, 'The smart aleck's guide to American History' and how the Colonists are revolting...seriously smelly that is.
This segment traces the growth of the nation, but pretty much ignores the atrocities commited by the early American settlers to prosper, namely, wiping out tribes and scores of Native Americans with disease, deceit and outright murder...but that's for another documentary folks! The poor Native Americans always get the short end of the stick. It makes me curious as to how the issue of Slavery will be handled, if Slavery is made an issue at all. It most likely will since the Civil War is not far behind the Revolutionary one. It sort of boggles the mind how after all this talk of revolution and uniting as 'one nation' the country is then driven to war between themselves.
Watching this series is like having your 7th grade history class come to life. I know Jeffrey Jones would have been entranced!
I sort of lost interest in the last half hour of this segment when it just went on and on showing battles between peasant dressed Rebels and proud British Redcoats shooting muskets and driving each other through with bayonettes...another new tactic learned during those years. It's not as gruesome as it sounds. The violence in the series is very carefully presented for the sake of telling the history, but not grossing us out.
I'm not particularly a huge fan of the History Channel. In my opinion it should be called 'The WAR Network.' I've come to see that when you strip away all the rest, history itself is just war after war after war after war after...well, you get the point. There is no true peace...only 'peace time.'
The next installment focuses on the Pioneers. And to quote another hilarious line from the Smart Aleck Guide..
'Go West young man...
and stink up some other part of the country!'
America: The Story of US airs Sundays at 9:00pm, in two hour blocks. That's EST time folks, so check your local listings. It also has repeat showings throughout the week. The documentary itself is 9 hours long. That is fascinating, because I remember documentaries on the Old West alone being over eight parts or longer. I particularly can't wait for the parts on the Gilded Age of the Industrial Revolution, where invention, greed, and corruption reigned supreme! Yay!
So, I did my historical and Voyager duty by telling you about this documentary, all in all, it was an interesting way to spend Sunday night, adding more facts to the brain and fuel to the rabid Voyagers fans to conjure up more ideas. :P