The bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil is thoroughly examined in Lincoln & Lee at Antietam: The Cost of Freedom, a worthy addition to anyone’s Civil War video collection. Directed and written by Robert Child and narrated by Ronald F. Maxwell (the director of the definitive Civil War epics Gettysburg and Gods and Generals), this straightforward, no-nonsense documentary emphasizes the tactics, strategies, and historical context of the battle at Antietam, in Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862. Further emphasis is placed on the wartime conditions (political agendas, ready status of armies, etc.) that led to President Abraham Lincoln’s orders to defeat Gen. Robert E. Lee’s exhausted army at Antietam. Lee and other Confederate strategists had hoped to stage a surprise invasion, but Lee’s battle plans fell into the hands of the Union army, and Lincoln’s victory–which was essential to his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery–turned Antietam into the pivotal battle of the war. Although Child (who also directed Gettysburg: Three Days of Destiny) uses dramatic readings, maps, and photographs (especially the legendary battleground photos of Matthew Brady) in a manner similar to Ken Burns’ epic-length documentary The Civil War, the look and presentation of Lincoln & Lee at Antietam is entirely different, with many sequences involving contemporary Antietam reenactments. Many of the Civil War’s most colorful and important figures factor into this detailed 90-minute account, which clearly benefits from impeccable in-depth research. A 25-minute interview with Maxwell reveals the filmmaker’s massive 15-year commitment to bringing his epics to the screen, and his feature-length commentary with Child lends another layer of detailed information to this authoritative DVD.


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