10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America – Antietam (01×01)

The History Channel’s new special series 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America is an insightful, interesting historical retelling of ten events in the history of the United States that fundamentally changed the country in social, cultural, and economic terms.

Each segment, whose topics range from the birth of Rock and Roll to the Battle of Antietam, is written and directed by a wheel of writers and directors who take an interesting look at each event. Each filmmaker employs the use of archived pictures (as well as reenactment photographs aged and doctored to appear as though they were taken in the time period in question), live-action reenactments, visits to the locations today, and interviews with esteemed professionals and historians to give insight on the events themselves and other effects.

For example the segment focusing on the 1848 gold rush to California provides an intertwining story of two groups of travelers in and their hunt for gold via archived letters from the era. This gives the program a more human aspect and more interesting than your standard history-fare because you relate to real people who lived through significant moment in history. The film doesn’t merely talk about the gold rush though, it also focuses on the impacts the rush had on the country as a whole. The mass exodus of families from the east to the west lead to the creation of the transcontinental railroad, the creation of the stock market in San Francisco, and the displacement of native Californians and Native Americans.

The Battle of Antietam segment is a powerful portrayal and reenactment of how warfare was during the mid-19th century. There’s a certain morbid curiosity to find out what happened at the battle, and a deep feeling of shame when you see how the Northern Army was mismanaged by General McClellan. The episode also takes a look at Abraham Lincoln, quite possibly the best President the United States has ever had.

Each of the ten episodes paints a picture in a similar way, relating to actual historical significant Americans while gaining a perspective from scholars and experts who have spent their life researching how the US was changed so dramatically. The stories and information they give is all in the correct context and it never becomes dull or boring as each of the filmmakers keeps a brisk pace, never lingering on one point too long but still presents an accurate picture for you to interpret.

The series does a great job of showing how each one of the featured events had a resounding impact on life as we know it today, and sometimes the stuff we take for granted.

10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America is highly recommended for any history buff or anyone aspiring to be a history buff. For those less familiar with some of these events, it provides enough information to impress your friends and family with your newly acquired knowledge.

10 Days That Unexpected Changed America debuts on The History Channel April 9 at 9PM/8c. Be sure to check your local listings for channel number and actual start time. Also, if you want to win some 10 Days swag, check out our contest where you can win a History Channel fleece and a Relic Watch.

Episodes featured in this series include:

Massacre at Mystic – The first time the English settlers engaged in the slaughter of Native Americans after years of relative peaceful coexistence.  Known as the Pequot War, this massacre in Mystic, Connecticut set the pattern of the taking of Indian land throughout the country. 

Shays’ Rebellion: America’s First Civil WarA violent protest against debt collection and taxation practices motivated George Washington to come out of retirement to help strengthen the fragile new nation.  This was the spark that led to the writing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Homestead Strike – Harsh working conditions and long hours In Carnegie’s Homestead steel mill led to a union strike.  The battle fought between management and labor signaled an end to workers believing they had an ownership stake in their jobs, and widen the divide between management and labor.

Murder at the Fair:  The Assassination of William McKinley — Set against the backdrop of the 1901 World’s Fair and the dawning of the new century, the assassination of President William McKinley ushered in a new Progressive Era under the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt.

Gold Rush – The explosive effects of gold being discovered spurred tremendous financial and physical growth throughout the West.  For the first time in history, individuals – not kings or sultans – could have gold for the taking, spurring tens of thousands of immigrants to make the arduous journey West. 

Scopes:  The Battle Over America’s Soul — The sensational courtroom battle between two giants – three-time presidential candidate and populist William Jennings Bryan and big city criminal defense lawyer Clarence Darrow – over the teaching of evolution in a small Tennessee town.  The trial underscored a deep schism within the American psyche — religion versus science, church and state, elitism versus populism.

Einstein’s Letter – Albert Einstein’s letter to FDR that launched the development of the atomic bomb.  The result, known as the Manhattan Project, brought government and science together in a project to build the bomb and change the world forever. 

When America Was Rocked — Elvis Presley’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956, signified a whole new culture that involved teenage independence, sexuality, race relations and a new form of music. 

Antietam – The bloodiest day in American history, both sides paid a terrible price during this Civil War battle that resulted in 23,000 casualties.  President Abraham Lincoln needed this victory to insure that no foreign country would support the Confederates, and issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Freedom Summer There was a time when trying to register to vote in Mississippi could get one killed.  When two white and one black Civil Rights workers went missing, national attention turned to the violence in Mississippi, which eventually led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. 

Written by Erich Becker
Thirty-something with a love of everything we cover here, and a few things we don't. Erich has run Entertainmentopia since the site's inception in 1999, countless redesigns, a few crashes, and a lot of media later, here you have it!