Abraham and Mary Lincoln, A House Divided: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on WXXI-TV

Abraham and Mary Lincoln, A House Divided: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on WXXI-TV

Mon, 06/20/2011 - 10:00pm

Pictured: President Abraham Lincoln and family.

Credit: Courtesy of Library of Congress

Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd ascended to the pinnacle of power at the most difficult time in the nation’s history.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided on Monday, June 20, June 27, July 11, July 18, July 25, and August 1 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable 11/cable 1011).
 
More has been written about Abraham Lincoln than any other American, and yet the wife who helped him rise to power and complicated his life once he got there remains little known. Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided, is the first film to focus on their marriage. It follows the couple from their strikingly different childhoods to their years in the White House. It uncovers their public ambitions and their private fears. It paints a vivid picture of a troubled marriage, of a couple who loved each other passionately, who quarreled intensely, and who frequently mourned. And it describes the impact of Lincoln's brutal assassination on the nation and on the sanity of his wife. 

Episode One: Ambition (airs Monday, June 20) 
Episode One tells the story of the couple's childhoods - his in a remote backwoods log cabin, hers in a wealthy Kentucky home - and describes their courtship. Mary sets her heart on the raw, socially awkward Lincoln, saying later: "He'll be President of the United States one day. If I had not thought so I never would have married him."
 
Episode Two: We Are Elected (airs Monday, June 27)
The Lincoln marriage is both tempestuous and passionate: she has a temper; he suffers bouts of depression. But they share a powerful political ambition that sends Lincoln to the House of Representatives and later, with the country splitting apart over slavery, sees him run for President. On election night, when the results finally come in, Lincoln goes home and tells his wife, "Mary, Mary, we are elected!"
 
Episode Three: Shattered (airs Monday, July 11)
When the Lincolns arrive in Washington in 1861, the country is breaking apart. The country's president-elect is unknown, untested and mistrusted. His wife, the daughter of a Southern slave owner, is suspected of being a Confederate sympathizer. As Lincoln leads a confused and frightened people through the most terrible conflict in their history, disaster strikes his own home: Willie Lincoln - the child Mary says will be "the hope and stay" of her old age - dies.
 
Episode Four: The Dearest Of All Things (airs Monday, July 18)
Tormented by her grief and losing grip on sanity, Mary turns to spiritualists for comfort. Though bowed down with sorrow, her husband never loses sight of the tragedy consuming the nation. With the war going badly in the east, enlistments drying up, and morale low, Lincoln takes a step that changes the country forever and in doing so he changes himself. On January 1, 1863, the sixteenth president issues the Emancipation Proclamation, liberating millions of Americans from bondage. The move turns the Civil War from a conflict over Union into a struggle for freedom.
 
Episode Five: The Frightful War (airs Monday, July 25)
As 1863 begins, it seems the Civil War will never end. One hundred Union soldiers desert daily and hundreds more die of disease. Opposition to the war begins to spread. Some Northerners resent fighting to free black slaves; others are furious with Lincoln for the devastating Union casualties. Weighed down by the criticism, Lincoln is desperately anxious. Mary, worried about her husband, spends money compulsively, plunging herself into terrible debt.
 
Episode Six: Blind With Weeping (airs Monday, August 1)
The final episode tells the story of the last sixteen months of war - the battle of Gettysburg, the Union victory that changed the conflict's course, and Lincoln's battlefield dedication that changed America's conception of itself. It follows Lincoln's final political struggles and charts his differences with his wife: He remains dedicated to bringing the South back to the Union. She speaks privately of revenge. With the surrender at Appomattox and the Civil War finally over, the President tells Mary they can find some happiness again. Just days later, he is shot to death. The brutal assassination exacts a terrible toll on a war-torn nation and the president's emotionally fragile wife.  
  

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