Each episode of this series examines different battles of this war. Each uses re-enactments, expert commentary, and readings by actors such as Burt Reynolds, Charlton Heston, and Richard Dreyfuss, to bring the events of the war to vivid life. This first episode covers the first months of the war. Battles covered include the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the First Battle of Bull Run, and Grant's dramatic capture of Fort Donelson. The program also covers the savage fighting that came to be known as Shiloh.