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The producers of American Heritage’s new CD-ROM The Civil War have skillfully and creatively employed multimedia technology to offer a visually interesting, informative overview of America’s greatest conflict. Broken down into six main categories–“Themes,” “Culture,” “Timeline,” “Campaigns,” “People,” and “Rank and Regalia”–the material is fairly detailed and easily accessible. There is also a game that allows the player to control either all Union or all Confederate armies through the course of the war.

“Timeline” will prove one of the most interesting and useful categories for the true Civil War history enthusiast. The user scrolls across icons that represent events placed in chronological order from the antebellum period through Reconstruction. Clicking the mouse on an icon brings up information on that topic.

The best menu area is “Campaigns.” Here the user summons a series of maps that trace troop movements through a campaign. While a book can approximate these marches using similar maps in a step-by-step approach, here the user can watch the military units on the move. Along the way, the program stops to give in-depth explanations of campaign and battlefield developments.

For several years now, Ken Burns’s The Civil War has been the benchmark against which all video documentaries about the war have been measured. In the relatively new realm of CD-ROM multimedia, the benchmark Civil War title is The Civil War from American Heritage.

The Civil War: The Complete Multimedia Experience from American Heritage, Simon and Schuster Interactive, New York, two CD-ROM discs, $79.95.

MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS PC with 486SX/25MHz processor 8 MB RAM SVGA graphics (256 colors with 640 x 480 resolution) Double-speed CD-ROM drive MPC-compatible sound card Windows 3.1

Carl Zebrowski