The Civil War Today: One Of The Coolest iPad Apps I've Seen In A Long Time

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This post is about an iPad application that’s over two months old and has already been chosen as an App Store app of the week. But I’d never heard of it, and, given that the app only has around 95 reviews, I’m guessing a lot of TechCrunch readers haven’t seen it either. And it’s just so damn cool.

It’s called The Civil War Today and was put together by A&E Television Networks (which owns the History Channel) and developed by Bottle Rocket. It isn’t a game or social networking app or anything else even remotely sexy.

It’s a daily newspaper that’s over 150 years old.

The premise is simple: you get to relive the Civil War as it unfolded. Every day, you fire up the application and are presented with a handful of news stories that actually appeared in newspapers exactly 150 years ago — along with photographs, maps, quotes, and a running tally of the casualty count so far. The application will be updated every day for the next four years.

It’s an incredible concept, but it’s also going to test your patience: while you can jump back through previous editions of the paper (there are now around two month’s worth), you can’t jump forward. Sure, you could cheat by looking up big events on Wikipedia, but that would spoil the fun.

We’ve heard a lot about how the iPad will or won’t revolutionize the newspaper industry, with tablet-only publications like The Daily and Apple’s iOS subscriptions for existing publishers. We’ll see how that goes — with the ubiquity of free news on the web, I’m still skeptical. But The Civil War Today seems like a surefire winner. This isn’t content you’re going to easily find elsewhere. And it’s perfectly suited to the tablet form-factor.

Of course, the app doesn’t have to be iPad-specific — the content could presumably be ported over to Android, RIM, or WebOS tablets as well (actually, it would probably make more sense to move the app over to HTML5). But for the time being, it’s only on the iPad. If you’re even remotely interested in history, the app is a must-have. It’ll cost you $8, but remember that that’s for four years worth of content.

Update: If you like this you’ll probably also be interested in the NYT’s Civil War blog, Disunion (Hat tip to commenter Beau Roberts.