No event has so captivated the interest of the American public as the Civil War. It was the pivotal experience in the history of the United States, pitting brother against brother, section against section, and abolitionist against slaveholder. Northerners rallied around the flag to preserve the Union, and later to destroy slavery, while Confederates took up arms to protect their liberties and to defend their homes. At stake were not only the Union, the "peculiar institution" of slaver, and the rights of individuals under the Constitution but also the direction of this budding nation. The war erupted at a time when America was teetering on the brink of economic and societal transition. Industrialization, the transportation revolution, and burgeoning urban sprawl had begun to challenge the country's rural, community-oriented roots that predated its most articulate spokesman, Thomas Jefferson. Tentacles of the federal government were extending deeply into the domain of state and local governments for the first time, commencing a long and drawn-out process of wresting from them much of their traditional might and influence. In a strange way, a complex debate between concentrated and dispersed power lay near the war's epicenter.
-Joseph T. Glatthaar, Partners in Command: The Relationships Between Leaders in the Civil War