Civil War Chronicles Redux

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Civil War Chronicles, the American Heritage column that’s devoted to this nation’s greatest conflict, has expanded and taken new shape in the following pages. The idea for the department began two years ago with a simple premise: give readers an idea of how events unfolded in the lead-up to the Civil War by documenting events that occurred 150 years ago during the exact months in which that issue of American Heritage was published. Letters told us how much our readers enjoyed the department.

Because this April marks the official beginning of the Civil War sesquicentennial, we decided to build on the concept of the Chronicles department—and give it a new twist. Instead of analysis, the Chronicles section will feature the words of the participants themselves as they wrestle with the disruptions of war. We’ve scoured journals and diaries, newspaper accounts, official records, and letters to assemble a chorus of authentic American voices. Sometimes bitter, occasionally joyful, these writers vividly impart how this war ripped the societal fabric and changed the course of America in so many ways. We hope that the new Civil War Chronicles will give you fresh insight into this most momentous period in our history.

Chronicles will periodically include the reflections of top American historians on the Civil War and its place in our past. We thought it fitting to invite the preeminent American historian of this period, James M. McPherson, to begin.