The four-year war that eventually descended on the nation seemed impossible only months before it began. Powerful conflicts pulled the United States apart in the decades before 1860, but shared interests, cultures, and identities tied the country together, sometimes in new ways. So confident were they in the future that Americans expected that the forces of cohesion would triumph over the forces of division.

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Copyright © 2011 Donning Co. Publishers. This article first appeared in The Civil War Remembered.

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