Today marks the 150th anniversary of the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC, and the beginning of the Civil War. And there's probably no more poignant evocation of the war than from the opening of the Ken Burns series The Civil War:
The Civil War was fought in 10,000 places, from Valverde, New Mexico, and Tullahoma, Tennessee, to St. Albans, Vermont, and Fernandina on the Florida coast. More than 3 million Americans fought in it, and over 600,000 men, 2 percent of the population, died in it.
American homes became headquarters, American churches and schoolhouses sheltered the dying, and huge foraging armies swept across American farms and burned American towns. Americans slaughtered one another wholesale, right here in America in their own cornfields and peach orchards, along familiar roads and by waters with old American names.
According to biographer Edward Ball, "something like 65,000 books have been published on the war, more than one a day since it ended." (On Amazon, you can find over 15,000 history books on the subject alone). It's an endlessly fascinating subject, too, whether you measure interest by the number of books, movies, and documentaries made about the war, or the number of visitors that show up to Civil War re-enactments and living history displays around the country.