This course is an introduction to the Civil War era and its place in the history of the United States. We will cover a range of topics to better understand how the nation moved towards war over slavery, as well as key figures and events during the war and its aftermath, including the period known as Reconstruction. We will study the social history of the period, paying special attention to the role of abolitionists and African Americans, both enslaved and free, in transforming the course of the war and the nation itself. The Civil War era was a watershed moment for the United States as we know it and its legacies remain with us today.  We will also think about how the Civil War and Reconstruction have been remembered and commemorated in the American imagination across time.