At the start of the - when cows grazed near the White House (the homeofAmerica'spresidents since John Adams tookoffice) and daisies surrounded the Smithsonian (one of the country's national museums) - opposing ideals split the country in two. *
Seemingly irreconcilable differences caused fathers and sons to leave home "to fight," never to return again. In many cases, family members had no idea how their loved ones died - or where they were buried.
Did either side think the war would be over quickly? Despite the typical early enthusiasm to "fight for the right" of one's convictions, the war dragged on. By its end, the country and her people had been devastated - especially in the South.
While many Americans have heard of the places made famous by the Civil War, no one alive today has first-hand knowledge of what it was like to live through the conflict. For that, we must go to the U.S. National Archives, where it is possible to "meet" the people involved, "visit" the scenes of conflict and "examine" the evidence of what actually happened in America's first highly photographed war.
To learn how family life was impacted, when Americans fought and killed each other, we can read novels written by authors who lived through the conflict. One of the most popular at the time is still popular. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, is a semi-autobiographical tale - with some very sad parts - of the writer's own life.
* The link for "split the country is two" is a power-point animation, from the U.S. Military Academy, which graphically summarizes the "Prelude to the American Civil War."