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The nation looked back on its Civil War, in the midst of a whirlwind of domestic debates, while impending foreign crises loomed—but with a new young President in the White House, with his charismatic wife and children, the country seemed on the brink of momentous change. On the cusp of a new era, it seemed an appropriate time, if not overdue, to reflect on the legacy of an epic historical era that tore the nation in two. Whether referring to the centenary in 1961 with John F. Kennedy in office, or the sesquicentennial in 2011 with Barack Obama, backward glances at the legacy of the American Civil War offered challenges as well as possibilities.