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It was a war of final, bittersweet love letters and cotton blockades, of Anaconda Plans and extremely ill-advised cavalry charges, of really bad sanitary conditions in battlefield hospitals and generals that were actually named "Hooker," and yes, that's where the term comes from.

Historians have called it the defining event in American history. Author Shelby Foote once said that before it, people started sentences with "The United States are," and after it, "The United States is."  Public school students know it as the war that, depending on what year of school you were in, was about slavery or states' rights, or the right of states to own slaves.

It's the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War today. In the grey hours before dawn, 150 years ago today, Confederate soldiers fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, and it started a destructive conflict that lasted five years and changed the face of the country and its government.

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There probably wasn't a single town or city in the country that didn't send somebody to fight and die in the Civil War, so it's no surprise that Decatur has heroes of its own.  In an upcoming feature, I'll be looking back at Medal of Honor winners from the area.

As those who pay close attention to the statue in Central Park already know, Decatur was also the place where the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization for Civil War vets, was founded in April of 1866.  In that spirit, I'll be following the war as we hit more anniversaries.

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