Southwestern Illinois played a fierce and pivotal role in the national drama of a house divided against itself. St. Clair County sheltered Brooklyn, founded by freed and fugitive slaves and a vital link on the Underground Railroad. Alton was the home of Elijah Lovejoy, gunned down defending his press from an anti-abolitionist mob, as well as Lyman Trumbull, who wrote the Thirteenth Amendment.
After the outbreak of war, Alton's prison was packed with thousands of Confederate captives, a smallpox epidemic and the cross-dressing double agent Mary Anne Pitman. John J. Dunphy continues the story of the Civil War and abolitionism beyond the Emancipation Proclamation and Appomattox, seeking out the enduring legacy those struggles left in his corner of Illinois.