Most Americans imagine the Civil War in terms of clear and defined boundaries of freedom and slavery: a straightforward division between the slave states of Kentucky and Missouri and the free states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas. However, residents of these western border states,Abraham Lincoln's home region, had far more ambiguous identities - and political loyalties - than we commonly assume. In The Rivers Ran Backward, historian Christopher Phillips sheds light on the fluid regional identities of the "Middle Border" states during the Civil War era. Far from forming a fixed and static boundary between the North and South, the border states experienced fierce internal conflicts over theirpolitical and social loyalties. White supremacy and widespread support for the existence of slavery pervaded the "free" states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, which had much closer economic and cultural ties to the South, while those in Kentucky and Missouri held little identification with the Southexcept over slavery. Debates raged at every level, from the individual to the state, in parlors, churches, schools, and public meeting places, among families, neighbors, and friends. Ultimately, the violence of the Civil War and cultural politics in its aftermath proved to be the strongestdetermining factor in shaping the states' regional identities, leaving an indelible imprint on the way in which Americans thought both of themselves and others. The Rivers Ran Backward reveals the complex history of the western border states as they struggled with questions of nationalism, racial politics, secession, neutrality, loyalty, and place - even as the Civil War threatened to tear the nation apart. In this work, Phillips shows that the Civil Warwas more than a conflict pitting the North against the South, but one within the West that reshaped American regionalism.