Last year, at the CWI conference in Gettysburg, I took part in a general question and answer panel, where the audience could pretty much ask anything they wanted. One of the questions was something along the lines of "What was the most important year of the Civil War." Fair enough - we all pondered the question and added our two cents - 1863 and 64 probably won the contest for reasons you can surely imagine. And then, our panel moderator, the ever-astute Peter Carmichael, pointed out the obvious that was right under our collective noses. 1865, the year the war ended, was clearly the most important to those who were fighting it. Pete made a good follow-up point: we historians tend to over-analyze things.
But in the spirit of over analysis - I ask you the same question. What was the most important year? You had better explain yourself, too.