Professor McCurry is the best instructor I have had at Columbia. Ever.
This was the first year that she offered the course "U.S. Era of Civil War and Reconstruction," and it is a welcome addition to the history department. Her depth of knowledge and understanding of the American Civil War is astounding. Professor McCurry always made herself available to questions and was incredibly funny and approachable. Her lectures are engaging and packed with the macro and micro aspects of the period.
The readings for the class were manageable and consisted of almost all primary sources (about 25-50 pages a week in the beginning of the course, and about 150-200 pages a week towards the end). I was not that interested in the Civil War before this course, and yet it is the only class I have ever done all of the reading for because I found it so riveting. Pro tip: make a document with a one-paragraph summary of every reading. Write them as soon as you complete each article, being sure to spend a sentence on the significance.
While the course offers a good overview of the events before/during/after the war, what sets it apart is that you get first-hand access to McCurry's contributions to the canon of Civil War literature. McCurry has spent years researching the personal experience of the war for planters, slaves, women, soldiers, etc. Her expertise lies in the history and accounts of women and slaves in the Confederacy (she personally sifted through thousands of documents rotting in old libraries to find these missing narratives). If you are interested in the manifestations of female empowerment, or in how slaves catalyzed their own freedom, this is the course for you. For everyone else, she worked in this fascinating body of vital information without over-representing it or "cramming" it down your throat.
The TAs were excellent, especially Brooks Swett. Discussion sections were an essential part of the course, and if you want to do well you will need to attend every lecture. That said, grading was hard but fair. If you attend class and visit office hours at least once for every test or assignment, you should have no problem pulling out a high B or an A. I also recommend befriending a few classmates early on, and studying together.
Her class is balanced and un-biased (though her off-the-record comments are not) and peppered by hilarious quips that let you know exactly what she is thinking. If you have the chance to take any course with Professor McCurry, you simply MUST.