America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation
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In this spellbinding new history, David Goldfield offers the first major new interpretation of the Civil War era since James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. Where past scholars have limned the war as a triumph of freedom, Goldfield sees it as America's greatest failure: the result of a breakdown caused by the infusion of evangelical religion into the public sphere. As the Second GreatAwakening surged through America, political questions became matters of good and evil to be fought to the death.
The price of that failure was horrific, but the carnage accomplished what statesmen could not: It made the United States one nation and eliminated slavery as a divisive force in the Union. The victorious North became synonymous with America as a land of innovation and industrialization, whose teeming cities offered squalor and opportunity in equal measure. Religion was supplanted by science and a gospel of progress, and the South was left behind.
Goldfield's panoramic narrative, sweeping from the 1840s to the end of Reconstruction, is studded with memorable details and luminaries such as HarrietBeecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman. There are lesser known yet equally compelling characters, too, including Carl Schurz-a German immigrant, warhero, and postwar reformer-and Alexander Stephens, the urbane and intellectual vice president of the Confederacy. America Aflame is a vivid portrait of the "fiery trial"that transformed the country we live in.
David Goldfield is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the author of many works on Southern history, including Still Fighting the Civil War; Black, White, and Southern; and Promised Land.
nationalists and well connected to merchants, prosperous farmers, shopkeepers, and nascent manufacturing interests. The abolitionist wing of the party was always small, even during the war. The Republican Party was not changing in the 1870s as much as it was reverting to its roots as an organization committed to promoting commerce, manufacturing, and sound money policies. Northerners were unwilling to continue fighting the Civil War. If white southerners wished to do so, they could carry on the
rallies. He often reserved the front rows for these supporters. A few of the blacks may have been coerced, but most had good economic or political reasons to support Hampton. Their presence enabled Hampton to rebut northern critics and claim that the election was about home rule, not about reestablishing white supremacy. Hampton often displayed a large poster at his rallies showing a prostrate palmetto tree being raised by white and black men over the caption “While There’s Life, There’s Hope.”
as fast as they are ready to take the field, with an adequate provision in slaves and find their way in the yet unopened regions.” Once the United States secured all of Mexico, it would ensure, Simms predicted, “the perpetuation of slavery for the next thousand years.” Though many Americans and Mexicans would dispute the proposition that a thousand-year slave empire was necessary for their salvation, the argument resonated well in the South.23 As in Oregon, Polk settled for less. The high
Frederick. Admiration and Ambivalence: Frederick Douglass and John Brown. New York: Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 2005. _____. Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings. Edited by Philip S. Foner. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1999. _____. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2003; first published in 1892. _____. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. New York: Modern Library, 2000; first published in 1845. Emerson,
Wanamaker left his YMCA executive post for a successful retail career, reflected the mutual accessibility of business and religion. Both employed similar promotional techniques, and both emphasized a strong work ethic with the promise of ultimate rewards for faithful service.48 If the revival was, in part, a response to the unbridled individualism of the 1850s, it was also, ironically, limited by that same individualism. The indifference to community needs, particularly those of the poor, now so