How the Civil War Created a Nation
David Goldfield, Bloomsbury Press, $35 (640p)
|Goldfield, David. America Aflame:
How the Civil War Created a Nation.
Bloomsbury Pr., dist. by Macmillan. Mar. 2011.
c.640p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781596917026.
This sweeping, provocative history of America from the 1830s through Reconstruction has two grand themes. One is the importance ofevangelical Protestantism, particularly in the North and within the Republican Party, in changing slavery
The second is the Civil War's transformation of America into
UNC-Charlotte historian Goldfield (Still Fighting the Civil War) courts controversy by shifting more responsibility for the conflict to an activist North and away from intransigent slaveholders, whom he likens to Indians, Mexicans, and other targets viewed by white evangelical Northerners as "polluting" the spreading western frontier. Still, he presents a superb, stylishly written historical synthesis that insightfully foregrounds ideology, faith, and public mood
The book is, the author writes, "neither pro-southern nor pro-northern," but rather "antiwar." Goldfield's narrative of the war proper is especially good, evoking the horror of the fighting and its impact on soldiers and civilians. The result is an
Color and b&w illus. (Mar.)
Where historian James M. McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom) and other
Northern evangelicals condemned slavery as a sin; their counterparts in the South continued to picture it as providentially ordained. With the prewar passing of congressional giants Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and
VERDICT A provocatively written, scrupulously researched, and well-