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.
factories all busy.”14 When Whitman stepped out of his rail car in Manhattan, the pace of the city nearly overwhelmed him. Southerners had predicted that the loss of the cotton trade would beggar New York. The city scarcely missed a beat. Shipyards boomed, building vessels for the naval blockade. Local contractors and manufacturers supplied the army. Brooks Brothers, a Manhattan clothier already notable for its ready-made clothing, won a contract to provide twelve thousand blue uniforms at
carpet-baggers and vagabonds.… South Carolina is ruled by carpet-baggers and irresponsible non-property-holders for other reasons.” When the New York branch of the International Workingmen’s Association, which included socialists, anarchists, and various women’s rights groups, marched through the city to promote the eight-hour workday in September 1871, just as the Tweed scandal broke, the connection seemed obvious. Reports of the march noted the ominous presence of “a group of negro workers,”
and Dwight L. Moody were the earliest examples, but since Darwin had nudged God from His pedestal, someone had to take His place.20 As the accolades poured down on Moody during his centennial tour of the South, Frederick Douglass took a different perspective: “Of all the forms of negro hate in this world, save me from that one which clothes itself with the name of loving Jesus.” Referring to Moody’s crusade, a segregated affair, Douglass reported, “The Negro can go into the circus, the theatre …
flooded the region. Though the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 gave the Sioux rights to the land, whites in the region wanted them evicted. The Yankton (S.D.) Press and Dakotan called the treaty an “abominable compact” and a barrier to “improvement and development.” The editor asked, “What should be done with these Indian dogs in our manger? They will not dig the gold or let others do it.… They are too lazy and too much like mere animals to cultivate the fertile soil, mine the coal, develop the salt
the laws by which they would live. But protecting slavery was unlike any other legal question because it involved encumbering another human being. This is where Lincoln and Douglas parted ways. Douglas, Lincoln averred, “has no very vivid impression that the negro is a human; and consequently has no idea that there can be any moral question in legislating about him.” The simple statement in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” included all men, regardless of race,