by David Goldfield

Bloomsbury Press, $35.00, 632 pages

David Goldfield’s America Aflame has been released at the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. It’s an amazing piece of historical scholarship and writing. America Aflame is dense with material, but never seems dry, or unemotional. Dr. Goldfield explores the role of sectarian conflict, Anti-Catholic, Anti-Jewish, Anti-Black Evangelical Christian ideologues, and their abolitionist counterparts who shaped the political discussion in “moral” terms.  Goldfield reminds us that the Civil War was a very emotional event for people on both sides of the conflict. Although there have been a million books produced about the Civil War, I dare you to find one as engaging and readable as this one.

America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation traces the entire period of the war, from the origins to the conclusion and the war’s aftermath. Professor Goldfield’s book places the Civil War within the entirety of its context as a continuation and completion of the Revolutionary War. The Civil War didn’t begin with the firing upon Fort Sumter, nor did it end with the surrender at Appomattox. To Goldfield, the single greatest defining event in our history represented a great failure of conscience, sectarian violence and political will, but through the failure, the conclusion and aftermath that followed created the nation we see today.

Reviewed by Bradley Wright