America Aflame

History Forum: American Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation 

Minnesota History Center

Oct. 13, 2012

The Civil War divided the United States in two, left more than 750,000 dead and resulted in the release of four million people from bondage. One hundred and fifty years later, it remains the crucible in which the challenges and struggles of modern America were made.

The program features historian David Goldfield of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as he leads a discussion based his book "America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation." As the Second Great Awakening surged through America, Northern evangelicals branded slavery a sin; southern theologians portrayed it as a positive good ordained by God. Political questions became matters of good and evil that could only be settled by a fight to the death. Religious fervor propelled the nation into war. But, as Goldfield argues, the carnage of the Civil War 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. Religion was supplanted by science and a gospel of progress, and the South was left behind for nearly a century.

David Goldfield is Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the author of "America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation" (2011). Goldfield serves as an academic advisor to the U.S. State Department and sits on the advisory board of the Lincoln Prize. He is also a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.