American History Series: Review: America Aflame: How The Civil War Created a Nation

David Goldfield, America Aflame: How The Civil War Created a Nation

David Goldfield’s America Aflame: How The Civil War Created a Nation is a sweeping antiwar take on the Civil War era and a throwback to Avery Craven’s “blundering generation” thesis.

Goldfield sets the “Civil War” with the Confederacy in the context of other perceived threats to mid-nineteenth century America: Roman Catholics, Mexicans, Indians and labor unions. The preferred solution by Yankees to each of these threats to progress was the use of violence.

Far from being an “Irrepressible Conflict,” Goldfield pins the blame for the War Between the States on the intolerance, fanaticism and polarization that was injected into the political process by the rise of evangelical Christianity during the Second Great Awakening.

Northern evangelicals like Harriet Beecher Stowe and William Lloyd Garrison transformed “political issues into moral causes” which “poisoned the political process,” undermined the political center inhabited by moderates like Stephen Douglas and Alexander Stephens, created an atmosphere of moral certitude in which compromise was impossible and finally alienated the conservative South to the point of destroying the Union. It all sounds very familiar in the age of the Great Awokening.

Confident of their personal relationship with the Almighty, the Saints of New England tragically marched off to wage their crusade to “save the Union” against the wicked “Slave Power” which had thwarted them for so long. Southern evangelicals were no less certain that God was on their side. Somewhere in the midst of the carnage of battles like Antietam and Cold Harbor, Northerners were chastened by Confederate guns and their spell of wokeness over slavery began to subside.

The Civil War created an American nation-state: Goldfield argues that this nation-state, modern America, which features a consolidated activist government supervising an industrialized economy in which national citizenship in the sacred and indivisible Union has replaced state citizenship in a loose confederation of sovereign states, was synonymous with the Republican Party and the ideology of the victorious Northern states, which dominated the country until the Great Depression.

After the war, the North lost its religious enthusiasm and embraced the gospel of science and material progress. Northerners moved on into the Industrial Revolution of the 1870s and lost themselves in the consumer cornucopia that emerged in its wake. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of the incendiary antebellum anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, moved to Florida, converted to Episcopalianism and spent her elderly post-woke years writing books on interior design.

The South became an internal colony of the United States, a much larger version of Ireland, in everything but name. 1 out of every 4 White men between 20 and 40 had died in the war. Two-thirds of Southern wealth was wiped out during the War Between the States. The South was reduced to political, cultural and economic irrelevance within the Northern-dominated Union and wouldn’t return to the level of per capita income it had in 1860 until the 1920s or begin to crawl out of poverty until the 1940s

Like the Irish, Mexicans or the Poles, Southerners did not move on from the war. The consequences of the war and its aftermath were so staggering that the Republican Party was discredited in the South for a century. Evangelical Christianity wasn’t discredited in the South. It became synonymous with an emerging Southern folk culture, the Redemption movement and the Lost Cause. The years between the end of Reconstruction and World War I was a period of intense nation building in “Dixie” in which ethnic Southerners developed a sense of national consciousness that had barely existed at the outset of the Confederacy. The Border States finally joined the Confederacy after the war.

The North quickly lost its zeal for imposing Reconstruction on the South. In particular, the emerging “Celtocracy” of Irish Catholic immigrants in Eastern cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York City created a new sense of sympathy among Northern Anglo-Protestants for White Southerners whose intelligence and property was also being swamped by the misrule of inferior races.

In the Western territories, the organization of which had brought on the war, the energies of William Tecumseh Sherman, Philip Sheridan and George Armstrong Custer were redirected from Georgia and the Shenandoah Valley and turned toward the pacification and annihilation of the Plains Indians. The Sioux and the buffalo that sustained their savage way of life were exterminated and the vast Midwestern agricultural empire which is dominated today by agribusiness was created in the Plains from the Dakotas to Kansas.

Goldfield closes America Aflame with a look at the Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia which closed the first century of America’s existence: a continent had been conquered, the Union had been preserved, slavery had been overthrown and America seemed to be on a dizzying upward trajectory with everything from steel to electricity to the telephone to Heinz’s ketchup making its appearance.

Somehow the Civil War had made it all possible. But at what cost? Especially to the South?

About Hunter Wallace 12371 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent


  1. The last pill is when you realize that the Poz IS Christianity. Its latest and hopefully final branch.

    There is no practical difference between the frenzy of the Evangelical Abolitionists and Antifa.

    If Europe produced masterworks, high civilization, and conquered the world, it’s in spite of (((Christiannity))), not because of it.

    The Europeans had pagan souls with a veneer of Christianity on top. The warrior ethos and tribalism of Europe for a thousand years and more after Constantine. Just as the Roman empire actually persisted in history up to the fall of Constantinople, so paganism and the true European spirit remained intact in the heart until the Thirty Years War and the subsequent “Enlightenment,” which was the true reform of Christianity to be Christian, rather than 95% pagan.

    Europeans were pagans with the mask of Christianity up until the 1700s. Now, they’re actual Christians, with a mask of atheism on it, and they’re destroying us.

    Christianity is a death-cult our people were infected by via the jews. Ffs, you’re worshiping a RABBI executed by White men. Your religious symbol is a torture instrument. Your “gospel” contains the words:

    “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    There is no functional difference between that insanity and the nigger-worshiping White-hating trannyism of the modern day. NONE. This bullcrap that’s killing our race IS CHRISTIANITY REALIZED, Christianity as it was meant to be, leveling and erasing all differences and torturing and killing everyone who disagrees with it in a frenzy of impossible, meaningless “universal love.”

    Now go ahead and rant and rave and make autistic arguments about how “it really, really doesn’t meeeann that” that have no relation to human psychology, because you know that is true, underneath. You’re just too scared by the Jewish boogeyman punishment myths to admit it.

    Christianity is the jew’s mind-virus designed to create passive, submissive people who will only commit violence for the Great Equalizing — neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female.”

    • Your historical analysis is pure nonsense. For one thing, Christianity in the form of the medieval monastery preserved the knowledge that barbarians would have (and often did) thoughtlessly destroyed. Knowledge that was preserved and expanded upon thanks to Christian development of education that started within the church and then went without is what led to European scientific achievement. The underlying theme that led to all that high civilizational development was the Christian idea that all men have intrinsic worth. What you’re going on about is related to your feelings on the subject, especially your comments on the Enlightenment, which really are ahistorical. The Enlightenment was the beginning of the movement to REMOVE God from the center of culture and history, and replace him and the Christian ethos with science, which was to become the new god. You have your ideas scrambled there, like the notion that somehow, after all that Christian reshaping of European culture, that Europeans remained 95% pagan. How do you quantify that? You certainly can’t show it through any proofs, because there are none.

      It would be much easier to argue that the rejection of Christianity has led to a reversion to paganism. Ideas that are the antithesis of Christianity, like the elevation of darkness over light, have become prevalent. Mainly because atheism is the default programming language in school and media. If you think that a real Christian would support abortion, transgenderism, and the like, you are unmoored from reality. Abortion is blood sacrifice of innocent children, which is a pagan ritual. Changing people into what they are not born as is unnatural, which is also not a Christian ritual.

      Considering how wrong you are about history in general and Christianity in particular, I’m not surprised your understanding of theology is abysmal. The quote you chose isn’t approval of transgenderism. Know any trannies saying they got their idea to mutilate themselves from the Bible? That’s done by ideologues and psychologists with secular views. Christians do not deny our human nature. Our fallen nature is exactly why we need to be closer to God. But God is more than human. When we seek to be like Christ, we seek to be better than ourselves and rise above our fallen nature. We’re still human, but we want to be more like Christ, who is perfect and above the temporal world. We’re to try to be above the wicked ways of the world while still being in it. But we’re still men and women. The Bible speaks against homosexuality. If we’re all just one gender and sexual roles are meaningless, why would God care?

      The cross is a reminder that Christ gave Himself for us, not to celebrate the fact that He was crucified. It’s a reminder of the pain He suffered on our behalf. We’re to treat the least among us with more kindness and consideration, after all, not beat them into submission or leave them on the side of a mountain for animals to feed on. You greatly misunderstand the nature of the faith.

      I could go on, but there’s too much to set right. Remember, too, that God made humans differently, and that we are to accept that we aren’t to freely intermingle. That’s the message of the Tower of Babel story. In the temporal realm, we’re to work within the limitations set before us.

  2. It wasn’t evangelical Christianity.

    It was just Yankees. The South also had evangelical Christianity. The Confederacy fought to preserve slavery and white supremacy. After the war, evangelical Christianity in the South romanticized the Southern war effort as the Lost Cause. Later, the Southern churches opposed the Civil Rights Movement.

  3. “Northern evangelicals like Harriet Beecher Stowe and William Lloyd Garrison transformed ‘political issues into moral causes’ which ‘poisoned the political process,’ undermined the political center inhabited by moderates like Stephen Douglas and Alexander Stephens, created an atmosphere of moral certitude in which compromise was impossible and finally alienated the conservative South to the point of destroying the Union.”

    And if there’s anything of which someone like (((Mr. Goldfield))) would have a native abhorrence, it’s the poisoning of the political process by the transformation of political issues into moral causes.

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