In this spellbinding history, David Goldfield offers the first major new interpretation of the Civil War era since James M. McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom. Where other scholars have seen the conflict as a triumph of freedom, Goldfield paints it as America’s greatest failure: a breakdown of society caused by the infusion of evangelical religion into the world of politics. The price of that failure was horrific, but the carnage accomplished what statesmen could not: It made the United States one nation and eliminated the divisive force of slavery. The victorious North moved ahead, a land of innovation and industry. Religion was supplanted by a gospel of economic and scientific progress, and the South was left behind. The "fiery trial" of war transformed our country—a conflagration captured in vivid detail in America Aflame.