A brilliant, sweeping work of American history that illuminates the Civil War era The middle of the nineteenth century in America was defined by vast expectations: the country dreamed big, assumed its destiny, and craved and discovered new lands and new freedom. It was also a period of a long-delayed confrontation of the republic's great moral failure: slavery. In <I>Ecstatic Nation</I>, award-winning historian Brenda Wineapple delivers the story of these feverish, hopeful, conflicted years - of how Americans began to live within new and ever-expanding borders; of how and why a war was fought over the nation's parallel priorities of freedom and justice; of how the country was transformed, even at tragically great cost, from a confederation into one nation. Populated by idiosyncratic, unforgettable characters like P. T. Barnum, Walt Whitman, George Armstrong Custer, Horace Greeley, and Jefferson Davis, this account takes us from the end of the Mexican-American war and its vigorous debates about American expansion through the horrors of the Civil War and the changed landscape that followed. It explores the continuously evolving frontiers and possibilities of American life - from the surveys of the Sierra Nevadas to the frenzied rush for gold in the newly settled West, from the complexities of Reconstruction to the fledgling hope that women would also participate in a new definition of American citizenship. A masterful synthesis of political, cultural, and intellectual history, <I>Ecstatic Nation</I> is a spellbinding tale of America - its glory and greed, its aspirations and humiliations - in this exhilarating and formative period.