This was an excellent history of the American Civil War. Although long, it was full of interesting detail and analysis of the forces that resulted in the war and influenced it's conduct. It also helped me to understand the reconstruction period better than I ever have before.
Goldfield writes well. He seemed to alternate between detailed events and anecdotes and description of the reasons and effects of the occurrences. He also sometimes moved backward and forward in time in order to keep discussion of different major threads together (e.g. the Native American wars that were going on at almost the same time). He covered all the major players, but did not concentrate too much on any one person. Even Lincoln was handled in a very balanced way -- neither idolized nor vilified.
Of particular interest to me were all the parallels between that period of time and our own, although the author did not specifically call them out.
His central thesis -- that the United States did not truly become a nation unto itself until after the Civil War and may not have survived without it -- was fairly well established.
I heartily recommend this to anyone interested in U.S. history.