Via a recommendation on the Slate political gabfest I've come across The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877 by David W. Blight of Yale. I recommend the podcast highly, it is over 20 hours of video with Blight simply lecturing on the subject and he is very good at it, funny, insightful and a master of producing startling facts on the subject. For instance I knew slaves where economically important in the US economy but not that they were the single biggest capital asset after the land itself and how incredibly successful Dixie's booming slave holding capitalist economy was in comparison with the rather depressed industrial might of the more populous North. He pretty much demolishes the conventional view of this truly disastrous failure of The Founder's system that is commonly held in the US today, The Great Cause's venal roots, Lincoln's far from saintly nature. How the Mexican war lights the fuse, how California and the rush west fans the flames. The South's greedy expansionism towards the Caribbean and fear that if their system is not forever spreading it will die. The depths of Northern racism and paranoia about Southern oligarchs niggerising the simple sod buster with their gangs of degrading human property. The Nativists anti-Papist No Nothings even more alarmed by Irish immigration than negro's, the Free Soilers and the birth of the Republican party, followed by the sudden and complete failure of American politics and the South's revolt and so on towards the construction of a healing national myth that no one was wrong and it was all finally too the good. If you want to understand the formation US natural character after watching Ken Burn's fine but deceptively sentimentalized documentary series. this is a good place to start.