The Field of Blood


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SKU: 908 Categories: ,


The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War
Contributor(s): Freeman, Joanne B (Author)

Table of Contents:

Introductions: Tobacco-Stained Rugs and Benjamin Brown French
1. The Union Incarnate for Better and Worse: The United States Congress
2. The Mix of Men in Congress: Meeting Place of North and South
3. The Pull and Power of Violence: The Cilley-Graves Duel (1838)
4. Rules of Order and the Rule of Force: Dangerous Words and the Gag Rule Debate (1836-1844)
5. Fighting for the Union: The Compromise of 1850 and the Benton-Foote Scuffle (1850)
6. A Tale of Two Conspiracies: The Power of the Press and the Battle over Kansas (1854-1855)
7. Republicans Meet the Slave Power: Charles Sumner and Beyond (1855-1861)
Epilogue: I Witnessed It All

In The Field of Blood, Joanne B. Freeman recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, she shows that the Capitol was rife with conflict in the decades before the Civil War. Legislative sessions were often punctuated by mortal threats, canings, flipped desks, and all-out slugfests. When debate broke down, congressmen drew pistols and waved Bowie knives. One representative even killed another in a duel. Many were beaten and bullied in an attempt to intimidate them into compliance, particularly on the issue of slavery.


These fights didn’t happen in a vacuum. Freeman’s dramatic accounts of brawls and thrashings tell a larger story of how fisticuffs and journalism, and the powerful emotions they elicited, raised tensions between North and South and led toward war. In the process, she brings the antebellum Congress to life, revealing its rough realities–the feel, sense, and sound of it–as well as its nation-shaping import. Funny, tragic, and rivetingly told, The Field of Blood offers a front-row view of congressional mayhem and sheds new light on the careers of John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and other luminaries, as well as introducing a host of lesser-known but no less fascinating men. The result is a fresh understanding of the workings of American democracy and the bonds of Union on the eve of their greatest peril.

Softcover, 480 pages, #908