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The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War
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The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War

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4.12  ·  Rating details ·  114 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
The previously untold story of the violence in Congress that helped spark the Civil War

In The Field of Blood, Joanne Freeman recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, Freeman shows that the Capitol was rife with conflict in the decades before the Civil War. Legislative sessions often w
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Hardcover, 480 pages
Published September 11th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Bill  Kerwin
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics

I watched every minute of the Kavanaugh hearings, appalled at the procedural bullying of the Republicans, the cries of anguish from the female protestors, and I said to myself: could the atmosphere in Congress ever have been worse than this? It was then that I remembered my history, how—sometime in the late 1850’s--an abolitionist U.S. senator was caned by a Southern member of the House, beaten within an inch of his life on the Senate floor itself!

If you read Joanne B. Freeman’s excellent histor
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Anne Morgan
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Joanne B. Freeman's The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War is an entertaining, well researched, and well-written examination of physical violence in U.S. Congress in the decades leading to the Civil War. Most of it stems from diarist B.B. French, who managed to be on hand or on the fringes for every major political and historical event of his lifetime. A New Hampshire native, French was highly active in D.C. politics, knew politicians and presidents, and often had a r ...more
Myles
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
So much of what we learn from Dr. Freeman’s “The Field of Blood: Violence in the Congress and the Road to Civil War” is relevant to today’s Congress that I shudder to think of what could happen were US legislators today allowed to pack guns on their bodies in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, as they were allowed to do in the 19th century.

Many of the ingredients for civil war in the 19th century are there again: refusal to compromise between party factions, incentives to back up
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Steve Majerus-Collins
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Joanne B. Freeman deserves credit for wading into the realities of the pre-Civil War Congress to find something beyond the eloquent speeches and forlorn compromises that are dimly remembered precursors to the nation's bloodiest struggle. She began looking into the fascinating duel that led to the untimely demise of a young Maine congressman and discovered decades of violence beneath the Capitol dome -- not just duels and canings, but a constant undertone of threats real and imagined. Slavery was ...more
Sasha
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
First I would like to state that I received this book through the Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the author for giving me this opportunity and honor in being able to read this book. When I received this book I began reading it at once. I really enjoy the authors writing style, the author pulls you into the book from the very beginning and makes it so you don't want to put the book down. It kept me on the edge of my seat reading from cover to cover. Thi ...more
Jessica Jackson
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a public historian/tour guide at the US Capitol, I will cherish this incredibly well-researched book as new foundation stone in my effort to educate the public about the tumultuous history of Congress.
Jill
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the early days of our republic, serving as an elected official in either house of Congress could prove to be a mortal hazard. In antebellum America, the carrying of knives and guns on one’s person was common, as was drunkenness and gambling. Add to this already volatile mix the sectional tensions regarding the slavery issue, and, as author Joanne B. Freeman clearly shows, the cup of violence soon runneth over. The generally well-known incident of Representative Preston S. Brooks (D-S.C.) beat ...more
Michael Webb
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
For a record of the activities of Congress in the period before and leading up to the Civil War, this succeeds in being a breezy and engaging read without sacrificing scholarship along the way.

Freeman's contention is that the road to the Civil War was paved with sectional strife that was manifested most clearly in Congressional interactions, primarily in the House. While most of the surviving documentation excises it, Freeman contends, and has convincing evidence, that the House was a place of
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Bill Lucey
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After reading Yale historian Joanne B. Freeman’s magnificent book, “Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War,” I was stunned to learn just how much physical violence took place within the halls of Congress before the Civil War, especially during the 36th Congress (1859-1861).

Through her scrupulous research, Freeman reports that between 1830-1860, there were 70 violent incidents between congressmen in the House and Senate chambers, nearby streets, and dueling meeting grounds
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Stephen Morrissey
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Joanne Freeman delivers a sweeping, vivid, and colorful history of the bruised and bloody days of the antebellum Congress, stretching from the Jackson years through the firing on Fort Sumter. Relayed through the diary entries and musings, sometimes poetic, of B.B. French, this narrative tells of the brutish and nasty personal politics that infected the Capitol before war broke out at Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg.

While many Americans are familiar with the caning of Senator Charles Sumner by
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Casey Wheeler
I received a free Kindle copy of The Field of Blood by Joanne B. Freeman courtesy of Net Galley  and Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.

I requested this book as I am an avid reader of american history and the description sounded very interesting. This is the first book by Joann
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David Bales
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Mostly a history of violence in Congress as seen through the eyes of Benjamin Brown French, a Zelig-like figure who seemed to be everywhere from 1833 and the Jacksonian Era to Grant's Reconstruction. The histories of Congress tend to play up the soaring oratory of the antebellum period and downplay the overthrowing spittoons, the dirty carpets, the concealed derringers and the dueling. French saw Congress at its worst during this period as personal disputes and feuds boiled over into fisticuffs ...more
Andrew
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: antebellum-u-s
Freeman's work is an excellent overview of the violence in Congress in pre-Civil War America, something I deal with on a day to day basis at work. We always knew that this was a rather chaotic era in American politics, but Freeman sheds light on forgotten and often unknown individuals and incidents that show how tense things were. John Quincy Adams, Thomas Hart Benton, and the congressmen who stood up to the Slave Power like Joshua Giddings, Charles Sumner, and William Fessenden. Freeman provide ...more
Kyle
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, politics
I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Thorough and quite informative on the duress and violence in Congress leading up to the Civil War. This book goes much more in depth about the divisiveness in the country. Several of these incidents will be eye-opening, even for the most robust historians. This is a must read for anyone with an interest in US history or politics. Furthermore, the timeliness for this book and our current political climate could not be
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Janet
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is an interesting history of the lead-up to the American Civil War, focused on events in Congress. I liked Freeman's writing style, but the organization of the 1st half of the book was kind of confusing for me. It was not told in a chronological order, which led to a lot of repetition of events and descriptions, and disrupted the narrative flow. I'm glad I read it, but I think it could have been made a lot more compelling with a bit more editing.
Evan
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Professor Freeman has a wonderful and lively writing style. This is a fascinating book, that sheds new light on a dark chapter in American history. Seen from the vantage of 21st America, a riven Congress that cannot accomplish a single thing, it is startling to learn how poorly Congress functioned in the antebellum years, and Professor Freeman's insights and trenchant analysis illuminate and educate the reader. For Civil War buffs, this is a a must-read.
Trashy Dreams
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
More interesting than entertaining, if that makes sense. I think I was hoping for a ____ vs.____ kind of thing. Instead, it was a pretty straightforward, chronological take, based mostly on French's writings and observations of congress. Overall, still a great insight into a part of history that never really gets any kind of direct attention.
Alex Charow
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a phenomenal look into the minutiae of life in the antebellum Congress and a great explanation as to how violence in Congress was tied to personal, party, and sectional honor in the years before the Civil War. Looking forward to reading Freeman's other work on politics in the early Federal era.
Tbuikema
Oct 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Pretty good! Learned some things about pre-Civil War times that I hadn't really understood. Interesting, too, that I saw the author on a weekend news show a couple days ago. She was talking about then vs. now and what we might learn: trust our processes to get us out of this ditch. The book hadn't touched on that.
Casey
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A thorough examination of the threats and acts of violence by congressmen in the decades leading up to the civil war. I was impressed by the author's ability to find the historical records detailing these events, especially when so many lawmakers tried to hide, downplay, or rewrite them. Only four stars because the book was very repetitive when discussing the motives behind the violence.
Joan
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Absolutely fascinating. Lost history found. The 30 years before the Civil War, the growing emotional and political divisions, are mirrored in the activities on the floor of Congress. Power struggles, bullying, threats, shifts in power, verbal fighting, physical fighting. Interesting times.
Scott Lord
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating prelude to the Civil War

Reading the prelude to the war through the lens of the Congress was very insightful. The bullying and stifling of free speech in congress is not something taught in school. Congress was a reflection of the nation as a whole. Well written
Joseph
Sep 28, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was more a biography of B.B. French than it was about fighting in Congress. At times the narrative seemed redundant and a bit pedantic. A good starting place for someone just getting into the Civil War era, but not terribly interesting to someone well versed in Civil War lore.
Jack Goodstein
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Filled with references to less than well known figures, so that it is difficult to keep them all straight.
Bonnie
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Nonfiction of the violence in congress before the Civil War. Dry story but interesting facts.
Kelly
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a review of the audiobook. The author, Joanne B. Freeman, narrates. For someone who is not a professional narrator, she does a good job. Her barely suppressed giggles at some of the more ridiculous antics are endearing and infectiousness.

I think a lot of my enjoyment of this book derived from my prior life as a United States House of Representatives Page. As a former page, I have a pretty good mental map of the capitol building, especially the house side. In the 1800s, before the office
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Jim Ogle
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well researched and well told story. How directly violent our politics were leading up to the Civil War.
Amber Machado
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! Everything is shown from different perspectives and i learned a lot. However, i do not believe i will ever look at chewing tobacco the same lol
Hunter
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
A really enjoyable book, even if it doesn't quite reach the heights of her earlier "Affairs of Honor".
Brandon Behlke
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great read and fascinating insight on a forgotten man and a forgotten era in congressional politics.
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