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

$29.99

$29.99

In The Field of Blood, Joanne B. Freeman recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress 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. The result is riveting—and it reveals fresh understanding of the workings of American democracy and the bonds of Union on the eve of their greatest peril.

• For readers of Eric Foner and David M. Potter
• A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
• Long-listed for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction and a Finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

Book Information

  • ISBN: 9781250234582
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pub Date: 10/09/2019
  • Category: Humanities / American Civil War
  • Imprint: Picador US
  • Pages: 480
  • Price: $29.99

In The Field of Blood, Joanne B. Freeman recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress 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. The result is riveting—and it reveals fresh understanding of the workings of American democracy and the bonds of Union on the eve of their greatest peril.

• For readers of Eric Foner and David M. Potter
• A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
• Long-listed for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction and a Finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

Author Information

JOANNE B. FREEMAN, a professor of history and American studies at Yale University, is a leading authority on early national politics and political culture. The author of the award-winning Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic and editor of The Essential Hamilton and Alexander Hamilton: Writings, she is a cohost of the popular history podcast BackStory.