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

Key insights from Joanne B. Freeman's

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


Key insights from Joanne B. Freeman's

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

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9 minutes

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See the bloody mayhem that took place in the House of Representatives in the years leading up to the Civil War.

The first battles of the Civil War weren’t fought by soldiers but by the members of the United States Congress in Washington, D.C. These were not simply oratory battles: Congressmen dueled, held one another at gunpoint, tossed furniture, and beat each other to a pulp with canes. Some even died. “The Field of Blood” documents these battles to tell the story of how this group of men and their in-fighting paved the way for an entire country to go to war with itself.

Read this Snapshot if you:

  • Are interested in the political events that led to the South seceding from the Union
  • Love stories of unbelievable violence between politicians
  • Want a glimpse into what everyday life was like at the time of the American Civil War
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Introduction

If you’re familiar with the history of the United States Congress, you’ve probably heard the story of when South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks used a walking cane to beat Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner over the head, nearly killing him. But you probably haven’t heard of the time a congressman insulted the speaker of the House, who retaliated by taking a bowie knife and murdering him, only to be acquitted of wrongdoing and re-elected.

Violence like this was common in the Congress of 19th century America, but written stories of such incidents are difficult to find....

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