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Publisher's Summary

This program is read by the author.

The previously untold story of the violence in Congress that helped spark the Civil War 

In The Field of Blood, Joanne B. Freeman recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the US 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. 

©2018 Joanne B. Freeman (P)2018 Macmillan Audio

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fascinating look at an untold aspect of US.history

Think you know it all about US History? Antebellum America? The causes of the Civil War? Then you need to read this book because you don't. Thirty years of US history told from very personal perspectives, especially a key figure in U.S. history you've never heard of but have read about and interacted with his usually unnamed contributions. A fascinating book read by the author, a real treat.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Bullying in Washington Did Not Just Start

Ms Freeman has a way of really bringing to life the characters of our history, the good, the bad and the ugly. In her reading, at various points in the book, the listener can sense she is not far from laughter as she paints a picture of the rough and tumble (literally) of past political disagreements. Having enjoyed her Yale history course I viewed online, her book is every bit as engaging as a live lecture, possibly minus a few of her chuckles now and then. In my opinion the book is for anyone interested in the politics of the time, and the maturation of Congress. Also it is eye opening to the fact that though contemporary politics can be nasty, it is not a 21st century Trump created phenomenon. As the saying goes there is nothing new under the sun. The book is both entertaining and educational. This old retired guy enjoyed it!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Brawls, Duels, and Canings

Take a seat and put down your Covfefe, you’re about to take a thrilling ride through the most violent and polarized period of U.S. History. The author does a great job of guiding us through the motivations and actions of the men in Congress and the Senate in the era leading up to the Civil War. Overall, it’s an engaging time and the book is hard to put down.

If you’re a fan of well written, well researched, history this is a must read. Especially during our current time with the state of Politics during the Trump Administration. I find it to be a comforting read in that, no matter how bad the current environment is perceived on both sides, we as a country have survived far worse before.

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Congress is full of immature children

This book is an amazing look into the real day to day conflicts that were inherent to the congressional going’s on of the 1800s. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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informative, thought provoking, great narrator

this book is a very thought provoking and realistic look at our nation and capital hill pre civil war. it's good to see that bullying, smack talk, and fighting were not something new to.comhress that we have to worry about
Congress wasn't always this high and mighty place it has become and the narrator's enthusiasm makes the reading of the book that much more intriguing and her dearth of knowledge of the subject matter.

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Fabulous work read by the author

Loved this book for so many reasons. Through a cast of colorful characters from both the North and South, the author confronts the white-washed version of the antebellum US Congress and reveals the tobacco and blood stained carpets beneath. The author nicely illustrates the complicated political scene of the antebellum period, outlining how violence, manhood, sectionalism, and politics intersected. Engagingly read by the author herself, this title was enjoyable from start to finish. Highly recommend.

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Fantastic account of violence in the pre Civil War

A fascinating account of how violence shaped Congressional politics before the Civil War. Excellently read by the author. Highly recommended.

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Excellent book, chillingly relevant

I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking greater understanding of our current political moment. I love how the author explores the various facets and accelerators of disunion, all inextricably linked. The lead up to the Civil War is so often reduced to “the fight over slavery”. This book brilliantly details how that fight manifested physically in Congress, and how that hostility influenced and was influenced by public opinion/technological changes/landmark societal events.

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  • FarmBoy
  • Milwaukee, WI, United States
  • 10-11-18

Truly exceptional

This is an extraordinary work of history— made more exceptional by the fact that it makes accessible a period of American history that’s often relegated to a footnote. In my view, this is the best accessible piece of scholarship since James McPherson‘s Battle Cry of Freedom. Professor Freeman not only plumbs the depths of primary sources to assemble a lucid picture of a volatile political and popular culture— and one in which a hidebound but vocal minority manages to impose its will on the majority’s for several decades, though with tragic consequences for the nation—she does it in a way that holds up a mirror to our own era. READ IT.