Review: The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War by Joanne B. Freeman

Cover for Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War by Joanne B. Freeman

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

Author: Joanne B. Freeman

Narrator: Joanne B. Freeman

Length: 11 hours and 19 mins

4 stars out of five
4 stars – It was really good

In The Field of Blood, Joanne Freeman traces the history of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress leading up to the Civil War. Drawing on a range of historical sources, Freedman shows that the Capitol was rife with conflict, duels, and lifelong grudges. 

This was a fascinating look at Congressional history. While we are taught about the events leading up to the war, we were never taught about how bloodthirsty and violent the men really were. This book gives a new perspective to the careers of big names like John Quincy Adams and lesser known figures like William Brown French. The most valuable source for most of the information in this book came from French’s diaries. French served as a Congressman, Clerk of the House, and Commissioner of Public Buildings from the 30’s to the 60s. 

As an archivist, I love the amount of detail and historical records sourced for this book. I especially love that French’s diaries were preserved for this long and are such a valuable insight into this violent Congress. It amazed me the amount of dueling, fighting, and verbal attacks that happened during this time. One Senator was even beaten almost to death with a cane on the Senate floor! 

“Most congressional bullying wasn’t about bloodlust, although some blood was shed. It was grounded on the gut-wrenching power of public humiliation before colleagues, constituents, and the nation-at-large.”

Overall, this was a fascinating book about a very important part of history. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in the Civil War or Congress. Also, I feel like I am going to have to listen to this one again in the future because it was just so fascinating and filled with so much information that I know I didn’t retain it all. Also I loved that the author herself narrated the audiobook. She did a wonderful job.


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