Joanne B. Freeman
The Field of Blood:
Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War
This event includes a book signing
October 4, 2018
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store and Mass Humanities welcome Yale professor of history and American studies JOANNE B. FREEMAN for a discussion of her latest book, The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War.
About 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 Field of Blood. 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.
“With narrative flair and scholarly gravitas, Joanne Freeman has given us a powerful and original account of a ferociously divided America. For readers who think things in the first decades of the 21st century have never been worse, Freeman’s portrait of a tempestuous and tumultuous U.S. Congress offers a sobering and illuminating corrective. She shows us that the battles of the Civil War began not at Fort Sumter but in the U.S. Capitol, providing a new and compelling angle of vision on the origins of what Lincoln called our ‘fiery trial.’” ―Jon Meacham, author of The American Lion
“In 1861, Americans grimly set to slaughtering the better part of a million of their fellow citizens. It was the most extraordinary break in the nation’s history―and Joanne Freeman charts its approach an extraordinary new way. With insightful analysis and vivid detail, she explores the human relationships among congressmen before the Civil War and finds a culture of astonishing violence. In fistfights, duels, and mass brawls, her innovative account detects steps toward disunion―and changes how we think about political history.” ―T.J. Stiles, author of Custer’s Trials
“Those who deplore the hyperpartisanship and decline of civility in contemporary American politics as unprecedented need to know more history. As Joanne Freeman makes clear in this compelling account, party strife, personal honor, and above all the slavery controversy brought unparalleled mayhem to the floors of Congress in the generation before the Civil War. Southern bullying and growing Northern resistance in the House and Senate foreshadowed the battlefields of 1861-1865.” ―James McPherson, emeritus professor of history at Princeton University and author of Battle Cry of Freedom
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
Unable to attend a Harvard Book Store author event? You can still pre-order a signed book by one of our visiting authors.
While we can't guarantee fulfillment of a signed book pre-order, our authors are almost always able to sign extra books to fulfill such orders.
Ordering a signed book on harvard.com:
- Add the book to your shopping cart and then click Checkout.
- Specify in Order Comments that you want a signed copy of the book.
- Please note: online orders for signed copies must be placed at least one business day before the event. If you are ordering the day of, please call us instead.
Ordering a signed book by phone:
- Call us at (617) 661-1515 and one of our booksellers will take your order. Specify you'd like a signed copy.
- If you are requesting a personalized inscription and/or requesting your book be shipped, we'll need to take down credit card information. If you are planning to pick up the signed book in the store, you can pay on pick-up.
Can I request a personalized inscription?
Unless otherwise noted, we are happy to take requests for the author to sign your book to a specific person, but we can't guarantee it. If you do get a personalized inscription, the book will be non-returnable. We will require credit card information when you place the order.
Do signed books cost more?
There is no extra fee for a signed book!
Do I have to pick it up in the store, or can you deliver my signed book?
As with all web or phone orders, we can hold your book for in-store pickup, or ship it anywhere in the country.
I am planning to attend an author event. Do I need to pre-order a book?
No need. We'll be selling books at the event, and nearly all of our events include a signing at the end of the talk.
More questions? Give us a call!
Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.
Featured event books will be for sale at the event. Thank you for supporting this author series with your purchases.
Updates during COVID-19
Review our guidelines for visitors and other updates on hours and services at Harvard Book Store this summer.Learn More »
Shipping & Delivery
We ship anywhere in the U.S. and orders of $60+ ship free!Learn More »
Noteworthy Signed Books: Join the Club!
Join our Signed First Edition Club (or give a gift subscription) for a signed book of great literary merit, delivered to you monthly.Learn More »