Freedom’s Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War

Guy Gugliotta. Hill and Wang, $35 (512p) ISBN 978-0-8090-4681-2
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In this intensely researched historical gem, journalist Gugliotta describes the stormy 1850–1863 reconstruction of the U.S. Capitol as the nation geared up for civil war. Legislators hated the dank, older Capitol, where they froze in winter, sweltered in summer, and couldn’t hear the speeches. By 1850, the roof sagged and walls were crumbling. Interestingly, the major force in rebuilding was then Mississippi senator (later secretary of war, then president of the Confederacy) Jefferson Davis. Despite his state’s rights obsession, he pushed through proposals and won President Millard Fillmore’s enthusiastic advocacy. There follows a fascinating chronicle of 13 years of bitter feuds, delays, controversies, accusations of corruption and incompetence, congressional harassment, secession, and war, until the statue Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace took its place atop the completed dome in November 1863. Although it may seem like a niche subject, Gugliotta has turned out a superb mixture of mid–19th-century American culture and technology with the turbulent history of the period. 65 b&w illus. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/2011
Release date: 02/28/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 486 pages - 978-0-8090-4683-6
Open Ebook - 496 pages - 978-1-4299-6922-2
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