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

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Macmillan, 2012 - History - 486 pages
2 Reviews

The modern United States Capitol is a triumph of both engineering and design. From its 9-million-pound cast-iron dome to the dazzling opulence of the President's Room and the Senate corridors, the Capitol is one of the most renowned buildings in the world. But the history of the U.S. Capitol is also the history of America's most tumultuous years. As the new Capitol rose above Washington's skyline, battles over slavery and secession ripped the country apart. Ground was broken just months after Congress adopted the compromise of 1850, which was supposed to settle the "slavery question" for all time. The statue Freedom was placed atop the Capitol's new dome in 1863, five months after the Battle of Gettysburg.

In Freedom's Cap, the award-winning journalist Guy Gugliotta recounts the history and broader meaning of the Capitol building through the lives of the three men most responsible for its construction. We owe the building's scale and magnificence to none other than Jefferson Davis, who remained the Capitol's staunchest advocate up until the week he left Washington to become president of the Confederacy. Davis's protégé and the Capitol's lead engineer, Captain Montgomery C. Meigs, became quartermaster general of the Union Army and never forgave Davis for his betrayal of the nation. The Capitol's brilliant architect and Meigs's longtime rival, Thomas U. Walter, defended slavery at the beginning of the war but eventually turned fiercely against the South.

In impeccable detail, Gugliotta captures the clash of personalities behind the building of the Capitol and the unique engineering, architectural, design, and political challenges the three men collectively overcame to create the iconic seat of American government.

 

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User Review  - sarahlizfits - LibraryThing

I cannot recommend this book enough. It was beautifully written and thoroughly researched. I learned so much, and it was a joy to read. The title is pretty specific, as far as plot: this is the story ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - JBD1 - LibraryThing

If you've got any interest in American political culture during the 1850s, don't miss this book. Gugliotta has written a surprisingly fascinating account of the renovations of the U.S. Capitol, which ... Read full review

Contents

PROLOGUE
3
1 CONGRESS HOUSE
9
2 PLANTING THE SEED
31
3 JEFFERSON DAVIS LOSES ONE AND WINS ONE
48
4 THE CONTEST
69
5 THOMAS U WALTER IN CHARGE
88
6 SHARKS IN THE WATER
107
7 JEFFERSON DAVIS RETURNS
126
13 A NEW HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
253
14 THE FEUD
274
15 MEIGS UNDER SIEGE
296
16 SWAN SONG
318
17 TYING OFF LOOSE ENDS
340
18 FREEDOMS CAP
365
EPILOGUE
395
NOTES
413

8 ENGINEER IN CHARGE
145
9 WALTER HAS A NEW IDEA
163
10 THE ALIEN MENACE
185
11 A LIVELY OLD MAN WITH A VERY RED NOSE
206
12 BLEEDING KANSAS
226
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
455
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
461
INDEX
465
Copyright

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About the author (2012)

Guy Gugliotta covered Congress during a sixteen-year career as a national reporter for The Washington Post and for the last six years has been a freelance writer. He has written for The New York Times, National Geographic, Wired, Discover, and Smithsonian. He is the coauthor of Kings of Cocaine.

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