On May 22, 1856, Preston S. Brooks, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina, entered the Senate chamber. In an attack that lasted about a minute, Brooks repeatedly bludgeoned a defenseless Senator Charles Sumner with a silver-edged cane. Brooks had been infuriated by a Sumner speech that attacked slavery, southerners, and specifically, a Brooks relative, Senator Andrew Butler, also of South Carolina. The severely injured Sumner endured a lengthy recovery. Brooks was convicted but paid only a nominal fine. Hoffer, professor of history, recounts preceding events, the attack itself, as well as the aftermath in an excellent work of historical analysis. As Hoffer illustrates, the consequences were probably more significant than the attack itself. In the North, Brooks was reviled as a bully and thuggish agent of the “slave power.“ Southerners cheered him and sent him new canes. Despite the title, Hoffer does not assert that the incident “caused” the Civil War. Rather, it indicated just how deep the sectional antagonism had become, and it was one more tear in the rapidly fraying fabric of the Union. This will be a valuable addition to Civil War collections. --Jay Freeman
Hoffer, professor of history, recounts preceding events, the attack itself, as well as the aftermath in an excellent work of historical analysis... This will be a valuable addition to Civil War collections.
An extraordinary and valuable study of what these events of history reveal not only about America of the past, but also America of today, The Caning of Charles Sumner is highly recommended especially for college library collections and American Civil War shelves.
(Midwest Book Review
The short length, subject, and writing style of The Caning of Charles Sumner will make this text a staple in survey and upper-level American history classes alike.
(Mary Ellen Pethel Teaching History: A Journal of Methods
The Caning of Charles Sumner should appeal to both academics and non-academics, but it is perhaps most useful as a supplemental text in undergraduate American history survey courses. The book likewise would be a welcome addition to reading lists in graduate seminars, especially those on the Old South or the Civil War.
(Tommy C. Brown South Carolina Historical Magazine
The Caning of Charles Sumner attempts to place the incident as well as its primary figures within their temporal, cultural, moral, and ethical contexts... In its careful analysis of the evidence and its generally balanced conclusions, the author has succeeded.
(Martin Hardeman H-Law, H-Net Reviews
His smooth style will allow students to engage with the material.
(Christopher J. Olsen Journal of Southern History