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Freedom's Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War Hardcover – February 28, 2012
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“[A] meticulously detailed history... Ironies abound.” —Abigail Meisel, The New York Times Book Review
“The construction of the [United States] Capitol as the world has known it since ‘Freedom’ was put in place in the late autumn of 1863 is a story unto itself . . . and Guy Gugliotta tells it superbly in Freedom’s Cap . . . With this book, he joins that estimable group of non-professional historians who have revived the practice of narrative history, one cherished by serious readers . . . Gugliotta writes lucidly and engagingly, he brings to life a huge cast of characters, he captures the physical setting of Washington in the mid-19th century and the mood of a city where ‘every transaction seemed to be poisoned by the issue of slavery,’ and he has done a stupendous amount of research . . . Gugliotta has paid the great building, and the people who did so much to bring it into being, handsome tribute indeed.” —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
“Guy Gugliotta, in his splendid new book . . . gives us a fascinating tale of the struggles to design, fund and construct the new Capitol . . . Gugliotta deftly weaves a narrative of the difficult and massive construction project and the politics surrounding it.” —Al Kamen, The Washington Post
“[A] painstakingly researched, thoroughly intriguing historical detective story . . . [Gugliotta] adeptly orchestrates the intricate re-creation of a stormy episode in a particularly tempestuous era . . . Freedom’s Cap is a classroom model of historical investigation and writing, the narrative colorful and captivating in its minutest detail.” —Dale L. Walker, The Dallas Morning News
“[A] fascinating new book . . . A tale of political intrigue, famous personalities, technological innovations and bitter feuds, all under the pervasive shadow of slavery and the threat of secession and Civil War . . . Gugliotta tells the story well.” —Steve Raymond, The Seattle Times
“Excellent and exhaustive . . . Mr. Gugliotta deftly demonstrates . . . how everything—everything—was political, from the shape and size of the dome that ultimately capped the building to the statuary, paintings and furnishings inside it.” —Roger K. Miller, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“[An] intensely researched historical gem . . . Gugliotta has turned out a superb mixture of mid-19th-century American culture and technology with the turbulent history of the period.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A prodigiously researched, generously illustrated account of the transformation of the U. S. Capitol from a cramped, cold, noisy, inadequate and ugly structure into today’s massive marble symbol of democracy . . . There are surprises on virtually every page . . . Impressive research underlies a well-told story.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“An engrossing and surprising chronicle that shifts between the rebuilding of the Capitol and the slow disintegration of the Union . . . This is a superbly written account.” —Jay Freeman, Booklist
“Wonderfully detailed . . . Gugliotta’s research and narrative are outstanding, and one of the best aspects of Freedom's Cap is the side alleys and byways of the story that he uncovers.” —William C. Davis, History Book Club
“In this fascinating and well-written narrative, Guy Gugliotta tells the story of the rebuilding of the U.S . Capitol, an enterprise that occupied more than a decade before and during the Civil War. Combining the history of politics, art, and engineering, it shows how the monumental project’s party, personal, and sectional rivalries reflected the crisis, and triumph, of a divided nation.” —Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
“In this splendidly researched and engagingly written new book, Guy Gugliotta deftly tells the intimately connected stories of the construction of the Capitol and the destruction of the Union. This is an original and compelling tale of how history really happens.” —Jon Meacham, former editor of Newsweek and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
“This fascinating narrative ties together America’s preeminent architectural symbol and its most wrenching struggle. The building of the Capitol dome, an expression of unity, occurred as the nation was tearing itself apart in the lead-up to the Civil War. Guy Gugliotta’s deeply researched tale features Montgomery Meigs and Jefferson Davis, whose partnership and subsequent clash mirrored their turbulent times.” —Walter Isaacson, former chairman and CEO of CNN and author of Steve Jobs
About the Author
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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Guy Gugliotta has focused on the engineers, artists,architects, soldiers and politicians who eventually found a common ground that made the project complete and tells stories of heroes who are treated poorly and politicians who are possibly more dysfunctional,corrupt, and partisan than the ones we now read about daily. Freedom's Cap is an apt title describing the head cover worn by freed slaves that was the original design of the bronze monument at the Capitol dome peak.
The history focuses about the 1850's and 1860's and the personalities that dealt with the slavery and union issues. The Know Nothing party is well described. Armed congressmen who brawl are among the participants.
On finishing the book, I felt that current US Congress is not as bad as that of the 1850's and have a greater appreciation of the designers of Washington, D.C., their art and their ability to come up with solutions.
And what compelling, and nutso, characters he has to work with! Here's Jeff Davis, who would tear the country apart, as the driving force behind the creation of the Capitol as the soaring symbol of national unity.
And here's dour Monty Meigs, who would kick Bobby Lee out of his house, as the nuts-and-bolts engineer who brought in everything on time and under cost in the pre-Halliburton era. Go get this thing.