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

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  75 ratings  ·  20 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 ab ...more
ebook, 496 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Hill and Wang
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Converse
Jefferson Davis is responsible for much of the appearance of the US Capitol. Perhaps if he had known that he would become the president of the Confederacy, he wouldn't have made this a priority.

Davis pushed for adding additions to the existing Capitol, and in particular championed adding two wings to the building, rather than adding an addition just to the east side. His involvement began with soliciting the thoughts of the Washington architect Robert Mills, who had designed the Washington Monum
...more
Jeff
I'll admit to a preference for books that look at history from an unusual point of view and Freedom's Cap truly fits that description.

Mr. Gugliotta tells the story of the project to enlarge the United States Capitol and replace the old dome with the now very familiar dome atop the building in a very detailed and compelling manner. But he does more than that; he uses the story as a backdrop to the even more compelling story of the struggle of the nation to try to hold together through the years i
...more
Cheryl
I've been reading this book for almost a year now. Not because it was boring or unreadable, but because it was one of those books that's easy to pick up and read a chapter or two, then do something else. I really enjoyed learning the history of how the Capitol came to be the iconic image we know today. I've been fortunate enough to have a really in-depth tour of the Capitol, not the 'hit-the-highlights' tour that you can get tickets for, but a personal tour, arranged by a member of a Senator's c ...more
Gary
Most of what we're taught In American History are one-dimensional aspects of people such as Jefferson Davis. This book tells an interesting story of Jefferson Davis prior to the Civil War that I had not known about. As Secretary of War under President Pierce he was the driving force in favor of building a new U.S. Capitol. The Capitol expansion with the east and west wings and it's dome was accomplished at perhaps the most critical time in our history and probably never would have happened if it ...more
Keith McGowan
The most amazing aspect of this book was the revelation that our Capitol building was the product of the vision of Thomas Walter, its architect, the persistence of Captain Meigs, its engineer, and the support of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. That's right, Jefferson Davis, the same man who would later lead the southern Confederacy in its revolt against the Union. Fascinating that the appearance of our nation's Capitol was heavily influenced by a man who later sought to establish a separate co ...more
Wisteria Leigh
Interesting approach that covers pre Civil War history and beyond with a unique approach-through the analysis and building of the nations Capital.
As with politics today, why should the 1900's be any different? Well, Gugliotta will affirm the obvious. Political alliances are made in this non-fiction narrative that are as divisive as the Civil War. The head engineer and the architect for the project are on different sides, and powerful politicians including Jefferson Davis take a stand to promote
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Charles Biggs
Guy Gugliotta's book on the US Capitol extension and dome is both fascinating and thorough. After reading you will have a good background on the politics, engineering pitfalls, living and working conditions of sll people who were involved building our Nation's capital over 150 years ago. I especially enjoyed the detailed, sometime too detail stories of all the major players including Meigs, Walter, Davis, Floyd, Latrobe, Bulfinch, the artisans, the Presidents and the major events revolving aroun ...more
Heather
Mr. Gugliotta tells the story of the project to enlarge the United States Capitol and replace the old dome with the now very familiar dome atop the building in a very detailed and compelling manner. But he does more than that; he uses the story as a backdrop to the even more compelling story of the struggle of the nation to try to hold together through the years immediately preceding the Civil War.
Fascinating reading, even if it sometimes does bog done in factual minutia. I wish there had been
...more
Brian Cole
The paradox of Jefferson Davis supporting the enlargement of the U.S. Capitol and his subsequent presidency of the Confederacy is handled expertly. I wish I had known as much about this when my wife and I visited Washington many years ago on our honeymoon. The lack of more drawings is a drawback as well as the various architectual terms used that are not explained. A visit to the Capitol website cleared up some of the mystery. It was good to read that the two antagonists Meigs and Walters repair ...more
Larry
As a long-time student of the Civil War I was engrossed by this non-fiction book, although if you are not interested in the era, forget it. It tells the story of the expansion/completion of the Capitol building from 1950 to 1965. Key figures include Gen. Miegs, chief engineer, who battled with chief architect Walters. Both had huge egos and competed to be credited with the job. Then senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was intstrumental in sheparding the project. This is a book only a Civil Wa ...more
Kate
Great to read if you have interest in the civil war history, architecture, or Washington DC history. I really enjoyed the story, though it was a bit laborious with numbers in parts.
Sarah
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 of how the US Capitol building came to be, and the politics of that during the runup to and drawdown from the Civil War. It is just so good. History and politics buffs will absolutely love it, but I think most people would really enjoy it.
Jakenv
Excellent detailed history of the Capitol and weaving in of Civil War material. As history buff always appreciate well written book which is also entertaining without being boorish. Others have been more eloquent in praise with which I agree. Received as Goodreads winner which had no impact on my review.
Michael Kramer
Wonderful book on the expansion of the Capitol building and the dome. It details the political battles and the dedication of the engineer in charge to avoid allowing the project to be a source of corruption, inferior materials, and shoddy construction. A fascinating story, well told.
Brian Clifford


A good book, with some great meticulous detail on the relationships and politics at work in making the Capitol (essentially) what it is today. If historical books on the intersection of public architecture and politics/history float your boat, you will enjoy this book.
Doug Hauser
Very interesting read about the extension of the capitol that was done just prior too and during the Civil War. One of its biggest supporter was none other then Jefferson Davis, thats right... many more intrigues about its building.
Janet W
Fascinating to find out who the players were in designing the Capitol, and reading about the political battles in getting it done.
NVTony
Was expecting something different based on title. Did enjoy historical aspects. History buffs should add to TBR list.
Jan
Excellent book about events leading up to the civil was
Judy Lessard
Strong historical! Loved it
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