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The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  94 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
A Turning Point in American History, the Beating of U.S. Senator Charles Sumner and the Beginning of the War Over Slavery
Early in the afternoon of May 22, 1856, ardent pro-slavery Congressman Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina strode into the United States Senate Chamber in Washington, D.C., and began beating renowned anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner with a gold-topped
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published October 10th 2012 by Westholme Publishing
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Michael Austin
Dec 29, 2012 Michael Austin rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
This was an odd book to read and a difficult one to review. On the one hand, it's journalistic approach to the topic makes it much more accessible and, in many places, more interesting, than the half-dozen or so more scholarly books on the topic. But the accessibility comes with a certain amount of sensationalism (not that the caning incident itself lacked for sensationalism), a confused chronology, and a tendency to view the entire buildup to the civil war through the lens of the incident that ...more
Donald Luther
Feb 09, 2014 Donald Luther rated it really liked it
Post hoc ergo propter hoc. When I was teaching Combined Studies, colleague Michael Feuer included a lesson on the English half of the syllabus on logical fallacies. It was, I think useful to the kids and served a purpose for their subsequent years at Oak Ridge.

But the fallacy I opened this review with wasn't among those he treated. I used to do it in MEH during their senior year. I used part of Mark Twain's table talks from 'Mark Twain Tonight!' to get the point across, about how, during the Civ
Mar 23, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it
Drama is difficult when the results are known, but in this historic recounting of the famous caning by southern Brooks to northern Senator Sumner there is a tension that you look for in good novels.

Bloody Kansas, a country tired of the horrible institution called slavery and a south comfortable in the inconsistent application of whip, chain, and inhumanity of the institution meant that conflict was inevitable.

Even religion could not expel or justify this blight on national history, but the resu
Feb 27, 2017 Colleen rated it it was amazing
It took me a long time to get through this book. Not because it is long. Not because it is a hard read. It took me a month because, hard as I tried, I could not prevent myself from drawing parallels to the state of our country today. The animosity between factions. the personalities of the primary players the distrust of the media outlets, were all too real, as if "ripped" from the headlines of today. I would become distraught knowing the ultimate outcome of the actions of Preston Brooks in May, ...more
Jun 22, 2015 John-Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-american
With relative frequency, we here in the U.S. see video of lawmakers in some foreign country coming to blows in their government chamber over a piece of legislation or a heated debate. Unfortunately, we tend to think this kind of thing happens only "over there," but in one of the most fascinating (and after reading this book I now know, pivotal) moments in the history of our country, this kind of raw violence actually took place in our own Senate chamber one May day in 1856. At first blush it cou ...more
Jan 12, 2013 Kayse rated it really liked it
On May 20th, 1856, Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner delivers his most famous, most scathing anti-slavery speech in reaction to "Bleeding Kansas." In his speech, he personally attacks three of his Southern colleagues, including the much-respected Andrew Butler. On May 22nd, 1856, South Carolina statesman--and kinsman to Butler--Preston Brooks corners Sumner at his desk in the senate chamber and beats him in the head with his cane until it snaps in half. Here is the true "first" battle of the ...more
Jan 10, 2016 Andrew rated it it was ok
Shelves: antebellum-u-s
Knowing the historical significance of the caning quite well, this book was a disappointment. It was surely well written, his facts were mostly accurate, but it's the interpretation of those facts that doomed Puleo's work from the introduction. It was, as many other reviewers noted, a book built around the fallacy of "post hoc ergo propter hoc." Violence was nothing new to Congress (i.e. the Griswold-Lyon fight in 1798 or Senator Foote aiming a pistol point blank at Thomas Hart Benton in 1850). ...more
Sep 17, 2016 Kusaimamekirai rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic read for so many reasons. As a civil war buff I had some cursory knowledge of Charles Sumner but before reading this book I hadn't realized how influential he really was. Puleo does a marvelous job of outlining the contrasts between the assailant Preston Brooks who was personally a gentleman and liked across the political aisle, and Sumner who could claim few friends for his brusque and unlikeable demeanor. Yet it's difficult to not ultimately sympathize with Summer who despi ...more
Aug 26, 2015 Jnotes99 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book on the caning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner by South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks which was sparked by Sumner's anti slavery speech in 1856. The books takes an in-depth look at the backgrounds of both men and the impact on the ongoing debate about slavery that led to the Civil War. I learned a bit more about events leading to the civil war as well as an appreciation for one of Massachusetts most outspoken anti-slavery voices. Recommended.
Dec 03, 2012 Meghan rated it liked it
Puleo does an interesting job making Preston Brooks more sympathetic than Charles Sumner. The historical background is well done, as is the aftermath of the caning (which occurs about midway through the book's timeline), but I can't help but wonder how skewed the characterizations of Sumner and Brooks turned out.
Jan 19, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing
It's embarrassing how little I knew about Charles Sumner or this incident prior to reading "The Caning," but Stephen Puleo brilliantly dissects how Preston Brooks' attack on Sumner in the Senate chamber was in many ways the defining precursor to the Civil War. Fascinating stuff, superbly researched and presented.
Edward Hetzler
Oct 24, 2016 Edward Hetzler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Passion versus bipartisanship

This book fleshes out a well known incident that is generally glossed over in school. I finally feel like I understand what the years leading up to the civil war were really like. When passions run high events can spin out of control.

Eric Mayes
Oct 26, 2016 Eric Mayes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding read. Great flow to the book. Really brings alive Charles Summer and Preston Brooks and the events just prior to and well after the caning. Helped me to better understand the sequence of events from 1856 to 1861.
Jul 01, 2013 Dick rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all students of American History
Recommended to Dick by: The New Book Shelf at my public Library
Very informative regarding a period of American History of which I new little
Kathleen Grace
Aug 02, 2016 Kathleen Grace rated it really liked it
Great explanation of the caning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner in 1860 in the senate chamber by South Carolinia's Representative Preston Brooks. One of the precursors to the Civil War.
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Stephen Puleo is an author, historian, university teacher, public speaker, and communications professional. His six narrative nonfiction works include:
• American Treasures: The Secret Efforts to Save the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address (fall 2016)
The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War (2012)
• A City So Grand: The Rise of an American Metro
More about Stephen Puleo...

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