Freedom's Cap by Guy Gugliotta
The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War

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Synopsis

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.


 

About Guy Gugliotta

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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.
 
Published February 28, 2012 by Hill and Wang. 497 pages
Genres: History, War, Arts & Photography, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Freedom's Cap

Kirkus Reviews

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Partisan bickering, back-stabbing rivalries, xenophobia, character assassination, political moves that would make Machiavelli blush—no, not Washington circa 2011, but the Washington Capitol in the 1850s.

Dec 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Freedom's Cap: The United Sta...

The New York Times

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New books by Guy Gugliotta, Janet Groth, Siri Hustvedt and Bryan Sykes.

Sep 21 2012 | Read Full Review of Freedom's Cap: The United Sta...

Publishers Weekly

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In this intensely researched historical gem, journalist Gugliotta describes the stormy 1850–1863 reconstruction of the U.S. Capitol as the nation geared up for civil war.

Oct 31 2011 | Read Full Review of Freedom's Cap: The United Sta...

The Washington Times

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Most visitors to Washington take the Capitol dome for granted. It is a graceful structure, with a statue on top that - because of its elevation - defies close examination. All in all, the Capitol seems less interesting than the White House.

Mar 30 2012 | Read Full Review of Freedom's Cap: The United Sta...

Dallas News

Washington had been the seat of government for 50 years in 1850 when President Millard Fillmore appointed architect Thomas Walter to design a new Capitol Building.

Mar 10 2012 | Read Full Review of Freedom's Cap: The United Sta...

Washington Independent Review of Books

The heart of Gugliotta’s story, however, is the great struggle that emerged after the Mexican War with the plan to extend the building by enlarging and reordering its interior design.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

In the years following the Civil War, Davis discounted his role in the Capitol's makeover -- it didn't square with his embodiment as the "Lost Cause" of the Confederacy.

Mar 13 2012 | Read Full Review of Freedom's Cap: The United Sta...

Bookmarks Magazine

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...

Mar 11 2012 | Read Full Review of Freedom's Cap: The United Sta...

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