"Absorbing, scrupulously researched . . . Freeman uncovers the brawls, stabbings, pummelings, and duel threats that occurred among United States congressmen during the three decades just before the Civil War.... Men and women crowded the Congressional galleries with the expectation of seeing entertaining outbreaks, much the way fans of professional wrestling or hockey do today . . . But Freeman never loses sight of the fact that fighting in Congress was far more than a sport. It was part of the ever-escalating tensions over slavery . . . Like other good historical works, The Field of Blood casts fresh light on the period it examines while leading us to think about our own time . . . She enriches what we already know and tells us a lot about what we didn't." ―David S. Reynolds, The New York Times Book Review
“Fascinating . . . [Field of Blood] demonstrates the historic truth of an observation by black activist H. Rap Brown in the 1960s: ‘Violence is a part of America’s culture; it is as American as cherry pie.’ . . . [Joanne B.] Freeman’s book goes far toward explaining why there was a Civil War."
“Leavened by the author’s wry wit, the book is a page turning triumph of narrative history, deeply researched and persuasively argued. It explains, more lucidly than ever before, ‘the wrenching experience of plotting a political path in a nation being torn in two.’”
“A superb, serious, authoritative, lively, occasionally amusing work of scholarly bravura, [Freeman’s] work is also timely…By shifting her gaze from the conventionally cited causes of the Civil War, she has deepened our understanding of its coming.”
“A hair-raising history of ‘extreme congressional discord and national divisiveness.’ No, not today, but rather before and during the Civil War, when violence among members of Congress was not uncommon.”