Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War


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Walter was an appointee of the Whig Millard Fillmore, and thus was generally being investigated or denounced by Congress which had a democratic majority during most of the early and middle s. Surprisingly, he survived the election of the Democrat Pierce, though he was demoted. Jefferson Davis managed to get the project transferred to his department, War, from the Interior Department.

An engineering officer, Captain Montgomery C. Meigs, was placed in overall charge. Although Davis wanted Walter to go, Meigs at the beginning of his appointment realized that Walter was indispensable and retained him. Davis, who could be fair in professional if not political matters, backed off.

Meigs made changes to the design.


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Originally the new House and Senate chambers were to be located at one end of each of the new wings; he placed them in the center of the wings. In addition, in order to reduce exterior noise he eliminated windows from the chambers, illuminating them instead principally with large skylights, and devised a mechanical means of heating and ventilation. On the exterior, Meigs added colonnades of monolithic columns to unify the new and old construction, and added pediments to each of the wings.

Meigs also added decorative touches, reasoning that if the artwork was solidly attached to the building he had the authority to do so. The walls had to be painted somehow, no? To that end he hired Constantino Brumidi, originally of Rome, to fresco much of the interior.

Brumidi was an amazingly skilled artist, and would in addition, at Walter's behest, paint the concave fresco mural visible through the oculus of the inner dome and suspended from the outer dome. Meigs and Walter had a falling out in the later s over who should get credit for the work. Meigs, never one to underestimate his abilities, began to take more credit for the design than was his due and had his name added to plans he didn't conceive of.

In retaliation, Walter moved his design office and refused to provide Meigs, who supervised the workforce and contractors, with design drawings, and also tried to get Meigs fired. Floyd, for not playing along with patronage hiring requests, in was openly insubordinate and was transferred to the Dry Tortugas. Walter's childish refusal to provide design drawings greatly slowed construction, in particular of the dome.

Although Meig's was quickly back in Washington with the advent of the Lincoln administration, he was also quickly shifted first to resupplying federal forts in southern states and then to supplying the Union forces shortly after his return. On December 2, , Walter had dome topped with Thomas Crawford's statue, "Freedom triumphant in war and peace. The author goes into more detail than I have on how the political environment affected the renovation of the Capitol.

Also, more architects tried to become the Capitol's restorer than I have indicated here. I think the book could have benefited from more plans of both the original building and the additions; I sometimes had difficulty visualized what author was describing. Also, a list of figures would have been useful. I liked the author's writing style and enjoyed the book. Apr 06, Cheryl rated it really liked it. 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 I've been reading this book for almost a year now. 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 chief of staff.

I wish I had known what I know now! 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.

Will America Have A Second Civil War?

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 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. This is a book only a Civil War geek would enjoy. Sep 14, Catherine Stickann rated it it was amazing Shelves: 5-star , art , biography , civil-war , fast-paced , historical , memorable , non-fiction , political , south.

This was an amazing history of the US Capital and what it took to get it finished. I love a history book that places you there.

The U.S. Capitol & The Coming Of The Civil War

Highly recommended to those that need to know the story behind the structure. View 1 comment. Aug 04, Backoff51 rated it it was amazing.

Very good read. 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 '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 Interesting approach that covers pre Civil War history and beyond with a unique approach-through the analysis and building of the nations Capital.

The head engineer and the architect for the project are on different sides, and powerful politicians including Jefferson Davis take a stand to promote one or the other.

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Jefferson Davis is an advocate for the head engineer, Montgomery C. The architect, Thomas Walter was originally pro-slavery, but ultimately opposed the Southern position. The story is a candid look at two highly motivated men with exceedingly large egos. It is fascinating to follow the personal views of the players in Washington who fought and compromised to achieve the completion of this magnificent historical seat of our national government.

The author has a gift of presenting the history of the many different political parties, that can be difficult to keep straight. Freedom's Cap is an important addition for any Civil War enthusiast. 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 years ago.

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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 Guy Gugliotta's book on the US Capitol extension and dome is both fascinating and thorough. 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 around free and pro slavery states that would eventually lead to the Civil War.

Capitol (seat of the U.S. Congress)

It's also most appropriate that I've read this book to the final anniversary year of the end of the Civil War and Lincolns Assassination on April Freedom's Cap brought all the personal tensions, triumphs, tragedies that were intertwined in completing of this great Capitol building. Jan 03, Heather rated it really liked it. Fascinating reading, even if it sometimes does bog done in factual minutia. I wish there had been Mr. I just toured the capitol and went in the dome in Aug.

The paradox of Jefferson Davis supporting the enlargement of the U. 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 The paradox of Jefferson Davis supporting the enlargement of the U. It was good to read that the two antagonists Meigs and Walters repaired their relationship before their deaths. As a native of Washington, D. But the whole Capitol ultimately became a symbol of freedom for all and the main stage upon which the priestcraft of American civil religion is still performed.

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Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War
Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War
Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War
Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War
Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War
Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War
Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War Freedoms Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War

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