This week on Fieldstone Common, Marian Pierre-Louis interviews Stephen Puleo, author of The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War.
One of the most shocking and provocative events in American history, the caning convinced the North and the South that the gulf between them was unbridgeable and that they could no longer discuss their vast differences of opinion regarding slavery on any reasonable level. The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War tells the incredible story of this transformative event. While Sumner eventually recovered after a lengthy convalescence, compromise had suffered a mortal blow. Moderate voices were drowned out completely; extremist views accelerated, became intractable, and locked both sides on a tragic collision course.
The caning had an enormous impact on the events that followed over the next four years: the meteoric rise of the Republican Party and Abraham Lincoln; the Dred Scott decision; the increasing militancy of abolitionists, notably John Brown’s actions; and the secession of the Southern states and the founding of the Confederacy. As a result of the caning, the country was pushed, inexorably and unstoppably, to war. Many factors conspired to cause the Civil War, but it was the caning that made conflict and disunion unavoidable five years later.
STEPHEN PULEO is the author of five books, including the bestselling Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 and Due to Enemy Action: The True World War II Story of the USS Eagle 56. A former award-winning newspaper reporter and contributor to American History and other publications, he holds a master’s degree in history and teaches at Suffolk University in Boston.