The caning of Charles Sumner : honor, idealism, and the origins of the Civil War
Charles Sumner was seated at his Senate desk on May 22, 1856, when Democratic Congressman Preston S. Brooks approached, pulled out a walking stick, and struck him on the head. Brooks continued to beat the stunned Sumner, forcing him to the ground and repeatedly striking him even as the cane shattered. He then pursued the bloodied, staggering Republican senator up the Senate aisle until Sumner collapsed. Colleagues of the two intervened only after Brooks appeared intent on beating the unconscious Sumner, perhaps, to death. The caning on the Senate floor embodied just how wide the complex North-South cultural divide of the mid-nineteenth had become, and explains why the coming war was so difficult to avoid.
Suggested Citation Williamjames Hoffer. The caning of Charles Sumner : honor, idealism, and the origins of the Civil War. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.