The assault against Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts by South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks in May 1856 shocked most northerners and thrilled many southerners. However, this violent episode in the heart of the U.S. Capitol illustrated to nearly everyone that the sectional conflict was becoming far more than a battle of words. (By Matthew Pinsker)
On the day before the sack of Lawrence, Republican senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts delivered a bombastic and wrathful speech, "The Crime Against Kansas," in which he verbally whipped most of the U.S. Senate for complicity in slavery. Sumner singled out Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina…Two days later, a relative of Butler, Democratic representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina, strode into the Senate chamber, found Sumner at his desk, and struck him repeatedly with a cane. The hollow can broke after five or six blows, but Sumner required stitches, experienced shock, and did not return to the Senate for three years. Brooks became an instant hero in the South, and the fragments of his weapon were "begged as sacred relics." A new cane, presented to Brooks by the city of Charleston, bore the inscription "Hit him again."
Paul S. Boyer, et al., eds., The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, 6th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008), 409.