This section is from the book "The National Capitol. Its Architecture Art And History", by George C. Hazelton, Jr. Also available from Amazon: The National Capitol Its Architecture Art and History.
In this Senate Chamber, Edward Dickinson Baker, the Senator-soldier from Oregon, delivered the brilliant speech which proved to be his last utterance upon the floor of Congress. " With a zeal that never tired," writes Mr. Sumner of his brother Senator, " after recruiting men drawn by the attraction of his name, in New York and Philadelphia and elsewhere, he held his brigade [known as the California Regiment] in camp, near the Capitol, so that he passed easily from one to the other, and thus alternated the duties of a Senator and a General." On the afternoon of August 1, 1861, ten days after the first battle of Bull Run, Mr. Baker had entered in the full uniform of a colonel of the United States army, and with his sword laid across his desk was listening to the debate, when John C. Breckenridge, still in the Senate, took the floor and began to speak with the poignancy of which he was master against the Insurrection and Sedition bill. The soldier's eyes flashed fire as he heard the words of the brilliant Kentuckian, and upon the completion of the speech, his voice rang out in answer and denunciation. " What would have been thought," he said, 14 if, in another Capitol, in a yet more martial age, a senator, with the Roman purple flowing from his shoulders, had risen in his place, surrounded by all the illustrations of Roman glory, and declared that advancing Hannibal was just, and that Carthage should be dealt with on terms of peace ? What would have been thought, if, after the battle of Cannae, a senator had denounced every levy of the Roman people, every expenditure of its treasure, every appeal to the old recollections and the old glories ? " Mr. Fessenden, sitting by Mr. Baker, broke out in an audible undertone: " He would have been hurled from the Tarpeian Rock ! " This incited the orator to more powerful utterance. " Are not the speeches of the Senator from Kentucky intended for disorganization ? are they not intended to destroy our zeal ? are they not intended to animate our enemies ? Sir, are they not words of brilliant, polished /reason, even in the very Capitol of the Republic ?"
The handsome face, the gallant figure, the rich uniform, the earnestness of the impromptu reply and the fact that the smoke of the guns of war was still in the air, all combined to inspire the orator with a patriotic eloquence which makes the occasion remembered to-day as one of the most dramatic and effective in modern times. Within three months, while gallantly leading a charge at Ball's Bluff, the orator's voice was stilled forever.