The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from ...Read MoreThe murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness. James L. Swanson's Manhunt is a fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. A gripping hour-by-hour account told through the eyes of the hunted and the hunters, this is history as you've never read it before.Read Less
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I couldn't put this book down. It was written like a very good detective novel. Knowing it was actually factual history made it even more fascinating. A history lesson that was also spellbinding. I learned much about the assassination of Lincoln and Booth that are not covered in regular history books.
Jul 2, 2009
A fantastic and thought provoking read..
This is one of the best books I have ever read. I am slightly biased due to the simple fact that I love novels relating to the Civil War Era, but even if you have no interest in that time or place this book sparks a fire to remedy that.
The parallels between Lincoln and Wilkes-Booth, one with his devotion to North and Union and the other with his blood bind to the Southern Confederacy, make this read stand out from the rest. The detail and authenticity placed into the pages don't seem forced but instead create an environment that makes you feel as if you there when it happened. Swanson has written a masterpiece that never tires in excitement.
Oct 21, 2008
Stalks and surveys Lincoln?s assassin
The assassination of Abraham Lincoln is one of the most revered and remembered events in United States history. It is murder made hallowed and ubiquitous. From your local grade school to your favorite bookstore, the ghost of Lincoln is there. So is the apparition of John Wilkes Booth. Read about, discuss, or ponder the slain president and you?ll find that his assassin is lurking nearby. The man who saved a nation is also a man who could not be saved, and this fact perpetually shadows his legacy. Author James L. Swanson understands this. In Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln?s Killer, Swanson begins with the end of Lincoln and then unfurls this confounding event to show readers why Booth did what he did, what he endured as the nation sought his capture, and how he inextricably influenced our perceptions of the achievements and humanity of America?s favorite president.
The day Abraham Lincoln visited Ford?s Theater was perhaps the happiest of his presidency. The Civil War had just ended. He had preserved the union and outlawed slavery. He was inspired to rekindle his flagging marriage. And then a single shot into his brain through the back of his head abruptly ended his jubilant consciousness. It forever marked April 14, 1865, with the blood of the Great Emancipator. Lincoln never knew what happened to him. His last conscious action on earth was to laugh. His body remained alive until the next morning, but his final thoughts were likely responding to the punch line just uttered by an actor onstage.
By contrast, John Wilkes Booth was hunted for 12 days after the assassination. He was in misery, suffering the leg he broke after jumping from Lincoln?s box to the stage of Ford?s Theater. He was starving. He feared for his life and his reputation. The majority of his escape was spent hiding outdoors, subject to the unforgiving elements, ravenous ticks and mosquitoes, and aggravating setbacks that prevented him from crossing the Potomac until nine intense days after the assassination. When his pursuers finally located him, he was also shot in the head. But he spent two to three hours in further conscious agony until he died: The bullet severed his spinal chord and, unable to move, he lay in his own blood as the life faded out of him. One of the country?s best-known actors?a strikingly handsome son of the nation?s premiere acting family?Booth had been showered in his life with the comforts and indulgences of extreme fame. He was pompous and pampered. But he died in physical torment, defeat, and humiliation, surrounded by the soldiers of the president-tyrant he had despised and murdered.
Lincoln?s and Booth?s deaths are the pillars of Manhunt. Swanson carefully and compellingly constructs these defining events, and he re-creates the two weeks in 1865 that span them. He populates the story with interesting facts and resurrects the cast of characters who lived it and were unutterably changed by it.
The appeal of this history is evident and marked by Manhunt?s climb into the top ten of the New York Times Best Sellers list, where many Lincoln biographies, such as the recent Team of Rivals, ascend. However, Swanson?s greatest success is his ability to enthrall his readers with the retelling of an event that has already been told ad infinitim.
Swanson takes readers back to the split second when Booth?s bullet pierced Lincoln?s skull. He then expands outward from that time and place to encompass Booth and his conspirators, Lincoln?s compatriots, and the cavalry corps and detectives who tracked the assassin. Swanson?s focus is on the chase, and he adeptly documents the way it played out?both factually and emotionally. The resulting narrative sometimes dazzles, sometimes surprises, and sometimes saddens the reader.
At times, Swanson is redundant with certain facts and details, as if concerned that the reader might miss his point. He?s probably merely being careful, but this technique is noticeable and somewhat irritating?eliciting occasional ?Didn?t you just tell me that?? reader reactions.
More important, however, is the author?s negligent treatment of Mary Todd Lincoln, who is barely fleshed out before the assassination and nearly forgotten thereafter. Swanson might account for this by explaining that the book is about the hunt for Booth and those who were actively involved. But to leave readers wondering whether Mary was invested in the search for her husband?s killer or was influenced by its outcome is unfortunate and, frankly, rather peculiar.
Despite these minor criticisms, Manhunt is riveting and revealing. This book combines the depth and respectability of a well-documented history with the pacing and intrigue of a thriller. It also embodies the emotional resonance of a timeless fiction, except its significance is deepened by the ongoing understanding that this heart-wrenching story is true. For instance, Swanson?s restrained, minute-by-minute depiction of the moment of Lincoln?s death intimately connects readers with that reality. It is a scene rendered with a moving, this-really-happened impact. In Swanson?s hands, the tragedy is more tangible and the loss is more profound. It is a history haunted by Booth?s prophetic final words: ?Useless, useless.?
Jul 31, 2008
I had previously read this book and passed it on to a friend who loves to read about Lincoln. Both of us loved the book and couldn't put it down. I then purchased another copy for another friend who read the book in two days! She learned things she didn't know about the event from the book and has made it a permanent part of her collection. This is great book for those of you who want to know more about the events after the killing of Lincoln.
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