Cover image for Lincoln's assassins : their trial and execution : an illustrated history
Lincoln's assassins : their trial and execution : an illustrated history
Swanson, James L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, 2006.

Physical Description:
152 pages : chiefly illustrations (some color) ; 31 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Santa Fe, N.M. : Arena Editions, 2001.
Added Author:
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E457.5 .S93 2006 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Acclaimed as the definitive illustrated history of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Lincoln's Assassins, by James L. Swanson and Daniel R. Weinberg, follows the shocking events from the tragic scene at Ford's Theatre to the trial and execution of Booth's co-conspirators. For twelve days after the president was shot, the nation waited breathlessly as manhunters tracked down John Wilkes Booth--the story that was brilliantly told in Swanson's New York Times bestseller, Manhunt. Then, during the spring and summer of 1865, a military commission tried eight people as conspirators in Booth's plot to murder Lincoln and other high officials, including the secretary of state and vice president. Few remember them today, but once the names Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, George Atzerodt, Edman Spangler, Samuel Arnold, Michael O'Laughlin, and Dr. Samuel Mudd were the most reviled and notorious in America.

In Lincoln's Assassins, Swanson and Weinberg resurrect these events by presenting an unprecedented visual record of almost 300 contemporary photographs, letters, documents, prints, woodcuts, newspapers, pamphlets, books, and artifacts, many hitherto unpublished. These rare materials, which took the authors decades to collect, evoke the popular culture of the time, record the origins of the Lincoln myth, take the reader into the courtroom and the cells of the accused, document the beginning of American photojournalism, and memorialize the fates of the eight conspirators.

Lincoln's Assassins is a unique work that will appeal to anyone interested in American history, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, law, crime, assassination, nineteenth-century photographic portraiture, and the history of American photojournalism.

Author Notes

James L.Swanson is the Edgar Award winning author of the New York Times bestseller Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. In 2009 in Newsweek magazine, Patricia Cornwell named Swanson's Manhunt and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood as the two best nonfiction crime books ever.

In 2006, Entertainment Weekly magazine named Manhunt one of the ten best books of the year. Swanson has degrees in history from The University of Chicago, where he was a student of John Hope Franklin, and law from the University of California, Los Angeles. He has held a number of government and think-tank posts in Washington, D.C., including at the United States Department of Justice. He serves on the advisory council of the Ford's Theatre Society.

His other books include the acclaimed photographic history Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution, as well as Chasing Lincoln's Killer, and adaptations of Manhunt and Bloody Crimes for young readers. In 2014 his title, The President Has Been Shot!: The Assasination of Joh F. Kennedy, made The New York Times Best Seller List. James L. Swanson was born on Lincoln's birthday.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

This beautifully produced, groundbreaking volume of over 300 documents, portraits, memorabilia and arcana relating to Lincoln's assassination manages to transcend its immediate historical importance to become something artistically unique. Swanson and Weinberg, both Lincoln collectors and scholars, have assembled a remarkable collection of images relating to the assassination and the fate of its perpetrators (whose guilt some historians question today), including many that have not been easily available before. Some of the more common images include memorial posters of the assassination, wanted posters, newspaper reports and reproductions of plates from books about the event. They also reproduce letters from a young John Wilkes Booth as well as hand-written death warrants issued by the Union army. But the centerpiece of the volume is the collection of photographs taken by Alexander Gardner of six of the indicted conspirators as they awaited trial. These photographs formally posed, beautifully shot and eerily evocative are reminiscent of the work of artists such as Diane Arbus and Robert Mapplethorpe. Equally moving and disturbing are Gardner's photographs of the executions by hanging of several of the conspirators photos in which one can see the reality of death. Swanson and Weinberg contribute enough text to place all of these artifacts in historical context and provide an intelligent, informative primer on the topic. (Nov.) Forecast: While the idea of a coffee-table or art book on such a topic might seem grisly, this volume achieves high marks in both categories and will be read and examined by both academics and Civil War enthusiasts. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Lincoln's Assassins Their Trial and Execution Chapter One The Great Crime--The Assassination of the President O powerful western fallen star! O shades of night--O moody, tearful night! --Walt Whitman "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" On April 14, 1865, the president of the United States went to the theater. Five days earlier Lee had surrendered to Grant. The Civil War was over and the North held a jubilee. Cannons boomed, People sang in the streets of Washington, and bonfires flamed. On April 14, Good Friday, Abraham Lincoln sought relief from the exhilaration of victory by attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre. The afternoon papers, the Evening Star and the Daily National Republican , published notices that General Grant would be Lincoln's theater guest that night. Grant had spent most of the war at the front and was an unfamiliar sight in the capital. The promise of his appearance guaranteed a full house. But then the Grants decided to leave Washington on an early train to visit their children. The Lincolns had trouble replacing them; several people declined their invitation. Finally, Clara Harris, daughter of U.S. Senator Ira Harris and her fiancé, Major Henry Rathbone, accepted the invitation. When the curtain rose at 8:00 P.M. , theatergoers who glanced up at the president's box were disappointed to find it empty. Perhaps Lincoln had changed his mind and was not coming. In fact, the president's carriage arrived late, at about 8:15. The Lincoln party entered Ford's, ascended the stairs, walked across the back of the theater, and stepped into their box, which was festooned with flags. The performance was suspended so that the orchestra could play "Hail to the Chief." As the audience cheered, the Lincolns took their seats. During the performance, at about 10:15 P.M. , a lone figure slipped into the box and fired a bullet into the back of the president's head. Simultaneously, several blocks away, a man forced his way into the home of Secretary of State William Seward and nearly stabbed him to death in his bed. At the theater, Lincoln slumped forward in his rocking chair. He lapsed into unconsciousness without uttering a sound. The assassin swung over the balustrade, ran across the stage, fled out a back door, and galloped away on a waiting horse. Several witnesses said the assassin looked just like John Wilkes Booth, the famous actor. They were right. Booth, the twenty-six-year-old scion of America's most celebrated theatrical family, had just assassinated the president of the United States. One of the great actors of his day, Booth used his fame and wealth to support a conspiracy against Lincoln. A longtime Confederate sympathizer, he hated Lincoln and his polices. In 1864 he and his loosely organized band of followers plotted to kidnap the president and hold him hostage for the Confederacy. He scheme failed, the war ended, and the South lay in ruins. To avenge that defeat, Booth turned to assassination. Surgeons at Ford's Theatre pronounced the president mortally wounded and warned that he could not be moved far. Soldiers carried him across the street to the Peterson house and laid him diagonally across a spindle bed that was too short for his tall frame. Mary Lincoln sobbed uncontrollably in the front parlor. At the back of the house, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton interviewed witnesses, sent telegrams to army posts, and commanded troops to hunt for the assassin. Abraham Lincoln lingered until morning, when he died at 7:22. Lincoln's Assassins Their Trial and Execution . Copyright © by James Swanson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution by James L. Swanson, Daniel R. Weinberg All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.