Title: Killing Lincoln
Author: Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
Source: Christmas Gift
Excerpt from Goodreads:
A riveting historical narrative of the heart-stopping events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the first work of history from mega-bestselling author Bill O’Reilly
The anchor of The O’Reilly Factor recounts one of the most dramatic stories in American history—how one gunshot changed the country forever. In the spring of 1865, the bloody saga of America’s Civil War finally comes to an end after a series of increasingly harrowing battles. President Abraham Lincoln’s generous terms for Robert E. Lee’s surrender are devised to fulfill Lincoln’s dream of healing a divided nation, with the former Confederates allowed to reintegrate into American society. But one man and his band of murderous accomplices, perhaps reaching into the highest ranks of the U.S. government, are not appeased.
In the midst of the patriotic celebrations in Washington D.C., John Wilkes Booth—charismatic ladies’ man and impenitent racist—murders Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre. A furious manhunt ensues and Booth immediately becomes the country’s most wanted fugitive. Lafayette C. Baker, a smart but shifty New York detective and former Union spy, unravels the string of clues leading to Booth, while federal forces track his accomplices. The thrilling chase ends in a fiery shootout and a series of court-ordered executions—including that of the first woman ever executed by the U.S. government, Mary Surratt. Featuring some of history’s most remarkable figures, vivid detail, and page-turning action,Killing Lincoln is history that reads like a thriller.
Review By Joe:
This book, co-authored by Bill O’Reilly of the Fox T.V. show “The O’Reilly Factor” and past history educator, gives a special and sometimes emotional look at the events leading up to Lincoln’s assassination.
The title, to me, is a bit interesting in itself. Not only was Lincoln “killed” or assassinated (the term reserved for utmost important figures), I cannot help but to also feel like the country was “killed” by his death.
The Civil War has just ended and Lincoln is about to let the South quietly merge back into one unified country without ‘punishment’ to any of the confederate ‘traitors’ or instigators of the war. History has before shown that at least the important leaders of the loosing side of the civil war would go punished for their actions, and sometimes be put to death so they could not rise up again later.
The book has three distinct crescendos leading up to three different climaxes. The first are the battles that occur and ultimately, cause the South to surrender. We get an interesting look into what the Generals on both sides were going through during these last weeks and at the same time, we get a view into what Lincoln was thinking and doing, not too far away in Washington.
We also get a very graphic look of how horrible the conditions of a long war had been on the Southern troops. This can be troubling in retrospect and it should be, as these men were after all a part of this ‘whole’ country just a few years before. One telling sign of just how beaten down, hungry, and war torn the soldiers of the South were was how so many of them, in the final weeks before the war ended, literally got up and left the loose ranks of troops and walked off into the tree lines and were never seen again. The Southern commanders at this point, had compassion and knew what these men had been through, and just let them leave. How could you blame a man who left if you couldn’t feed, cloth, or shelter them anymore? This was very sad.
The second part of the book is set in Washington and followed what Lincoln and his staff and legislators were doing right after the war. Washington was very different from what we know today. It was a small town with dirt roads, lots of taverns, and two theaters, the most notable one today is of course Fords Theater.
I was surprised at the ‘everyone knows everyone’ feel in Washington and in all the towns back then. There are also some real surprises as to how intermingled Booth was with Lincoln, but I’ll let you find this out when you read the book.
We are also reminded of how minor illnesses of today were a death sentence back then.
Another thing portrayed in this book is the man who was John W. Booth and what his motives were for killing Lincoln. The back story of Booth is interesting, as is this whole book since I’ve studied so little history since the required readings in grade schools in the 60’s.
As we come to the assassination, it was fascinating to learn how many circumstances simply fell into place in favor of Booth.
In the third part of the book, and what I thought to be the last part, Lincoln is dead. Booth is on the run and his fate now lies in the hands of others. To me, it was amazing how fast police and troops were brought together to hunt him down. At the same time, lots of Union troops were already back around Washington instead of off fighting the war.
I mentioned earlier that I thought there were three climatic parts to the book. Lincoln being shot and killed cannot be eclipsed by Booth’s escape, but this part about his escape brings up some very serious and interesting theories, which are only briefly mentioned.
To my surprise there was a forth part of the book called the “Afterword”, which gives more background information on surviving characters and how they continued with their lives after the assassination.
This book has sparked my interest to find out more about the history of this country, which I had no desire to do previously. I plan on reading some of Grants later autobiographies, written with the help of Mark Twain, and also attempt to find out about the mystery surrounding Booth and the conspiracies around the White House at this time.
This book is a definite, must-read book for history buffs, suspense and even drama lovers. I have a different view of Lincoln and what he went through during his time as President. I can without a doubt, view Lincoln as the First President of the current “United States” (no disrespect for previous Presidents and founding fathers).
One last thought. It has been said that history repeats itself. There are more than a few ironic facts and circumstances related to this time that are history ‘firsts’ and were said that they would never repeat themselves. See how many you can find while reading.