The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history -- the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin 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.
At the very center of this story is John Wilkes Booth, America's notorious villain. A Confederate sympathizer and a member of a celebrated acting family, Booth threw away his fame and wealth for a chance to avenge the South's defeat. For almost two weeks, he confounded the manhunters, slipping away from their every move and denying them the justice they sought.
Based on rare archival materials, obscure trial transcripts, and Lincoln's own blood relics, Manhunt is a fully documented work, but it is also 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.
Swanson has taken a piece of history and presented it as an action-adventure story seen through the eyes of the hunters and the hunted - and quite a story it is too! He cuts through the overwhelming weight of history to focus solely on the hour-by-hour events immediately before Lincoln's assassination, and the 12-day chase following it (with a short discussion at the end covering the trials of the four co-conspirators and the post-assassination lives of those caught up in the chase). (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
Nearly 141 years later, the body of literature about Lincoln's death is immense and seemingly exhaustive. Yet James L. Swanson's Manhunt has found a reasonably new angle from which to approach its material ... he has successfully streamlined the assassination's aftermath into an action-adventure version of these events. He makes Manhunt very accessible and infuses it with high drama.
... the story is shot through with breathless, vivid, even gory detail. With a deft, probing style and no small amount of swagger, Swanson has crafted pure narrative pleasure, sure to satisfy the casual reader and Civil War aficionado alike.
Booklist - Gilbert Taylor
Artfully arranging Booth's flight with the frantic federal dragnet that sought him, Swanson so tensely dramatizes the chase, capture, and killing of Booth that serious shelf-life (plus a movie version starring Harrison Ford) awaits his account of the assassination.
Ably researched and seamlessly written, this engrossing book is recommended for all Civil War and Lincoln collections-and all libraries.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
James Swanson has written a terrific narrative of the hunt for Lincoln's killers that will mesmerize the reader from start to finish just as the actual manhunt mesmerized the entire nation. It is a triumphant book.
Brilliant! Absolutely haunting. The medical, investigative and historical details of Lincoln's assassination make you feel as if you were there, watching every second of John Wilkes Booth's cunningly calculated violence and a great president's inevitable and horrific death. Swanson's amazing account places you in the room as Lincoln lies dying and carries you across the countryside as Booth escapes. This historical book is almost impossible to put down.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Glenda York Excellent recounting of historic event James Swanson makes the hunt for Lincoln's killer read like a fast paced novel. He makes history come alive for the casual reader as well as giving the history buff a good read as well. After reading his book I dug out all the supplementary... Read More
Booth's father, Junius Brutus Booth, emigrated from England in 1821 and
quickly established himself as one of the great actors of the day. Most of
his children were born out of wedlock, and most followed him onto the stage.
John Wilkes Booth started his career in 1855 in Baltimore, and then in
Philadelphia. Initially, he didn't show promise but in 1858 he moved to
Richmond, Virginia where he became more confident as an actor and grew popular with audiences.
He temporarily enlisted in the Confederate army in 1959 in order to witness the
hanging of abolitionist John Brown - afterwards he returned to Richmond and was
discharged. He did not fight in the Civil War (apparently having promised
his mother that he would not join the Confederate army). However, according to
some reports he was actively engaged in smuggling medical supplies to
He left the stage in 1864 to concentrate on his oil investments (bought from his
earnings as an actor, at the height of his career he earned $20,000 a year) but
turned over his...
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