Saturday, February 4, 2012

Reflections: Killing Lincoln

Sarah J. Zern opines on Bill O'Reilly's and Martin Dugard's Killing Lincoln:

"I have always been fascinated by a good, real-life mystery.  Amelia Earhart, JFK, and the Russian princess Anastasia are just a few of the historical mysteries that have always intrigued me.  I had never really thought of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln as much of a mystery though.  Everyone knows that John Wilkes Booth, the crazy actor, shot Lincoln while he was in the theater watching a play.  Most people are even familiar with his shout of 'Sic semper tyrranus!'  However, after watching The Conspirator recently (interesting film by the way—not Oscar worthy, but amazingly acted) my interest in Abraham Lincoln history was peaked.  This particular film surrounds the accusation and trial of Mary Surratt, the mother of one of the conspirators associated with John Wilkes Booth.  When my mother received this book as a Christmas present, I borrowed it as soon as I could.

The book is split into thirds.  The first section gives you the history of the final days of the Civil War.  This is very relevant because Lincoln’s assassination was literally on the heels of the Union’s victory.  Now, when I say relevant, I mean it makes sense that it was included.  However, it was included a little too much in my opinion.  After fifty or so pages, I was completely over it.  Not to diminish the historic and horrifying events of our nation’s bloodiest battle, but I had picked this book up to learn about Lincoln’s assassination, not the last battle of the Civil War.  It was interesting, but a little too much.  In my opinion, it was included to beef up the book.

The next two sections of the book get to the 'good stuff.'  You learn the background of John Wilkes Booth and the many people he lured in to assassinate the president.  Booth’s first plan was actually to kidnap President Lincoln and smuggle him down to the Southern states, where he would be held accountable for his 'crimes' against the Confederacy.  Mary Surratt’s son John was initially involved in the kidnapping conspiracy, but it is unclear if he was ever privy to Booth’s insane Plan B.  In any case, this part of the book is fascinating to me.  Lots of cool facts and lots of loose ends that no one has ever been able to fully tie up.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in history and a good look into the mind of one very crazy man.  There were so many interesting little details I had never heard about Lincoln and some of the ironies surrounding his death.  I don’t want to give away any of the details, but I assure you this book is worth the read to get them!  If you can get through the first section, which again is very interesting, just not super relevant to Lincoln’s assassination, you will find a very enjoyable read."

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