Sunday, November 18, 2007

Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson

As the more clever among you may have noticed, I have a great fondness for Abraham Lincoln. My wife being the dear heart that she is, bought me Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson for Christmas or my birthday last December, and wham - bam, just like that, I picked it up and read it 11 months later. What a great read, particularly for you non-history types. Swanson writes with a light, very readable style that brings immediacy and familiarity to a time and place most of us can only imagine. He incorporates many primary sources in the form of actual quotes from the various parties involved and meticulously documents a tumultuous period in our Republic's history.

Since high school I have maintained a Jeopardy! contestant's knowledge of the Civil War and Lincoln's assassination. What I didn't realize and what this book brings out so well is how immediate everything was. Basically poor Honest Abe was finally able see a day when the war could reasonably be expected to end. Abraham and Mary Todd were just beginning to come out of the depression from losing their beloved boy Willie who died at age ten three years before. They go for a carriage ride and a play as couple and some hate filled bastard shoots him in the head from behind.

Swanson brings up an interesting "what if ?". Lincoln was six foot four and probably the toughest man to ever be president. Booth was five foot seven or eight and soft as the proverbial shite. Had Boothe's one shot muzzle loading derringer failed, even though Booth still had a Bowie knife back up, Lincoln would have wrung his scrawny rebel neck. If only.

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