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The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln
     

The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln

3.5 30
by Kate Clifford Larson
 

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The true story of Mary Surratt, a shadowy figure behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln-and the first woman executed by the federal government

Overview

The true story of Mary Surratt, a shadowy figure behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln-and the first woman executed by the federal government

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mary Surratt was a Washington, D.C. tavern operator who was hanged for her role in the Abraham Lincoln assassination conspiracy. At the time of her speedy military tribunal and swift execution, Surratt's predicament generated considerable public debate about Southern resistance, Northern vengeance, and gender. History buffs will be enlightened by Larson's findings about the scope and scale of Confederate covert activity in the waning days of the Civil Wars. Laural Merlington does not get the opportunity to sink her teeth into the complicated human drama until rather late in the proceedings. Her portrayal of the emotionally-charged interactions between Surratt and her fragile young-adult daughter demonstrates her range as a performer, but such interludes prove rather fleeting. Larson's narrative remains tied to documentation and court transcripts, so listeners hoping for a full-blown 19th Century soap opera will need to turn elsewhere. A Basic Books hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 7).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Larson (history, Simmons Coll.; Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero) makes a compelling argument that Mary Surratt was deeply involved in the plot to kill Lincoln. Reexamining the testimony of the principals in the plot and of contemporary observers and sifting out the many myths and misrepresentations as to the extent of the conspiracy to kill the President and other prominent leaders, Larson shows that Surratt and her son were tied to Confederate spy operations, intimate with John Wilkes Booth's purpose and planning, and, in Surratt's case, a direct agent in the deadly act. Larson notes that the hanging of Surratt began the doubts about her role, for it shocked conventions and ideas about Victorian womanhood, but Larson allays any reasonable doubt about Surratt's guilt in her careful recounting of the lives of the principals, the chronology and character of their associations, and the review of the court record. Larson has written a detective story that should settle the case. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.


—Randall M. Miller
Kirkus Reviews
The life and trial of the first woman to be executed by the federal government. President Andrew Johnson refused to commute the death sentence of widow and mother Mary Surratt for her role in the Lincoln conspiracy, consigning her to the gallows as the one who "kept the nest that hatched the egg." Already brutalized by four years of civil war and wild with rage at Lincoln's murder, the country had little sympathy for the boardinghouse keeper-that is, until her hanging. Her grisly execution shocked the nation's conscience, disturbing settled notions about feminine decorum. Was her trial a sham? Was her conviction a result of anti-Catholic bias? Was she wrongly turned in by witnesses looking to diminish their own intimacy with her co-conspirators? Larson (History/Simmons Coll.; Bound For the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero, 2003) clearly establishes that "Mary Surratt was not only guilty, but was far more involved in the plot than many historians have given her credit for." Born in Maryland, Mary Jenkins converted early to Catholicism and at 16 married 26-year-old John Surratt, an abusive alcoholic who died in 1862, leaving her a townhouse on H Street in Washington, D.C. Through her son John Jr., a Confederate courier, she met the charismatic John Wilkes Booth. Young Surratt recruited a number of accomplices for Booth's dramatic plan, originally to kidnap, then to kill the president. At every step, it appears Surratt was deeply complicit. She ran innumerable errands for Booth, ferried weapons, hosted him and other plotters at the H Street house, covered for them at every opportunity, uttered ominous warnings to intimates about what was to happen and lied about itto investigators afterwards. Haughty and arrogant upon arrest, she remained a cool prisoner under harsh conditions. Tried before a military tribunal rather than a civil court-a controversial decision Larson appears to endorse-where rules prevented her from testifying on her own behalf and where she was ineptly represented, Surratt finally broke down under the stress. Although the author never quite brings Surratt to life, Larson settles all doubt as to the justness of the verdict against this most unlikely criminal. An unusual look at the conspiracy to kill Lincoln from the perspective of the only woman plotter. Agent: Doe Coover/Doe Coover Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465024476
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
02/22/2011
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
798,647
File size:
979 KB
Age Range:
13 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Kate Clifford Larson teaches history at Simmons College. Her first book, Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero, was described as "brilliant” (Smithsonian Magazine), "astonishingly good, a better debut than any author has the right to wish for” (Dallas Morning News), and "an extraordinary achievement” (Baltimore Sun). Larson lives in Winchester, Massachusetts.

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Assassin's Accomplice 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
descendtgrayspy1863 More than 1 year ago
Written in a clear yet flowing style, Kate Larson offers us an unusual perspective of the Lincoln conspiracy. I know of no book on this subject that does not bring up Mary Surratt frequently, but I have never seen her in focuse. Rather than simply providing aid to her son, John and whatever Confederate agents who happened to be in his company; we see the real Mary Surratt. She came from a slave holding Maryland family of unwavering Confederate support. She had one son fighting for the Confederacy; another spying for them and was widowed to a husband arrested for transferring mail and military intelligence between Maryland and Virginia. The array of writings which portray her as something of a victim should check the sources of this work. She clearly knew all or most of the plot and aided it in numerous ways. After reading this book, her execution seems a logical outcome.
katknit More than 1 year ago
Author Kate Clifford Larson has had the courage to examine a historical question that still has the power to raise hackles: Was Mary Surratt guilty of conspiracy to murder the president, and if so, should she have been executed. In doing so, she has provided a valuable service in clarifying the evidence and coming down on the side of the courts. Whether or not the Lincoln assassination conspirators should have been tried by a military court is no longer the issue. Larson convincingly shows that Mrs. Surratt was an active participant in Lincoln's murder. Her age and gender, which caused considerable controversy at the time, should no longer color opinion of the outcome of her trial. Was she guilty? It appears, beyond reasonable doubt, that she was. Should she have been executed? That depends on one's opinion on the subject of capital punishment. Larson has provided a lively, objective case study based upon available documentation.
bchcat More than 1 year ago
I'm not a huge history buff, but this was one of the most informative books I have read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im not your average teen, in my wishlist of books i do have plenty of cute teen love stories, but this book is so inviting and it may be one of my top 5 on my wishlist. I only read the sample (which is only 17 pages) i found so much information. I must say Lincon had to be my favorite president...im not gunna lie he is my current wall paper lol. But this book tells you what you dont really know abaout "the first woman exicuted by the U.S. governement". It tells her story, and gives her a name...Mary Suratt. By only reading the introduction the book leaves you wondering was she innocent or guilty? There is evidence saying yes she did have a major role in killing Abraham Lincon but was she just going on her motherly instinct and protecting her son john suratt? Any loving mother can understand how hard it was for her to do the right, or wrong thing. I strongly suggezt this book to those history freaks (like me). Also a wonderfull movie to see is The Conspiritor which also tells the inyeresting and amazing story of mrs. Suratt.
L-B More than 1 year ago
It's always better to find out what really happened and not what Hollywood wants you to know.
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reader7545 More than 1 year ago
see review above
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