Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination: The Untold Story of the Actors and Stagehands at Ford's Theatre

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Overview


April 14, 1865. A famous actor pulls a trigger in the presidential balcony, leaps to the stage and escapes, as the president lies fatally wounded. In the panic that follows, forty-six terrified people scatter in and around Ford’s Theater as soldiers take up stations by the doors and the audience surges into the streets chanting, “Burn the place down!”

This is the untold story of Lincoln’s assassination: the forty-six stage hands, actors, and theater workers on hand for the ...

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Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination: The Untold Story of the Actors and Stagehands at Ford's Theatre

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Overview


April 14, 1865. A famous actor pulls a trigger in the presidential balcony, leaps to the stage and escapes, as the president lies fatally wounded. In the panic that follows, forty-six terrified people scatter in and around Ford’s Theater as soldiers take up stations by the doors and the audience surges into the streets chanting, “Burn the place down!”

This is the untold story of Lincoln’s assassination: the forty-six stage hands, actors, and theater workers on hand for the bewildering events in the theater that night, and what each of them witnessed in the chaos-streaked hours before John Wilkes Booth was discovered to be the culprit. In Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination, historian Thomas A. Bogar delves into previously unpublished sources to tell the story of Lincoln’s assassination from behind the curtain, and the tale is shocking. Police rounded up and arrested dozens of innocent people, wasting time that allowed the real culprit to get further away. Some closely connected to John Wilkes Booth were not even questioned, while innocent witnesses were relentlessly pursued. Booth was more connected with the production than you might have known—learn how he knew each member of the cast and crew, which was a hotbed of secessionist resentment. Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination also tells the story of what happened to each of these witnesses to history, after the investigation was over—how each one lived their lives after seeing one of America’s greatest presidents shot dead without warning.

Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination is an exquisitely detailed look at this famous event from an entirely new angle. It is must reading for anyone fascinated with the saga of Lincoln’s life and the Civil War era.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Dr. Bogar's scholarship is original and impeccable. With stunning clarity, this vivid narrative shines a light into the shadows and behind the scenes of the most resonant crime in American history. Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination is an indispensable resource for understanding the width, breadth and scope of the tragedy at Ford's Theatre."
—Erik Jendresen, writer/producer of Killing Lincoln and Band of Brothers

"Just when we thought there was nothing new to learn about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre comes this important book by theater historian Tom Bogar. It brings the actors and actresses of Ford’s Theatre finally—and fully—to life. In a masterpiece of skillful research and synthesis, Bogar immerses us in one of the most dramatic moments in American history while answering questions we thought were unanswerable. A definitive treatment."
—Terry Alford, author of Fortune's Fool: The Biography of John Wilkes Booth and John Wilkes Booth: A Sister's Memoir

"Thomas A. Bogar’s exemplary, balanced, and innovative investigation of the traumatic event of April 14, 1865 at Washington’s Ford’s Theatre will quickly become an essential study among the plethora of books on Lincoln’s assassination. Yet unlike previous tomes that often focus on various conspiracy theories, Lincoln and his killer, actor John Wilkes Booth, take something of a backseat to the forty-six actors, managers, and stagehands present that night in Bogar’s original perspective. Meticulously researched and documented, written in a lively and engrossing narrative style, this unique book presents the reader with a vivid and engrossing examination of the impact the assassination had on each of those present backstage or, in the case of the manager, closely involved, with the performance that fateful evening. Bogar follows each of the forty-six from their activities that day to their deaths, tantalizingly noting controversies and questions still unanswered. Even the most ardent of Lincoln assassination addicts will find much to savor and learn in this terrific book."
—Don B. Wilmeth, editor of The Cambridge Guide to American Theatre and coeditor of The Cambridge History of American Theatre; editor of the series, Palgrave Studies in Theatre&Performance History

"Though many books have been written about the Lincoln assassination, many gaps in the story remain. One of the most obvious of these surrounds the people who worked at the scene of the crime—the actors, managers, and stage crew of Ford's Theatre in Washington. Being acquainted and, in some cases, close to the assassin, they were potential suspects in the case. Some were arrested in the aftermath of the shooting, and one was convicted on the strength of divided testimony from his colleagues. Each survived the experience and moved on with their lives. A few continued their careers on the stage, but most faded into oblivion. Now, with the publication of this marvelous book, Professor Bogar has brought those forty-six important characters back into the spotlight. In doing so, he clears away a century and a half of folklore and mythology, and reminds us how even the minor figures have fascinating stories to tell. They were there, they saw it all, and now at last, their stories will be heard. This is long overdue."
—Michael Kauffman, author of American Brutus

"By uncovering the stories of the largely anonymous actors, managers and stagehands whose lives were changed forever at Ford's Theater, Tom Bogar has found a fresh and exciting angle on the events of April 1865. This is a fascinating account, and an important piece of research."
—Daniel Stashower, author of The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War

"Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination is a must read for anyone interested in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination or history in general. Author Tom Bogar has accomplished something no other author has: he has put a face to the names of so many people other authors only mention in passing (or not at all). Finally all these folks have been brought to life. The effect the assassination had on the lives of the Ford’s Theatre employees and actors is ignored in the standard Lincoln assassination books. For the first time an author has researched the lives of all these overlooked people. It’s difficult to call any Lincoln assassination book unique as there are over 120 of them; but Tom Bogar’s book is indeed a unique addition to Lincoln assassination lore."
—Roger Norton, founder/moderator, Lincoln Discussion Symposium and Abraham
Lincoln Research Site

"Most Lincoln assassination books follow the well-documented trail of Booth into Maryland and Virginia, repeating often-told stories. Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination stays behind at Ford’s Theatre, giving an old tale a new, fresh focus that other historians missed for the past 150 years."
—Clint Johnson, author of A Vast and Fiendish Plot: The Confederate Attack on New York City

"History tells us that the Lincoln Assassination amounted to more than the work of lone gunman John Wilkes Booth. Tom Bogar shows us in this revealing and riveting book just how much more. Bogar has fleshed out stunning details involving more than a few suspects who were inside Ford’s Theater that fateful night—along with other never-before-seen primary source material. Highly recommended."
—Marc Leepson, author of Flag: An American Biography, Saving Monticello, Desperate Engagement and Lafayette: Idealist General

Library Journal
11/15/2013
With Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox bringing an end to the Civil War, an undercurrent of unrest ran through the nation's capital. John Wilkes Booth had performed at Ford's Theatre many times and was well known among those preparing to perform Our American Cousin for a crowd that was to include President Lincoln on Friday, April 14, 1865. The question of Booth's influence upon and collaboration with his theater friends at Ford's and the effect of his outrageously defiant act on the rest of their lives is the subject of this book. As Bogar (American Presidents Attend the Theatre) follows 46 actors, stagehands, and managers, mostly from Ford's stock company, from this infamous day until the end of their lives, readers gain a fascinating view not only of the assassination but of these decades of theater history. As in Timothy Good's We Saw Lincoln Shot, the story relies on eyewitness accounts, but instead of being from the perspectives of the theatergoers, the tragic event is now told from new angles. Were those around the theater who had strong secessionist sentiments complicit in the plot to kidnap or assassinate the president? Why were there so many conflicting accounts? Was there a government conspiracy? VERDICT General readers of either U.S. theater history or the Lincoln assassination will gain new insights from this dramatic and different narrative of this tragedy.—Barbara Ferrara, Chesterfield Cty. P.L., VA
Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-23
A convoluted detective story regarding the night of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. What will strike modern readers while spooling through this complex account of the details of employee whereabouts at Ford's Theatre during the hours leading up to the assassination is how shockingly little security there was and how much everybody in the company had to drink. Maryland-based theater director, teacher and author Bogar (American Presidents Attend the Theatre: The Playgoing Experiences of Each Chief Executive, 2006, etc.) displays enormous knowledge of theater craft and players' repertoire, such as that by featured actors Laura Keene and her company starring in Our American Cousin on that particular night, a corny comedy that was a great favorite of Lincoln's. John Ford, owner and manager of the theater, had several theaters in the works, in Richmond, Baltimore and Philadelphia, and was known for his antipathy to the Union as well as his showcasing of promising talent John Wilkes Booth in numerous classical roles (Booth's pro-Union brother Edwin avoided playing at Ford's). Not only was the theater suspected as a "hotbed of spies and seditious plots," but Booth was allowed free range of the place, picking up his mail, loafing about during performances and between stints at neighboring bars. On this Good Friday, the president's party was to include Mrs. Lincoln and General and Mrs. Grant (although the Grants ended up not attending), throwing the theater into a tizzy of excitement and preparation--e.g., procuring furniture for the presidential box and selecting special music. Bogar painstakingly rehearses each and every actor, manager or stagehand, many of whom knew Booth well, for a run-through of the horrendous shooting and escape and delineates how individual versions varied hugely and would determine important legal consequences in a court of law. Detail-dizzying, creaky and sometimes absorbing.
From the Publisher
"Dr. Bogar's scholarship is original and impeccable. With stunning clarity, this vivid narrative shines a light into the shadows and behind the scenes of the most resonant crime in American history. Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination is an indispensable resource for understanding the width, breadth and scope of the tragedy at Ford's Theatre." —-Erik Jendresen, writer/producer of Killing Lincoln and Band of Brothers
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781621570837
  • Publisher: Regnery Publishing, Inc., An Eagle Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 11/4/2013
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 155,306
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas A. Bogar has taught theatre for nearly forty years. Currently a professor at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, a judge for Washington, D.C.’s Helen Hayes Theatre Awards, and a consultant for the American Council on Education, he is also the author of John E. Owens (2002), American Presidents Attend the Theatre (2006), and numerous journal articles. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 20, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    BACKSTAGE AT THE LINCOLN ASSASSINATION: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE

    BACKSTAGE AT THE LINCOLN ASSASSINATION: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE ACTORS AND STAGEHANDS AT FORD'S THEATRE by Thomas A. Bogar is an interesting History set during the Civil War era. April 14,1865 was the date the "shot was heard around the theate". This is the date President Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre. This is the untold story....

    This is the day lives where changed forever, both on stage and off. A true-life thriller. Mr. Bogar shines the light on many questions about this date, April 14. With his research Mr. Bogar has stunning details involving more that Booth's involvement in the assassination, there where more than a few suspects both inside and outside the Ford Theatre on that fateful day in history.

    There have been many books written on this topic, but few if any written on the actors, and stagehands who where present at Ford's Theatre. I was held spell-bound with this knowledge, the facts, and the historical research in writing such an undertaking. Well done! I would highly suggest this title, if your are a history buff, enjoy Civial War history, and/or the history of the assassination of President Lincoln. A new and fresh look at the "shot heard around the theatre". Received for an honest review from the publisher.
    RATING: 4.5
    HEAT RATING: NONE

    REVIEWED BY: AprilR, courtesy of My Book Addiction and More

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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