Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse

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Overview

On the morning of April 2, 1865, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, received a telegram from General Robert E. Lee. There is no more time—the Yankees are coming, it warned. Shortly before midnight, Davis fled the capital, setting off an intense and thrilling chase in which Union cavalry hunted the Confederate president. Two weeks later, President Lincoln was assassinated, and the nation was convinced that Davis was involved in the conspiracy that led to the crime. To the Union, Davis was no longer ...

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Bloody Crimes

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Overview

On the morning of April 2, 1865, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, received a telegram from General Robert E. Lee. There is no more time—the Yankees are coming, it warned. Shortly before midnight, Davis fled the capital, setting off an intense and thrilling chase in which Union cavalry hunted the Confederate president. Two weeks later, President Lincoln was assassinated, and the nation was convinced that Davis was involved in the conspiracy that led to the crime. To the Union, Davis was no longer merely a traitor. He became a murderer, a wanted man with a one-hundred-thousand-dollar bounty on his head. Davis was hunted down and placed in captivity, the beginning of an intense and dramatic odyssey that would transform him into a martyr of the South’s Lost Cause. Meanwhile, Lincoln’s final journey began when soldiers placed his corpse aboard a special train that would carry the fallen president through the largest and most magnificent funeral pageant in American history.

The saga that began with Manhunt continues with the suspenseful and electrifying Bloody Crimes. James Swanson masterfully weaves together the stories of two fallen leaders as they made their last expeditions through the bloody landscape of a wounded nation.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

This Civil War history traces two movements; one a desperate manhunt and the other, a stately, cross-country funereal process. In early April 1865, Confederate president Jefferson Davis received the telegram that he had been dreading: Robert E. Lee's armies could no longer hold back the Union attack. Left with no options, Davis packed quickly and fled Richmond on a midnight train. Now a wanted man, he began a desperate race south, attempting to outrun his pursuers. Just two weeks after that telegram, a cabal of Southern conspirators struck in Washington, killing President Abraham Lincoln. In an instant, Davis was sought not only as a traitor, but also as presumed presidential assassin. As Lincoln's funereal cortege moved slowly west to his final resting place, Northern cavalry tracked down the man they believed to be the plotter of their president's death. An unforgettable story, well-told by a respected historian.

John C. Waugh
This marvelous book is the story of President Abraham Lincoln's long journey home to Illinois following his assassination at Ford's Theater. And it is the parallel story of Confederate President Jefferson Davis's sorrowful journey into captivity after the war…these two journeys are rivetingly told, in absorbing, meticulous detail. Bloody Crimes is a book about death, but it exudes life. Drawing liberally on firsthand accounts, Swanson covers these dramatic parallel journeys day by day, shifting from one to the other in gripping counterpoint.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The disparate fates of contending presidents make an odd juxtaposition in this ungainly history of the Civil War's last gasps. Swanson recounts the April 1865 odyssey of Abraham Lincoln's funeral train as it wound through the North, intercutting it with Jefferson Davis's flight south from Richmond through a disintegrating Confederacy. The intertwined narratives lack the drama of the John Wilkes Booth saga Swanson told in his bestselling Manhunt. Lincoln's progress is a vividly described but lugubrious study in Victorian pomp, with giant hearses, trackside bonfires, choruses of white-robed young women, and huge crowds filing past the slow-moldering corpse. Davis's journey is a deluded, lackadaisical picaresque as he tries and fails to rally demoralized Southerners--his own cavalry escort pillaged the accompanying treasury wagons--until his anticlimactic capture by Union forces. Swanson works hard to make Davis a noble (no, he was not captured wearing his wife's dress, just her shawl) worthy of the Dixie-wide memorial procession with which the book closes. But Davis's story is incomparably less resonant than the martyred Lincoln's; in Swanson's best sections, outpourings of grief--Lincoln's own and those of his mourners--make for a moving evocation of wartime loss. B&w photos. (Sept. 28)
Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Swanson’s account of Lincoln’s death pageant is moving, but Davis’ flight lends the book enough suspense to drive a Hollywood thriller.. . Swanson knows how to keep his audience breathlessly entertained. It’s Davis’ surprising turn as a tragic figure in Bloody Crimes, however, that might prove most memorable.”
Associated Press Staff
“Page-turning....Swanson again creates page-turning suspense out of historical events. . . .Gripping.... Swanson has the gift to make [history] compelling.”
Douglas Brinkley
“With the publication of Bloody Crimes, James L. Swanson emerges as one of America’s greatest historians. Swanson recounts the closing drama of the Civil War with hair-raising precision and the vivid narrative drive of a top-tier novelist. A grand tour de force!”
Doris Kearns Goodwin
“James Swanson is a master storyteller. Bloody Crimes is not only a thoroughly terrific read; it is a valuable contribution to history. Swanson’s brilliant decision to weave together the final days of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis provides fresh and compelling insights on both familiar figures.”
Harlan Coben
“A haunting masterpiece. James Swanson has written a thrilling book of death and longing, of defeat and resurrection.”
Edward Steers
“A brilliant narrative that keeps the reader spellbound from beginning to end. James Swanson’s vivid style and historical accuracy are unsurpassed, and he makes the parallel journeys of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis come magically alive. I wish I had written this book.”
Vincent Bugliosi
“James Swanson is a giant. With his instant classic Manhunt, and its triumphant follow up Bloody Crimes, Swanson proves beyond all doubt that he is a master of historical true-crime epic.....Bloody Crimes is irresistibly captivating. I highly recommend it.”
Michael Burlingame
“James Swanson has done it again. Bloody Crimes is a moving, evocative trip back in time to the tumultuous spring of 1865. Swanson’s meticulous research and sparkling prose make it an essential companion to his award winning bestseller, Manhunt.”
USA Today
“Gripping — sometimes even gruesome — and heartrending.... Brilliant.”
Kirkus Reviews

The author of two books on the Lincoln assassination takes another look at the aftermath.

Swanson (Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, 2006, etc.) focuses on two chains of events from the spring of 1865: the hunt for fleeing Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and the elaborate arrangements to return Lincoln's body to Illinois for burial. Davis, informed by Robert E. Lee that his troops could no longer defend Richmond, sent his wife and their four children to safety, then followed a day later, taking his cabinet and much of the Confederate treasury with him. While details on Davis's flight are sparse, Swanson's other narrative gives him plenty of material, beginning with Lincoln's visit to fallen Richmond and following events up to the night of his assassination. The author then alternates between Davis's harried journey and the arrangements for Lincoln's funeral, the most elaborate of its time. Davis's desperate and little-documented attempt to hold his defeated country together stands in striking contrast to the painstaking planning of the national farewell to the fallen Lincoln, who was effectively elevated to the status of a national saint. Most striking is the spread of the story that Davis, when captured, was wearing women's clothing, which Swanson vigorously refutes. The latter part of the book, after Lincoln's interment in Springfield, Ill., follows Davis, first imprisoned as a traitor, then freed after two years to prevent him from becoming a martyr to the Southern cause. His subsequent career was at first rocky, as he was forced for the first time in his life to work for a living. Eventually he was able to retire, thanks to a benefactor who willed him his Mississippi home where he lived until his death in 1889. In his final years, Davis became a living symbol of the lost cause. Swanson colorfully renders both parts of his narrative, although the details of Lincoln's funeral procession become repetitious. However, Davis's later life has been largely overlooked, and this is a useful corrective.

Less dramatic than the author's previous work, but full of vigorous prose and dynamic stories about the period immediately following the end of the Civil War.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062108982
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/16/2011
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 1,003,084
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

James Swanson is the Edgar Award-winning author of the New York Times bestsellers Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer and its sequel, Bloody Crimes: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Chase for Jefferson Davis. His other books include the award-winning bestseller for young adults Chasing Lincoln's Killer. He was a recipient of a Historic Deerfield Fellowship in Early American History, and he serves on the advisory council of the Ford's Theatre Society. Swanson has degrees in history and in law from the University of Chicago and UCLA and has held a number of government and think-tank posts in Washington, D.C., including at the United States Department of Justice.

Richard Thomas, in addition to his Emmy-award winning work on The Waltons, has starred in well over 40 television series and specials, among them Roots: The Next Generation, Law and Order SVU, and The Practice; he has also starred in numerous classic and contemporary plays around the country and on the London and Broadway stage, most recently in Richard Greenbergs A Naked Girl on the Appian Way.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction

Prologue 1

1 "Flitting Shadows" 3

2 "In the Days of Our Youth" 42

3 "Unconquerable Hearts" 66

4 "Borne by Loving Hands" 98

5 "The Body of the President Embalmed!" 131

6 "We Shall See and Know Our Friends in Heaven" 160

7 "The Cause Is Not Yet Dead" 194

8 "He Is Named for You" 232

9 "Coffin That Slowly Passes" 268

10 "By God, You Are the Men We Are Looking For" 304

11 "Living in a Tomb" 333

12 "The Shadow of the Confederacy" 359

Epilogue 388

Acknowledgments 404

Bibliography 408

Notes 433

Index 449

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 75 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 76 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    terrific historical account of two presidents

    On April 2, 1865, Confederate General Lee sends a telegram to President Jefferson Davis warning him the Yankee armies were heading to Richmond. Davis immediately stopped what he was doing and fled the capital by train. The next day the North took Richmond. Over the next twelve days the Northern military intensely searched for Davis proclaimed a traitor as the Confederacy imploded under the assault.

    On the evening of April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinates President Lincoln who was attending a play at the Ford Theater in Washington DC; other by co-conspirators assaults failed to kill the intended victims. Lincoln was pronounced dead the next morning while Wilkes fled the city. As the hunt for Wilkes intensified, the funeral process of President Lincoln began on April 19 in DC and from there by train until arriving in Springfield on May 3; millions watched the procession. Davis is called a co-conspirator murderer. Ironically while Lincoln became martyred for the ages; Davis once captured became martyred for the South's Lost Cause.

    This is a fascinating comparison of the fates of two presidents in April 1865 as James L. Swanson intertwines their stories. The Lincoln segue is very passionate as the grief of mourners watching the train roll by will impact readers. The Davis segue is more exciting, but lacks the emotional intensity of the juxtaposed Lincoln piece. Enhanced by black and white photos, Bloody Crimes is a terrific historical account of two presidents although not as exhilarating as the superb Manhunt for Wilkes.

    Harriet Klausner

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 28, 2010

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    Bridget's Review

    I enjoyed this book. I wouldn't say it's one of my favorite's but it certainly held my attention. James has a way of picking a reader out of the real world and showing them a glimpse of the past. If you like the synopsis, I'm sure you'll enjoy the book.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    Highly Recommended - A MUST READ for any Civil War Buff

    James Swanson has written a masterpiece. I was glued to this book on my Nook Color from the first moment I picked it up. Mr. Swanson finely details the events of the Lincoln assassination and the search for Jefferson Davis. I am a history instructor, and was very impressed with how easy of a read that Mr. Swanson's book was to read and follow. Mr. Swanson had me in total awe of every event of those terrible days in 1865. It was absolutely amazing to me the parallel lives that both Lincoln and Jefferson lived. This book is amazing and one that every serious reader of Civil War history should read. It should be required reading in any Civil War history course. Great Job Mr. Swanson. R. Howell Harlingen, Texas

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2012

    Loved it! Must read.

    Great read for history nerds like me.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2012

    Excellent read!

    This book is engaging and informative! I love the way the author tells the stories of Lincoln and Davis the way it occurred-Davis living his life unaware of the fact that Lincoln was dead made this book particularly fascinating to me.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2012

    Excellent!

    Great read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2011

    The Title is Misleading

    This book is ideal, if you have an interest in every tiny detail of Abraham Lincoln's funeral. I found this book to be quite a drag, almost like Lincoln's endless funeral. The more interesting parts of the book involved the flight of Jefferson Davis. The title of the book sounds like it will be a thriller and it isn't.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2013

    Fascinating subject on several fronts! An excellent follow up to

    Fascinating subject on several fronts! An excellent follow up to Manhunt! Definitely a must read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Recommend it.

    It's a great read but it was also heavy handed going from the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln to the Chase for Jefferson Davis and back again.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2014

    A great read, I love how Mr Swanson tells the two stories as the

    A great read, I love how Mr Swanson tells the two stories as they are unfolding so it felt like everything was continuous.

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

    Posted October 10, 2013

    Val_Pal_101

    This is also, a VERY GOOD BOOK! James L. Swanson is a very good writer!

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

    Posted July 14, 2013

    July 14 2013

    Awsome details on this book

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