Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

Overview

A riveting historical narrative of the heart-stopping events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the first work of history from mega-bestselling author Bill O'Reilly

 

The anchor of The O'Reilly Factor recounts one of the most dramatic stories in American history—how one gunshot changed the country forever. In the spring of 1865, the bloody saga of America's Civil War finally comes to an end after a series of increasingly harrowing battles. President ...

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Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever

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Overview

A riveting historical narrative of the heart-stopping events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the first work of history from mega-bestselling author Bill O'Reilly

 

The anchor of The O'Reilly Factor recounts one of the most dramatic stories in American history—how one gunshot changed the country forever. In the spring of 1865, the bloody saga of America's Civil War finally comes to an end after a series of increasingly harrowing battles. President Abraham Lincoln's generous terms for Robert E. Lee's surrender are devised to fulfill Lincoln's dream of healing a divided nation, with the former Confederates allowed to reintegrate into American society. But one man and his band of murderous accomplices, perhaps reaching into the highest ranks of the U.S. government, are not appeased.

In the midst of the patriotic celebrations in Washington D.C., John Wilkes Booth—charismatic ladies' man and impenitent racist—murders Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre. A furious manhunt ensues and Booth immediately becomes the country's most wanted fugitive. Lafayette C. Baker, a smart but shifty New York detective and former Union spy, unravels the string of clues leading to Booth, while federal forces track his accomplices. The thrilling chase ends in a fiery shootout and a series of court-ordered executions—including that of the first woman ever executed by the U.S. government, Mary Surratt. Featuring some of history's most remarkable figures, vivid detail, and page-turning action, Killing Lincoln is history that reads like a thriller.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Bill O'Reilly anchors the highest-rated U.S. cable news show and has written several bestsellers, but this labor of love is his first book on American history. For a subject, this Civil War era buff selected perhaps the most dramatic episode in our national annals: the April 1865 assassination of Abraham Lincoln. To this sudden unfolding catastrophe, O'Reilly and historian co-author Martin Dugard lend a vivid sense of the new euphoria of post-war Washington suddenly broken by the first presidential assassination and the frantic hunt of identify and capture his killers. History that reads like a thriller.

Publishers Weekly
Political commentator O’Reilly and coauthor Dugard (Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingston) take on the “most spectacular assassination conspiracy in the history of man” in the form of a thriller in this rendition of Lincoln’s murder. Ponderous foreshadowing and innuendo produce a tedious read, even as they enable the authors to resurrect a theory that secretary of war Stanton was involved in the conspiracy to kill the president, vice-president, and secretary of state. They concede the contention has been “repudiated and dismissed by the vast majority of trained historians,” and yet allude to it frequently. Inaccuracies (e.g., ignoring a 2010 study of King Tut’s mummy showing he died of disease, not assassination) and anachronisms (e.g., referring to Grant’s “photograph” in newspapers although until the 1880s only engravings were possible) mar the account. Well-documented and equally riveting histories are available for readers interested in Lincoln’s assassination; this one shows how spin can be inserted into a supposedly “no spin American story.” B&w photos and maps. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews

Cable-news talking head O'Reilly (Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama, 2010, etc.) and historian Dugard (To Be a Runner, 2011, etc.) serve up a sensational, true-crime account of one of the most shocking murders in American history.

In this fast-paced narrative history, the authors recount the weeks leading up to and immediately following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.They pick up the historical thread in the waning moments of the Civil War, as two bedraggled armies attempted to outmaneuver and outlast one another.A reflective and anxious Lincoln was near the battlefront, conferring with General Grant and waiting for the fall of Richmond that would signal the last phase of the war.Meanwhile, a disgruntled Confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth, traveled around Washington, D.C., and its environs fomenting unrest among his co-conspirators. In response to the fall of the Confederacy, Booth transformed the group's longstanding kidnapping plan into a vengeful and flamboyant plot to assassinate Lincoln and several key Cabinet members. The authors profess to be writing history that reads like a thriller, and their account of Lincoln's assassination makes ample use of tricks like cliffhanger endings, hypothetical psychological insights and fictional dialogue. Yet such narrative propulsions seem hardly necessary when chronicling the rapid-fire succession of major events that occurred during those fateful weeks: several of the bloodiest battles of an already brutal war, the surrender of the Confederacy, tumultuous celebrations in the North and the Good Friday assassination of a leader who was both beloved and despised. This moment in history is already dramatic, thrilling and shocking; applying the "thriller" motif delivers on the subtitle's description of a "shocking assassination" but fails to elucidate how the authors believe this event "changed America forever."

An entertaining tale that neither adds to the vast bulk of Lincoln scholarship nor challenges the established theories of Booth's plot and the subsequent trial of the conspirators. Readers seeking a consequential thriller-like portrayal of the assassination should turn to James L. Swanson's Manhunt (2005).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250012166
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2015
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly is the anchor of The O'Reilly Factor, the highest-rated cable news show in the country. He also writes a syndicated newspaper column and is the author of several number-one bestselling books. He is, perhaps, the most talked about political commentator in the country.

Martin Dugard is the New York Times bestselling author of several books of history. His book Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone has been adapted into a History Channel special. He lives in Southern California with his wife and three sons.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter Thirty-Three

Friday, April 14, 1865

Washington, D.C.

3:30 P.M.

"Crook," Abraham Lincoln says to his bodyguard, "I believe there are men who want to take my life. And I have no doubt that they will do it."

The two men are walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, on their way back to the War Department for their second meeting of the day. Lincoln wants a short session with Stanton to discuss the fate of a Confederate ringleader who very recently made the mistake of crossing the border from Canada back into the United States. Stanton is in favor of arresting the man, while Lincoln prefers to let him slip away to England on the morning steamer. As soon as Lincoln makes his point, he aims to hurry back to the White House for the carriage ride he promised Mary.

William Crook is fond of the president and deeply unsettled by the comments.

"Why do you think so, Mr. President?"

Crook steps forward as they come upon a group of angry drunks. He puts his body between theirs and Lincoln's, thus clearing the way for the president's safe passage. Crook's actions, while brave, are unnecessary—if the drunks realize that the president of the United States is sharing the same sidewalk, they give no notice.

Lincoln waits until Crook is beside him again, then continues his train of thought. "Other men have been assassinated," Lincoln says.

"I hope you are mistaken, Mr. President."

"I have perfect confidence in those around me. In every one of you men. I know that no one could do it and escape alive," Lincoln says. The two men walk in silence before he finishes his thought: "But if it is to be done, it is impossible to prevent it."

At the War Department, Lincoln once again invites Stanton and telegraph chief Major Thomas Eckert, the man who can break fireplace pokers over his arms, to attend Our American Cousin that night. Both men turn him down once again. Lincoln is upset by their rejection, but he doesn't show it outwardly. The only indication comes on the walk back to the White House, when he admits to Crook, "I do not want to go." Lincoln says it like a man facing a death sentence.

Inside the White House, Lincoln is pulled into an unscheduled last-minute meeting that will delay his carriage ride. Lincoln hides his exasperation and dutifully meets with New Hampshire congressman Edward H. Rollins. But as soon as Rollins leaves, yet another petitioner begs a few minutes of Lincoln's time. A weary Lincoln, all too aware that Mary will be most upset if he keeps her waiting much longer, gives former military aide Colonel William Coggeshall the benefit of a few moments.

Finally, Lincoln marches down the stairs and heads for the carriage. He notices a one-armed soldier standing off to one side of the hallway and overhears the young man tell another, "I would almost give my other hand if I could shake that of Lincoln."

Lincoln can't resist. "You shall do that and it shall cost you nothing, boy," he exclaims, smiling broadly as he walks over and grasps the young man's hand. He asks his name, that of his regiment, and in which battle he lost the arm.

Only then does Lincoln say his farewells and step outside. He finds Mary waiting at the carriage. She's in a tentative mood—they've spent so little time alone in the past few months that being together, just the two of them, feels strange. She wonders if Lincoln might be more comfortable if they brought some friends along for the open-air ride.

"I prefer to ride by ourselves today," he insists. Lincoln helps her into the barouche and then is helped up from the gravel driveway to take his seat beside her. The four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage features two facing double seats for passengers and a retractable roof. The driver sits in a box seat up front. Lincoln opts to keep the roof open, then covers their laps with a blanket, even though the temperature is a warm sixty-eight degrees.

The war has been hard on their marriage. Mary is delighted beyond words to see that Lincoln is in a lighthearted mood. She gazes into her husband's eyes and recognizes the man who once courted her.

"Dear Husband," she laughs, "you startle me by your great cheerfulness. I have not seen you so happy since before Willie's death."

"And well I may feel so, Mary. I consider this day, the war has come to a close." The president pauses. "We must both be more cheerful in the future—between the war and the loss of our darling Willie we have been very miserable."

Coachman Francis Burns guides the elegant pair of black horses down G Street. The pace is a quick trot. Behind them ride two cavalry escorts, just for safety. The citizens of Washington are startled to see the Lincolns out on the town. They hear loud laughter from Mary as the barouche passes by and see a grin spread across the president's face. When a group calls out to him as the carriage turns onto New Jersey Avenue, he doffs his trademark stovepipe hat in greeting.

• • • 

Throughout the war, Lincoln has stayed in the moment, never allowing himself to dream of the future. But now he pours his heart out to Mary, talking about a proposed family trip to Palestine, for he is most curious about the Holy Land. And after he leaves office he wants the family to return to their roots in Illinois, where he will once again hang out his shingle as a country lawyer. The "Lincoln & Herndon" sign has never been taken down, at Lincoln's specific request to his partner.

"Mary," Lincoln says, "we have had a hard time of it since we came to Washington, but the war is over, and with God's blessing we may hope for four years of peace and happiness, and then we will go back to Illinois and pass the rest of our lives in quiet. We have laid by some money, and during this term we will try to save up more."

The carriage makes its way to the Navy Yard, where Lincoln steps on board USS Montauk. His intent is just a cursory peek at the storied ironclad, with its massive round turret constituting the deck's superstructure. But soon its crew mobs Lincoln, and he is forced to politely excuse himself so that he can return to Mary. Unbeknownst to Lincoln, the Montauk will soon serve another purpose.

Lincoln offers a final salute to the many admirers as coachman Burns turns the carriage back toward the White House. It's getting late, and the Lincolns have to be at the theater.

John Wilkes Booth is expecting them.

Copyright © 2011 by Bill O'Reilly

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