Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

3.9 1302
by Bill O'Reilly, Martin Dugard

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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

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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

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 to identify and capture his killers. An illustrated history that reads like a thriller; a number one bestseller; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

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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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Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever 3.9 out of 5 based on 5 ratings. 1302 reviews.
SBrizek More than 1 year ago
I like Bill O'Reilly very much. He has done the people a great service by having many who know little or nothing at all about the subject of this book induced to learn about it and perhaps to become interested in that subject in a way that never would have been possible had not HE been its author. But those folks deserved better. I am someone who knows a great deal about this subject and, as such, when reading this book, contrary to never feeling as though I could not put it down, I found myself instead periodically feeling like throwing it across the room. Why? Because of the agonizingly regular appearance of errors. Errors matter because when one comes across information which, despite years of study of a subject, appears to be new, instead of celebrating the discovery of that new information or the appreciation of having understood an old story from a new perspective because of that new information, one is left with the overriding suspicion that the new information is not new at all, but only appears to be so because it is not true. Some examples: Booth did not bore a peep hole in the wall of the hallway leading to the Presidential Box at Ford's Theater, he bore that hole in a door, a door which is there at Ford's Theater to this very day for anyone who visits the site to see for himself. Did Mr. O'Reilly visit Ford's Theater? Mr. O'Reilly concludes his account of the surrender at Appomattox by observing that Grant and Lee would never meet again, when, in fact, they met the next day and conducted follow-up surrender negotiations on horseback, and met again in 1869 when Lee visited the White House to confer with Grant after he became President. Mr. O'Reilly tells of Grant, upon returning to Washington from City Point, going over to the White House to see Lincoln and meeting with him in the Oval Office. There was no Oval Office in 1865, and there would not be one until the 20th Century. Grant met with Lincoln in Lincoln's office on the second floor of the White House where today is located the room called the "Lincoln Bedroom". Details like these are important: Why else include them in the book in the first place? When details worthy for inclusion in the book are inaccurate the inaccuracies matter when they accumulate to the point where the credibility of the entire enterprise is put at risk and the book's reliability becomes suspect.That point is reached in this book. The book needed vetting it never received, and suffers as a result. The folks who read this book and put it down having learned a story they never before knew or fully appreciated might now be inspired to learn more about that story. The regret is that Mr. O'Reilly did not do a better job of giving them the head start he probably intended for them to have in order to succeed in that worthy effort.
JohnCharlesBerry More than 1 year ago
This review is written by John Berry, author of "A Night of Horrors," a historical thriller on the 24 hours of Lincoln's assassination. O'Reilly and Dugard have written a book on the assassination that is part thriller and part history book. Their stated intent was to write "a thriller" but one that remains "unsanitized and uncompromising" in its veracity. Though the title indicates that the book will focus on the assassination itself, it actually covers a span of several months, including the weeks leading up to the day of the shooting and the months following when the conspirators were rounded up and tried. While the facts and sequences discussed in Killing Lincoln are mostly accurate, the narrative moves along quickly and breezily, which makes for a quick read. The problem for me is that the subject of the book is weighty and meaningful, but the narrative skims along the surface. While O'Reilly and Dugard touch on many themes and issues that America faced as it struggled to end the bloodiest war in our history and reinstate the rebel states, they treat none of them in depth. They touch on a few of the many conspiracies that Americans love to debate when it comes to the Lincoln (and Kennedy, for that matter) assassinations. They raise many questions or potential themes, but delve into none in great detail or with any satisfaction. Also, the authors continually narrate from the viewpoint of how events unfolded. So every action of Lincoln, in particular, are interpreted and painted with a fatalistic brush. For instance, we have this on the morning of the shooting. "Every aspect of Lincoln's early morning has the feel of a man putting his affairs in order: reading the Bible, jotting a few notes, arranging for a last carefree whirl around Washington with his loyal wife, and setting his son on a path that will ensure him a successful future. All of this is done unconsciously, of course, but it is notable." In reality, Lincoln did many of these things every morning of the war. His habit, as the authors themselves point out, is to read from the Bible daily. He often went first to his office to tend to paperwork and then downstairs for breakfast. His carriage ride with his wife and his advice to his son occur because the war was coming to an end and not because he knew it was the last day of his life. But the authors can't seem to help themselves in over-writing and over-noting how coincidental things look in the light of the assassination. The narrative is often painted with purple prose. My favorite is the opening to Chapter 32: "Two thousand years after the execution of Jesus, there are still many unanswered questions about who was directly responsible for his death and what happened in the aftermath. And so it is, on Good Friday 1865, that a series of bizarre occurrences will take place." All in all, the book proves a frustrating read for a serious historian as it never dives too deeply into issues, characters, or themes. In their attempt to write both a history book and a thriller, they don't quite achieve either. "Killing Lincoln" does have a strong narrative drive and raises conspiracy questions that will prove of interest to some readers. But I came away feeling that O'Reilly and Dugard had missed the mark and never really provided any new insight or emotion into one of the most important 24 hour periods of our country.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't have all night to list the errors in this book. Save your money and just purchase "They Have Killed Papa Dead" or "Manhunt" for accurate portrayals of the events surrounding Lincoln's assasination. I can't believe O'Reilly is touting this book on talk shows as "ALL TRUE." Just a few examples of errors....1) He states Grant and Lee never meet again after Lee surrenders at Appomatox. False - they meet the next day to go over details and also again after Grant is president. 2) Chapter 40 states that Phillip Barton Key is married to a woman and is killed by her LOVER, with whom she is having an affair. This is backwards....Phillip Barton Key is the LOVER, not the husband, although he is killed by the husband. As a side note, the husband/killer is Dan Sickles, a former Union General who is the first to use the defense of "Not Guilty by Reason of Temporary Insanity" for his murder of Key. 3) The book states Booth blocked the door with a music stand. If O'Reilly simply went to Ford's Theater, he could see the wooden stick on display RIGHT NOW that Booth used to block the door. 4) The book states that Booth drilled a hole in the door the same afternoon that he killed Lincoln, so he could view Lincoln that night before assasinating him. This is a myth that is disputed also by visiting Ford's theater. The manager had drilled the hole long before that night to be able to view all of his VIP guests to ensure they were happy. 5) The book claims the actress who cradled Lincoln's head in her lap, and thus had his blood all over her dress, was haunted by this the rest of her life. In fact, she later held parties and modeled the dress to party attendees to show it off. Even later still, she cut up parts of the dress to give away as souvenirs to her favorite relatives and friends. 6) O'Reilly describes Mrs. Lincoln wore a gray dress to the play, when in fact she wore a black taffeta dress. As stated previously, there were too many errors to detail every one in this review. It was sloppy research, if there was research at all. Well-respected non-fiction writers use footnotes, but there are none in this book. Even in history class, I had to use footnotes on papers I submitted. I was looking forward to reading this book, but was seriously disappointed!
cowpens More than 1 year ago
First off I must say I watch Mr. O Reilly from time to time. So I am not not to get him on this book. All I have heard is how great the book is. When in fact the book is full of errors. The one that set me off is found on page 97 of the book. He wrote that after Lee and Grant met at the McLean House for Lee to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia. The two would never met again... WRONG. The two met the very next day to talk about Lee helping to get Joe Johnston to surrender to Sherman. Lee said he would have to talk with President Davis. After Grant became President he sent word though friends he would like to see Lee. Seven weeks later Lee met with Grant at the White House. The two talked from about 30 minutes alone. Grant or Lee never said a word what the two talked about. I upset this was not a footnote. Because I am a great fan of Lee. Lee never allow a unkind word spoken about Grant. I wish Mr. O Reilly could get his facts right. I found many more issues un the pages that followed.I was going to give my copy to the local High School when I was finished with the book. But why give them a book with wrong facts in it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Reader1DL More than 1 year ago
Not a typical book I read, however this is a masterpiece......Informative, interesting and easy to read. Kudos to the authors who were so insightful in presenting such an event, which changed America, in a way that held my interest and make me proud that Lincoln was one of our great Presidents. Recommend this for students as well.
JBW29NC More than 1 year ago
Interesting reading but I am concerned with the amount of errors that I have identified in the first 3rd of the book actually dealing with the war. My knowledge of the assassination planning, implementation, capture and aftermath is minimal but given the obvious errors in areas where I am knowledgeable I certainly wonder at the accuracy of the last 2 sections of the book. Some examples: Pg 34 states correctly that the train cars at Amelia CH contained ammunition. Pg 37 “…. 350,000 missing rations neatly stacked in a Richmond railway siding instead of being packed on the train that Lee expected in Amelia CH. However, the authors state on Pg54 “The soldiers have endured the betrayal at Amelia Court House where box cars of food had been stolen by Confederate scavengers. If the rations in question were stored on a Richmond railroad siding, they could hardly have been stolen at Amelia CH by Confederate scavengers???? Pg 23 “At Monterrey, Grant rode into battle alongside future Confederate president Jefferson Davis.” According to Davis Biographer award winning Civil War Historian (William C Davis), there is no record the two ever met in Mexico (Jefferson Davis, The Man and His Hour pg 141. The caricature of George Gordon Meade as timid, and fearful (pg 51) are in my opinion simply inaccurate. Pg 80, Robert E Lee is stated as being a major during his Mexican War Service. His actual rank was Captain (See R E Lee Volume 1 by Douglas S. Freeman). He was brevetted to Major and Colonel as a result of his contributions in Mexico but as brevet is an honorary rank, his actual rank was Captain at that time. Pg 80 in describing the parlor of the McLean house during surrender negotiations reference is made to “Lee’s (2) aides” Lee went to Appomattox with only 1 aide (Colonel Charles Marshall) and one courier (Sgt George Tucker). All accounts with which I am familiar indicate only Marshall was present in the room.
LotsAReading More than 1 year ago
The writing was matter WHO wrote it...and it made history interesting. It detailed many events surrounding this period in history; things we aren't taught in school. Lincoln was a great president and this book tells a touching and human story of a very tragic historical event. I highly recommend reading this book! It truly made history come alive.
Kataman1 More than 1 year ago
Not since The Devil in the White City have I read a history book that gripped me from start to finish. The authors do an amazing job of transporting the reader back in time where the reader feels like they are actually there. It starts with the last days of the civil war. It describes the events in such detail and suspense that even though you know that Lee will be cornered at Appomattox, you keep thinking that maybe he will escape back into the South. I could barely believe how Lee's soldiers could have fought so fiercely with no food or sleep for days, while marching over a great distance. Some of the fights included men fighting like wild animals, using teeth and anything else. The grandeur of Lee's actual surrender is utterly amazing. Now for the conspiracy. It is told in such a way that all the way up until Booth fires the fatal shot, you are hoping that he will change his mind. The level of detail about that April 14th is so amazing that the authors had to sift through an incredible amount of research and then sort it chronolgically. Amazing! For real history buffs there are reprints of the Harper's Bazaar articles about the assasination and the hunt for Booth and the others. Had I had a book like this in College, I probably would have taken a lot more history. The people that write those droll history textbooks should take a lesson from this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not finish book. Fact checking , grammar, caused me to constantly stop reading this book. Thankful that official Lincoln historians and museums etc will not carry or sell this lazy attempt at rewriting history. Do not buy this book.
fitz58 More than 1 year ago
I actually read Killing Lincoln over one year ago, and I am only writing this review because I am tired of the microscopic analysis the book has recieved. It is a great book and 99% historically accurate, which is more than can be said of most historical novels. I know of none that are without error or dispute. I have been involved in education for over 30 years, and wish that more books were written with the free flowing prose that Killing Lincoln possesses. It would certainly make teaching the basic history of this country significantly easier and more enjoyable.
DonteenthTime More than 1 year ago
I don't think I've ever seen so many errors in a book. I had higher expectations. I'm not an O'Reilly fan anyway but this was terrible. When you distract me away from a Lincoln story with nothing but a lot of errors, you are accomplishing something. Is this a social experiment?
bedbug More than 1 year ago
Very basic. You could of gotten as much infomation off of Wikipedia.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never mind the author, if you don't like him get over yourself and if you do like him, well, get over yourself too. A very interesting book. O and Dugard tell the story of Lincoln's last days. Intertwined with what is happening out on the battlefield between Grant and Lee to tell a story true story. The use a lot of interesting stories about the principles and how the Lincoln family and the Booth family had common interests and indirect interaction. Somethings I already knew from my own research, but they found so much more that is almost mind blowing when you think a but it. I highly recommend this book to anyone who finds Lincoln and the events and personalities of interest. He includes recommendations for other reading on the subject too.
gail rhoads More than 1 year ago
I just finished this great book and I highly recommend it to everyone. I actually felt like I was in the Ford theater on the night that President Lincoln was assassinated. I was very emotional reading about the last hours of his great life. I hope everyone reads it. So worthwhile.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"killing linclon" is very hard to put down. bill o reilly a former history teacher and popular talk show host has really done his home work and research on abraham linclon and the most infamous asasination event of our life time. not only did I find so many historical events that I did not learn about in school but I found out what happened to many of the conspiraters as well as many of the patriots.I also learned alot from about linclon as a president and what his personality was like perhaps after getting to know this great president alittle better I will know what to look for in a candidate in 2012 this book would make a great gift for a friend or family member
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Killing Lincoln provides good insight into the conspiracy to kill Lincoln and others. There is very good insight into the motives, planning, and execution by John Wilkes Booth. on the other hand, this was not a page- turner. It appears that the goal was to have a book a specific length and some of the Civil War glimpses did little to add to the story. I'm also tired of books that have an addition 50 pages, or so,after the end of the novel. I'm not interested in reading that much more after I have completed the body of the book.
book-a-holicGK More than 1 year ago
Before you even get inside of this book, there is a problem with the cover. Whenever you see the first author's name much larger than the title and the second author's name even smaller, we are in trouble. Bill O'Reilly is banking on his name and reputation and it hits you in the face. Supposedly, O'Reilly used to teach history but he certainly did not check his facts. There are many inaccuracies. The writing style is sensationalistic and there's no new information. It's catalogued as an adult book but the wording seems to be geared more for young people. Don't bother with O'Reilly's book. It's really bad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that white trash like you should not have a nook!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was very excited to read this book. The assassination of President Lincoln has always fascinated me and for it to be portrayed in an interesting way seemed to be a dream come true. Bill O'Reilly stressed the fact that this was a thriller, and that it was. It was so much that it did not seem historically accurate. It was a good read. I especially enjoyed the layout of the book and the inclusion of the Civil War aspects. If you are looking for a quick thriller, this would be the book for you. However, if you are looking for a historically accurate account, look somewhere else.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book unfortunately has a lot of incorrect information about the conspirators and the role that they played. I was very disappointed that O'Reilly would publish a book  with such incorrect information as to what really took place in 1865.
Big_Jim_Sports_Camper More than 1 year ago
Honestly, we all know how the story ends, I mean it's grade school stuff, right? But this book is written in a fashion that made it read like a thriller novel. Ignore all the buffoons who are ripping on this book, it's really and truly exciting to read! I could not put it down. The only minor quibble that I have is there is a tendency to allude to future happenings at the end of many chapters-it got a bit tiring after a while. But other than that I really liked this book. I got my wife a hard cover copy (I'm a nook user) for Mother's Day and she loved it too. Say what you will about O'Reilly and his politics (even though I consider him to be rather centrist politically) the guy wrote a really good book that is really enjoyable to read. Anyone who says otherwise because of O'Reilly's Fox show is just being intellectually dishonest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The title of the book should be lar ger than the authors name. But what do you expect from the zone of Id.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
... Did it contain some small factual errors? Well, yes. But I've found similar errors in my college text books. I've also heard similar errors on Public TV documentaries. A great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How can Barnes and Noble give an accurate rating of Killing Lincoln when the same people are allowed to write the same reviews several times! Doesn't that give an inaccurate rating? I did read the book and liked it very much.