"They Have Killed Papa Dead!": The Road to Ford's Theater, Abraham Lincoln's Murder, and the Rage for Vengeance

( 13 )


The assassination of Abraham Lincoln is a central drama of the American experience. Its impact is felt to this day, and the basic story is known to all. Anthony Pitch’s thrilling account of the Lincoln conspiracy and its aftermath transcends the mere facts of that awful night during which dashing actor John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in the head and would-be assassin Lewis Payne butchered Secretary of State William Seward in the bed of his own home. “They Have Killed Papa Dead!” transports the reader to ...

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The assassination of Abraham Lincoln is a central drama of the American experience. Its impact is felt to this day, and the basic story is known to all. Anthony Pitch’s thrilling account of the Lincoln conspiracy and its aftermath transcends the mere facts of that awful night during which dashing actor John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in the head and would-be assassin Lewis Payne butchered Secretary of State William Seward in the bed of his own home. “They Have Killed Papa Dead!” transports the reader to one of the most breathtaking moments in history, and reveals much that is new about the stories, passions, and times of those who shaped this great tragedy.
Virtually every word of Anthony Pitch’s account is based on primary source material: new quotes from previously unpublished diaries, letters and journals – authentic contemporary voices writing with freshness and clarity as eyewitnesses or intimate participants – new images, a new vision and understanding of one of America’s defining moments. With an unwavering fidelity to historical accuracy, Pitch provides new confirmation of threats against the president-elect’s life as he traveled to Washington by train for his first inauguration, and a vivid personal account of John Wilkes Booth being physically restrained from approaching Lincoln at his second inauguration. Perhaps most chillingly, new details come to light about conditions in the special prison where the civilian conspirators accused of participating in the Lincoln assassination endured tortuous conditions in extreme isolation and deprivation, hooded and shackled, before and even during their military trial. Pitch masterfully synthesizes the findings of his prodigious research into a tight, gripping narrative that adds important new insights to our national story.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If not the definitive story of the assassination and the events before and after, then the one that readers should turn to first."— Chicago Sun-Times

"If you're ever in Washington D.C., take a moment to go on a Lincoln assassination walking tour with historian Anthony Pitch. It's not grim, and you'll learn plenty by understanding just how tiny the capital was – and how near the major players were to each other – on the day Lincoln was shot. The next best thing to being there is reading Pitch's 'They Have Killed Papa Dead!': The Road to Ford's Theatre, Abraham Lincoln's Murder, and the Rage for Vengeance. He writes about the desperate efforts to protect the president, who was always in danger, plus the devastating grief and cruel injustice that came after Lincoln’s death." — Christian Science Monitor
"A study of burning focus and intimate depth.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Anthony S. Pitch's "They Have Killed Papa Dead!" is a special book that will surely serve as a benchmark in the vast Lincoln-related lore. . . . Pitch's book is riveting because of exquisitely detailed research, a fast-paced narrative that is evocative in depicting the personalities and places central to understanding Booth's original plan to kidnap the president. . . The reader is kept so close to the details of the events described as to feel more like a close observer than an armchair reader 145 years later. . . . Pitch's masterful and highly readable account is a significant addition to the vast Lincoln record and a fascinating introduction for the lay reader to the complexities of this searing chapter in American history." — H-Net Reviews

"This is an intense, vivid and moving portrayal of a family (and a country) brutally deprived of its leader." — Chicago Tribune

"This is history as it should be written – compelling, gritty and up close & personal. - David Lee Poremba, The Past In Review

"Papa delves into the fevered world of John Wilkes Booth. Possessing the looks of a matinee idol, Lincoln's assassin exerted a Charles Manson-like grip on his co-conspirators. Papa races along through the manhunt, the trials, the executions. A treat for the Lincoln fanatic." — USA Today 

"A meticulously researched narrative of the Lincoln assassination, from the conspiracy and murder through the ensuing manhunt and trial. . . . Pitch turns the tragedy into a great American true-crime story." — Entertainment Weekly

"Pitch's energetic narrative will be highly popular." — Booklist

"No reader will come away unmoved, even at this distance, by anguish about [Lincoln's assassination]. . . . a real page-turner about real history." — Publishers Weekly

“Aches with sadness and pulses with page-turning excitement . . . a perfect storm of a book.” – Harold Holzer, co-chair, U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and winner of a Lincoln Prize 

“So well written and researched that it will add greatly to our knowledge of Lincolniana.” – Dr. Wayne Temple, Deputy Director of the Illinois State Archives and author of many books on Lincoln

“What, another book on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln? What more can be said about the regicide of our greatest President? Actually, Anthony Pitch's beautifully written narrative stands on its own as a splendid contribution to the subject. It is told by an author who has an intimate knowledge of all the sites related to the assassination and the trials that followed.”  – Frank J. Williams, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and founding Chair of The Lincoln Forum

Michael F. Bishop
Pitch flourishes his discoveries with evident pride, and though they do not alter the outline of a now-familiar story, "They Have Killed Papa Dead!" is a worthy contribution to the vast literature on Lincoln. All who write about the life and death of the 16th president face the challenge of originality, and Pitch by necessity covers old ground, but like any good tour guide he excitedly points out sights along the way. His prose is almost tactile in its evocation of place
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Small details often clog a narrative, but here they fill out the tale of one of the most consequential events of American history-the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. While Pitch (The Burning of Washington) relies somewhat too heavily on hearsay reports of conversations that no one can fully credit, he has mined every resource, read every book, and turned up some documents that had escaped others. More important, he's found new evidence that Lincoln was under genuine threat as early as the eve of his first inauguration, not just after his second one. The result is a fast-moving telling of the multiple plots on Lincoln's life, the implementation of the successful one, its complex aftermath and the way it threw the nation into deep mourning and despair. No reader will come away unmoved, even at this distance, by anguish about the event. The author elicits our feelings for even the plotters in captivity and on the scaffold. A real page-turner about real history. Illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586421625
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press
  • Publication date: 11/17/2009
  • Pages: 560
  • Sales rank: 792,908
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony S. Pitch is the author of a number of books including The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814, a selection of the History Book Club and winner of the Arline Custer Memorial Prize and Maryland Historical Society’s annual book award. He has been featured on outlets ranging from NPR to The History Channel to C-Span to Fox News and is a highly sought-after public speaker. A former journalist in England, Africa, and Israel, Pitch has been a broadcast editor for the Associated Press and a senior writer for US News and World Report’s Books division. He lives in a Washington, DC, suburb.

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Table of Contents

Preface xv

1 "Lincoln Shall Not Pass through Baltimore Alive" I

2 A Presidential Envelope Marked "Assassination" 27

3 "An Excellent Chance to Kill the President!" 42

4 "The Last Speech He Will Ever Make" 74

5 "Like Banquo's Ghost, It Will Not Down" 95

6 "The President Is Shot!" in

7 A Singular Night of Horrors 123

8 "They Have Killed Papa Dead!" 133

9 An Autopsy and Embalming in the White House 160

10 A Visceral Preference for Vengeance 164

11 "I Am Right in the Justness of My Cause" 174

12 Escape in the Dead of Night 184

13 "Betrayed into the Hands of the Government" 191

14 "Keep an Eye on Mrs. Surratt's House" 201

15 "We Know as Much of Your Operations as the Almighty" 215

16 A Funeral Surpassing All Others in Solemnity 224

17 Escape 233

18 "You Must Get Him Across" 249

19 "I Don't Want to Know Anything About You" 264

20 "I Am Worth Just $175,000 to the Man Who Captures Me" 274

21 "Tell My Mother I Die for My Country" 284

22 A Secret Burial at Midnight 294

23 "What My Imagination Pictured the Inquisition to Have Been" 302

24 Weeks of Deprivation and Solitude 318

25 "The Trial Concluded at Last" 337

26 "The Posse Comitatus of the Court Is Not Able to Overcome Armies" 343

27 "I Could Have Jumped upon the Shoulders of Each as They Hung" 361

28 "A Perfect Hell" 367

29 "Why This Flight, and Why This Concealment?" 374

Epilogue: The Scramble for Rewards 397

Acknowledgments 401

Notes 407

Selected Bibliography 469

Index 483

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Must Read for Lincoln Aficionados!

    Even though Lincoln's assassination has been widely discussed this is one title you want to add to your collection. Pitch's account is well-researched in detailing Lincoln's murder.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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