“Killing Lincoln” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard


First a note to Bill… it’s CAV-alry, not CAL-vary.  Grrrr…

The story of the Lincoln assassination is pretty incredible.  Lots of little things came together which permitted it to happen, not the least of which Booth, a famous actor, finding out that Lincoln would be attending Ford’s Theatre, where he was well known and basically had his run of the place.  Lincoln kind of suspected his end would come violently for some time; it actually is kind of miraculous that he lasted throughout the war, given his generally lax protection and personal disregard for security.  Seems like he had a fatalistic attitude – if it happens, it happens; no use hiding from it.  Maybe the Confederate Secret Service had too much Southern gentlemanly honor to really plan the President harm — even Booth himself, in the pay of the CSS at one point, was initially planning a kidnapping before plans got more desperate.

Some interesting things brought out in this book were the role of Lincoln’s bodyguard (a drunk/scalawag who left his post), and the connection between Lafayette Baker and Edwin Stanton.  Stanton could have called on anybody to lead the investigation for Lincoln’s killer, but he picked Baker.  Some conspiracy theorists think that both Baker and Stanton were in on the plot with Booth, and Stanton wanted another inside man to prevent any leaks.   The “18 missing pages” from Booth’s diary fall into this line — must be a bit excised by Baker or Stanton, right?

Apparently the theories are not really accepted at all.  For one thing, apparently there were quite a few more than 18 pages missing from the diary.  I could definitely imagine Booth deleting personal entries and leaving only a carefully worded portrayal of recent events that he wanted posterity to have.  Maybe it took him a draft or two to get everything “just right.”  He had several days hiding out in the swamps of Maryland to work on the composition; it is not unlikely that such a narcissistic personality would constantly revise his last sounding board to the general public.

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