Quicklet on Martin Dugard and...

Table of Contents
Quicklet on Martin Dugard and... Table of Contents

Table of Contents

I. Background and Basics
About the Book

The Authors

Overall Summary: War, Peace, and Madness

II. Discussion and Analysis
Chapter-by-Chapter Summary and Commentary



A Noteworthy Digression




III. Key Information
Historical Figures Relevant to Killing Lincoln

Notable Terms and Definitions

Interesting Related Facts

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IV. References

Additional Reading

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Background and

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About the Book

“The man with six weeks to live is anxious. He furls his brow, as he does countless times
each day, and walks out of the Capitol Building, which is nearing completion. He is
exhausted, almost numb.”

It is a rare to find a historical work written in the present tense, but in Killing Lincoln: The
Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever, that is what Martin Dugard and
Bill O’Reilly have done. In a USA Today interview, “O’Reilly says Dugard did the research
on the Lincoln book, and ‘I wrote it. A true collaboration.’” While the book is light on
attribution, it is a compelling and fast read. O’Reilly says he “wanted [Killing Lincoln] to
read like a thriller… for people who are not particularly interested in history, and to show
what true leaders are like.”

It does indeed read like a thriller. Using the present tense gives the work immediacy and
heightens pace, but at times also feels intrusive because the subject matter so clearly
isn’t immediate today. A historical overview might be better served by the good old past
tense. Nevertheless, the book brims with conspiracy facts, touching on mysteries never
conclusively proven wrong–although they’ve also never been proven right.

Most notable of these theories is one centering on Secretary of War Edwin Stanton,
who was in possession of assassin John Wilkes Booth’s diary, thanks to the work of
private investigator Lafayette Baker. Baker was personally hired by Stanton and gave
him the diary, which he found in Booth’s hotel room. Furthermore, when Stanton finally
released the diary, 18 pages were missing, raising many an eyebrow. The Stanton theory
has, as the authors admit, been “repudiated and dismissed by the vast majority of trained

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The Authors

“Lincoln’s inaugural speech is a performance worthy of a great dramatic actor. And
indeed, one of America’s most famous thespians stands just a few feet away as Lincoln
raises his right hand. John Wilkes Booth is galvanized by the president’s words – though
not in the way Lincoln intends.”

Bill O’Reilly hosts The O’Reilly Factor, cable television’s top conservative news/opinion
program. He also serves as a lightening rod for controversy. A former high-school history
teacher, his interest in the Lincoln assassination and Civil War are easily understood, but
it is his controversial television career that serves as the backdrop against which the
flurry of negative commentary regarding the book, Killing Lincoln: The Shocking
Assassination that Changed America Forever, has occurred. In response to a Publisher’s
Weekly review that reported of the book, “Ponderous foreshadowing and innuendo
produce a tedious read,” O’Reilly responded through USA Today: “They’ve panned all my
books.” When asked why, he replied: “Politics! But I don’t want to whine… I’ve had nine
consecutive best-sellers.”

Martin Dugard is a best-selling author in his own right, having written on subjects
ranging from The Murder of King Tut (co-written with James Patterson), to The Training
Ground (Little, Brown, 2008), which told of future Civil War generals learning the art of
battle during the Mexican War. Dugard’s writing has also appeared in publications such as
Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Outside, and GQ.

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Overall Summary: War, Peace, and

“Lincoln strides purposefully back and forth, unprotected and unafraid, as vulnerable as a
man can be to sniper fire, the bombardment serving as the perfect distraction from his
considerable worries. When will this war ever end?”

Abraham Lincoln was a man racing his fate. He knew it, even as he gave his second
inaugural speech before 50,000 drenched citizens. Among them was John Wilkes
Booth, a young, handsome, famous actor who had originally planned to kidnap the
president, but instead decided to murder him, along with General Ulysses S. Grant,
Secretary of State Seward, and Vice President Andrew Johnson.

On April 1, 1865, Lincoln awaited news from Grant, whose Union Army was engaged
against General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. A succession of horrific
battles would end in Lee’s surrender when his ravaged army could no longer match the
vast Union force. Lincoln’s terms of surrender were lenient, despite calls for vengeance.

Amid Washington celebration, Lincoln became Booth’s obsession. He learned that the
President and Mrs. Lincoln would attend “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre,
one of Booth’s favorite haunts, on Good Friday. After a nerve-wracking day of
preparation, he was a coiled spring. His co-conspirators knew their roles–Lewis
Powell would kill Secretary of State Seward, George Atzerodt would kill Vice President
Andrew Johnson, while Booth shot Lincoln and Grant, who would be with the President.

To Booth’s frustration, Grant left the capitol that afternoon. But the show went on. As
Booth shot Lincoln, Powell slashed at Seward in his bed, where he was recovering from a
carriage accident. But Powell had to literally hack his way through Seward’s son,
daughter, and two others first. Amazingly, all in the house survived. Only William Bell, “a
young black servant in a pressed white coat,” who answered the door, was unhurt.

While doctors in the theater audience tried to save Lincoln, Booth escaped – after
breaking his left fibula while leaping to the stage. Still, he intentionally paused to be
recognized before fleeing. The hunt was on, but Booth planned to be headed south

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before anyone got organized. Riding the horse waiting in the alley behind the theater, he
joined David Herold in the Maryland woods. Herold had been expected to guide them
safely through Washington’s backstreets. He knew little about rural Maryland.

Booth’s pain soon forced them to stop at the home of confederate sympathizer Dr.
Samuel Mudd. An enormous manhunt was indeed underway. Secretary of War Edwin
Stanton summoned a detective he knew well to take charge of finding Booth. The
detective, Lafayette Baker, of New York, did so with stunning speed. Herold chose
surrender; Booth dug in for a fight and was shot in the neck, paralyzed from his chin
down. He soon died, robbing the American public of the chance to see him hang.

The others were rounded up. Their pretrial imprisonment was controversial. The accused
wore heavy, padded hoods that put painful pressure on their eye sockets and made
breathing difficult. They were in chains, with heavy iron balls attached at the ankles.
According to O’Reilly and Dugard, this treatment was also inflicted upon Mary Surratt,
mother of John Surratt, who had arranged meetings between Booth and Confederate
spies. Mary Surratt operated a boarding house and tavern where confederate
sympathizers gathered. One prisoner called the hoods “the torture of the bag.” Another
tried to commit suicide “by pounding his head with the ball chained to his leg.”

The verdicts came two days later: “four were hanged, with the remaining four sentenced
to prison terms.” John Surratt had fled to Europe, to be apprehended two years later. He
was returned to America, but jurors could not agree and he was set free.

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Discussion and

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Chapter-by-Chapter Summary and

“To those familiar with the city of Washington,” a member of (Lincoln’s) cavalry detail will
later write, “it was not surprising that Lincoln was assassinated. The surprising thing to
them was that it was so long delayed.”


At Lincoln’s second inaugural, the surroundings were messy as the huge crowd braved
driving rain, and Vice President Andrew Johnson embarrassed all with a “drunken, twenty-
minute ramble.” Lincoln’s heartfelt plea for reunification was an uplifting relief.

We are quickly shown the mindset of John Wilkes Booth, who impulsively lunged at Lincoln
during the speech, telling the policeman who stopped him that he had only stumbled.
There is “a most powerful evil…bearing down on Abraham Lincoln,” writes O’Reilly. Yet
events show that it was not entirely powerful. Booth killed Lincoln, but his own injury
doomed him. His fellow conspirators bungled everything else.

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Chapters One through Four

Lincoln nervously awaited word that Grant had trapped Lee’s army inside Petersburg,
forcing surrender. Grant and Lee each moved their vast armies quickly, trying to surprise
the other. Lee knew he couldn’t win in Petersburg, but escape to North Carolina and
reinforcements was possible. Lincoln went to bed, suffering horrendous nightmares.

The Battle of Five Forks quashed Lee’s idea to cut through Union lines and head south.
“The most lopsided Union victory of the war” cost Lee 2,900 men. Some of Grant’s
100,000 men drove so far behind Confederate lines, they had to stop–within sight of Lee’s
Headquarters. But Lee was lucky: the Union soldiers didn’t know what they were looking
at. Lee escaped, but Confederate retreat was slow. Grant’s cannon could have killed
hundreds crossing the Appomattox, but he humanely held fire. He would regret it. As his
forces raced to cut Lee off before he reached Amelia Court House and waiting provisions,
Grant telegraphed Lincoln, requesting a meeting.

Lincoln came, but he had “courted peril,” on the road. Assassination was common at the
end of a war, when seething losers carried out last acts of defiance. Lincoln wouldn’t bow
to such fears. If someone really wanted to kill him, he knew no security could prevent it.

After 90 minutes, the two parted ways. O’Reilly takes license in supposing they could
have sensed their “two vastly different destinies.” Lincoln returned to City Point to await
further news. “It seems to me that I have been dreaming a horrid dream for four years,
and now the nightmare is gone,” he said. O’Reilly, never bashful around ominous tag-
lines, adds: “But it’s not really gone. President Lincoln has just twelve days to live.”

Booth went to Rhode Island for a romantic getaway with his fiancee, Lucy Lambert
Hale. Booth was from a highly competitive acting family–”his father and brother eclipsed
him as actors”–and his need for paternal recognition bred anger. That anger was very
active now. His beloved Confederacy was crumbling. He seethed.

His relationship with Lucy faltered. They argued about Lincoln and the war. She was
attractive, and accustomed to the flirtatious attentions of men, which Booth hated. “One
night… he went mad at the sight of her dancing with Robert Lincoln. Whether this had

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anything to do with his pathological hatred for the president will never be determined.”

To suggest that Robert’s flirtation with Lucy Hale contributed to Booth’s lethal intentions
verges on melodrama. Manufacturing “the kind of morality tale beloved of cable news
networks: sensationalized, suggestive, and overly simplistic,” only undermines credibility.

Chapters Five through Eight

Lee’s trek to Amelia Court House was brutal. His hungry men were so afraid of surprise
attack that they sometimes fired at each-other, thinking they were shooting the enemy.
Everything hinged on reaching Amelia Court House. But when they finally did, the reality
was crushing. There was no food. Just ammunition.

Lincoln came ashore at Richmond to find the former Confederate capitol wiped away by
its own citizens, not Union guns. The freed slaves of Richmond thronged to Lincoln’s side.
He was the conquering hero who had never fired a shot. Richmond’s white population
had never thought they’d see Lincoln walk the streets of Richmond. He toured Jefferson
Davis’ office. Even sat in his chair. He had no idea where the former occupant had gone,
but planned no manhunt, no trial.

Lee was devastated by the lack of provisions at Amelia Court House. The next alternative
was another long march, 100 miles South to Danville. But only seven miles down that
road, Union soldiers blocked him. Lee took evasive action, Union cavalry hectoring his
rear guard. Lee’s cavalry countered, proving he was not done yet. The march went on,
many men literally starving to death. But a last glimmer came in a message to Lee:
80,000 rations waited at Farmville, 19 miles away.

Chapters Nine through Twelve

Here, O’Reilly is at his best, describing the parry and thrust–and political jockeying–of
armies in battle. Grant himself rode hard through central Virginia at midnight. His spies
had warned him about the food at Farmville. Beyond that was High Bridge, where Lee
could cross the river, burn the bridge, and escape to extend the war.

Grant had to personally capture Lee. His Generals seemed timid, especially General
Meade, who resented the importance of General Sheridan’s cavalry and seemed
unwilling to attack. Annoyed, Grant sent Sheridan’s cavalry to outrace Lee to Farmville,
creating the top of a pincer. Meade’s infantry was the bottom. Meade had no choice.

General Lee, utterly exhausted, knew he had to appear composed and crisp to the
bedraggled men who “would follow him into hell.” He kept General John B. Gordon to
the rear, while General Longstreet dug in at Rice Station, a crossroads on the way to

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Farmville. He would stay there until Lee’s entire army passed through.

But word that “a flying column of Union cavalry” had galloped through Rice Station
crossroads a full hour earlier spoiled Lee’s plan. They were ahead, racing to burn High
Bridge before he got across it. Lee felt he couldn’t stop them, and “for one of the few
times in his adult life,” was stumped. Longstreet was not. He sent General Rosser’s
cavalry to save High Bridge from the Union torch. Rosser relished his orders to fight to
“the last man,” and Longstreet knew it. Lee knew that if Rosser lost, the South was done.

In the book’s most exciting military passages, the tipping-point-battle for High Bridge
unfolds. Confederate artillery that had been dug-in around the bridge for months rained
fire down as Washburn’s Union Cavalry approached. Colonel Francis Washburn knew
he could personally end the war and go down in history. But a terrible sound intruded:
“the crackle of gunfire from behind him.” It changed everything.

Washburn’s 79 riders faced 1,200 Confederate horsemen. His reaction was simple: attack
fearlessly. It worked for the cavalry, but inexplicably, the infantrymen he ordered to
follow hadn’t budged. They were consequently hacked to bits. Confederate losses
numbered 100. The Union lost everyone. Lee’s escape seemed assured.

As good as it was at High Bridge , it was awful for the Rebels elsewhere. General Gordon’s
rear guard was cut off by Meade’s infantry, splitting Lee’s Army into four pieces. Cavalry
normally filled such gaps, but they were at High Bridge. Lee’s reaction was to stand his
ground at Rice Station: exactly the wrong choice. Elsewhere, General George
Custer–later famous for being equally wrong at Little Bighorn–drove a bloody wedge
through Lee’s line. A series of exchanges culminated with 2,400 Rebel casualties, and
only 600 managing to escape. General Richard Ewell surrendered to Custer, but part of
his command was beyond his control: trapped on a hillside at Sayler’s Creek. The battle
that followed was “the most barbaric and ferocious of the entire war.”

Chapters Thirteen through Fifteen

Two narrow bridges spanned Sayler’s Creek. The Confederates tried to cross, two and
three wagons at a time. It was a hopeless tangle, and one of the bridges collapsed. Then
the Union struck. The men on the wagons ran, but 4,000 Confederate Infantry–in a
shoulder-to-shoulder line two miles wide–resisted, and were pushed back over open
ground that gave no cover. Union artillery pounded. Rebel losses were stunning.

Union soldiers crossed the river. The Rebels held fire, then fired as one. The front Union
rank crumbled. The second rank broke and ran. The Confederates pursued, the Union
soldiers regrouped, and the advantage turned again. This time, Union soldiers ran up the

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hill. Out of ammunition, outmanned, Lee’s Army resorted to hand-to-hand combat.

Men used bayonets and rifle butts, biting each other ‘and rolling on the ground like wild
beasts.’ Custer charged in with his cavalry, mercilessly cutting men down. Finally, the
Confederates surrendered, raising their rifle butts into the air. “Then, shocked by the
sunken eyes and gaunt Confederate faces, some of the bluecoats shared their food.”

Mary Lincoln joined her husband at City Point, finding finding his long-standing depression
replaced by happiness. Lincoln felt even better when a telegram announced Sheridan
had counted the dead and wounded on the battlefield. “‘If the thing is pressed,’ Grant
wrote, ‘I think Lee will surrender.’”

Lee waited for what seemed like eternity. Grant had not replied to his request for a
meeting of capitulation. At first, Lee was afraid the Union would attack yet again. But
finally, after hours of uncertainty, Grant sent word that he was coming. Lee was relieved.
After Sayler’s Creek, he had known his army could fight no longer.

At the home of Wilmer McLean, a grocer “who moved to Appomattox Court House to
escape the war,” Lee arrived before Grant. A half hour later, wearing “a private’s
uniform, missing a button,” Grant walked in. At a small table, pleasantries soon gave-way
and Grant wrote the surrender agreement by hand. Lee read the amazingly lenient
terms. “The gist is simple: Put down your guns and go home. Let’s rebuild the nation
together.” It was Lincoln’s plan. The War was over. The hunger for revenge had only

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Chapters Sixteen through Nineteen

The nation’s capitol was ecstatic, and largely inebriated. Four years of Hell with 600,000
dead had ended. A crowd waited outside the White House, but Lincoln wanted a night to
savor victory. He looked out the window and saw his son, Tad, amid the amused crowd.
He came out to get Tad, and said if they wanted a speech, to “please come back
tomorrow night.” He noticed the Navy Yard brass band, and, inspired, asked them to play
“Dixie,” which he pointed out “is now our property.” The crowd loved it, singing along.

A mile away, Booth took target practice with his .44-caliber Derringer. He still planned to
kidnap Lincoln, as he’d agreed to when he met with Confederate agents in Montreal,
months before. But hadn’t the rules changed? O’Reilly attempts to dissect the assassin’’s
thinking, “a darkness… born of the entitlement that comes with celebrity.” Booth was
boastful, cruel, and dishonest. He thought the abolitionists had caused the Civil War, and
expected newly freed slaves to kill and rape their way across the South.

O’Reilly writes how Booth deeply hated his father, and, via transference of “paternal
loathing… (he hated) the nation’s father-figure, Abraham Lincoln.” He had, in fact,
already failed to kidnap Lincoln twice. Frustrated, he concocted a new plan: kidnap the
theatre-loving Lincoln during a play at a Washington Theater. His fellow conspirators
turned him down. One quit outright. Booth understood. Any kidnapping was pointless with
the war over. He knew “something decisive and great must be done.”

Further delving into ‘assumed history’–he doesn’t cite a source, here–O’Reilly writes that
Lincoln secretly believed he would die in office, regardless of what he said. But how does
one judge his thinking if not by what he said? On the one hand, Lincoln said: “I know I am
in danger, but I am not going to worry over little things like these.” On the other, he told
Harriet Beecher Stowe: “Whichever way the war ends, I have the impression that I shall
not last long after it is over.” Which was the real Lincoln? Probably both.

James Pumphrey knew 20-year-old John Surratt, the courier who had helped Booth get
funding from the Confederacy when he’d gone to Montreal. Surratt traveled often, but
contacting him was easy. His mother, Mary, ran a Washington boardinghouse and a
tavern in Surrattsville, Maryland. Her places, and Pumphrey’s stable, were safe havens

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for Booth and others of similar views.

Booth decided that his best escape route from Washington was the Navy Yard Bridge,
leading into Maryland. There, he could seek refuge, if needed, with Mary Surratt or other
sympathizers like Dr. Samuel Mudd.

Booth liked to go to Ford’s Theatre. Once a Baptist Church, it was one place in
Washington where he felt at home. His mail was delivered there, and his buggy, bought
to use when kidnapping Lincoln, was there. Rehearsal was underway for a one-night-only
performance of Our American Cousin, a play Booth knew well. He told Ned Spangler, a
carpenter and sceneshifter who did odd jobs for him, to prepare the buggy for sale.
Spangler had spent hours modifying the theater’s storage space to find room for it, but
Booth didn’t care. He was leaving town.

Chapters Twenty through Twenty-Three

Two days after Lee surrendered, Lincoln spoke at the White House. In the crowd, Booth
listened with two co-conspirators. David Herold, born and raised in Washington, D.C., had
met Booth through John Surratt. Lewis Powell, all of 20, had already been a Confederate
soldier and spy. Neither knew the plan had changed from kidnapping to assassination.

Lincoln’s speech was intentionally without flourishes. America had to expect “years of
more pain and struggle,” and there was no way to blunt the sharp edges of this fact. The
crowd began to thin-out from boredom. Booth stayed, seething at the notion of slaves
“treated as equal citizens of the United States.”

“Shoot him now,” Booth hissed, furious. “Put a bullet in his head right this instant.” Powell
had the right gun, a 14-inch navy revolver, and an often “psychotic temper” to match.
But in this crowd, he refused. O’Reilly again speculates: “It would be easy enough to grab
Powell’s gun and squeeze off a shot or two before the crowd overpowers him. But now is
not the time to be impulsive. Booth certainly doesn’t tell this to Powell. Instead he lets
Powell believe he has let Booth down.” Since no one ever got Booth’s explanation, we
cannot in fact know what he thought. What is known, according to O’Reilly, is that Booth
was planting “another seed” to prepare Herold and Powell when he said: “I’ll put him
through. By God. I’ll put him through.”

O’Reilly writes that Booth then knew he would shoot Abraham Lincoln in a theatre on
“Thursday, April 13, or, as it was known back in Julius Caesar’s time, the ides.” But Booth
couldn’t have known whether Lincoln would be at the theatre, or which theatre, at that
point in time. All he knew was that when he got the chance, he would shoot Lincoln.

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From the beginning, there were bungled attempts. Fruit baskets of poisoned apples,
pears and peaches. The “Baltimore Plot” by the Knights of The Golden Circle, to shoot
him en route to his inauguration. Threats were constant. Lincoln’s initial response,
wearing a disguise, was ridiculed. His next response: always appear utterly calm, no
matter how terrified he actually was.

Worrying in earnest began in late 1864. Confederate losses mounted, and the threats
grew darker. Access to the White House was easy. Anyone could wander the first floor.
Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay, fretted constantly about Lincoln’s safety in his own home.

One of the few times Lincoln spoke of death around Mary was after the post-surrender
speech that had so enraged Booth. He told friends about his dream ten days earlier at
City Point, while he awaited news about Petersburg. In the dream, he said: “There
seemed to be a deathlike stillness… subdued sobs, as if a number of people were
weeping… I was puzzled and alarmed… I arrived in the East Room… Before me was a
catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were
stationed soldiers who were acting as guards… ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I asked.
‘The President,’ was the answer. ‘He was killed by an assassin.’”

Though Mary was horrified and the gathered friends stunned, Lincoln laughed. “Well it
was only a dream, Mary.” He tried to soften the mood. “Don’t you see how it will all turn
out?…It was not me, but some other fellow that was killed.” No one was persuaded.

On Wednesday, April 12, Booth was mentally setting the stage for himself: in a theatre,
since Lincoln often attended plays. He would carry a knife with “‘America, Land of The
Free’ inscribed on the blade.” Immediately after the deed, he would intone “Sic semper
tyrannis,”–Thus always to tyrants–in grand Shakespearian tones.

His getaway was still vague. He would go South, where “friends, allies, and even complete
strangers” would help him to Mexico. Rumors were, General Grant would be in
Washington, and might see a play with Lincoln. Booth could kill them both. If Vice
President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward were killed as well, it
might topple the government.

He already had his fellow assassins. Powell would kill Seward in his bed, where the
Secretary was recovering from a terrible carriage accident. George Atzerodt would kill
the vice president just as Booth was killing Lincoln.

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A Noteworthy Digression

More than anywhere else, it is in Bill O’Reilly’s further ruminations on Booth’s plan that
the author treads on risky historical ground. Accusations of a greater authority other than
the Confederacy behind Booth have often surfaced. The most often mentioned,
resurrected here, was that Secretary of War Stanton was not a plot-target because he
was involved. After the assassination, Stanton had quickly hired “a shadowy figure named
Lafayette Baker,” to catch the conspirators. Earlier, Stanton had Baker organize the
“National Detective Police,” a precursor to the Secret Service.

O’Reilly writes that Baker was a “shifty character, with loyalties undefined, except for his
love of money and himself,” implicitly calling Stanton’s motives for hiring him into
question. The theory, which O’Reilly admits has been debunked by serious historians,
involves both Baker and Booth receiving “several mysterious payments and missives
involving… the mailing address: 178 1/2 Water Street, New York City. This location, quite
mysteriously, is referenced in several documents surrounding payments between the J.J.
Chaffey Company, Baker, and Booth.” O’Reilly’s conclusion is that while “no one has
discovered” why the payments were made… a telegram from the Water Street address
to a company in Chicago read: “J.W.Booth will ship oysters until Saturday 15th.”

Does this mean, as O’Reilly implies, that Booth “was involved in some kind of project that
was totally inappropriate for his skills?” Might the other oysters have been the vice
president, secretary of state, and General Grant? Would Secretary of War Edwin Stanton
have assumed the presidency under the order of succession? No. Speaker of The House
Schuyler Colfax was never even mentioned, and would have been second in line after the
vice president.

No wonder “no concrete connection (of Stanton’s involvement) has ever been proven.”
The most valuable thing to be mined from all of this is innuendo. It is, according to
Salon.com (linked above), the kind of misstep that prompted a reviewer for the National
Park Service Bookstore at Ford’s Theatre to recommend the book not be sold there.

Is any of this reason to discredit all of O’Reilly and Dugard’s book? Not at all. Most of it is
accurate and highly entertaining reading. The above is included in the interest of being…
fair and balanced.

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Booth expected the Lincolns to celebrate the city’s “Grand Illumination.” If habit meant
anything, they would attend either a play or a party. If it was a play, “the obvious choices
are either the Grover or Ford’s” theatres.

Chapters Twenty-Four through Twenty-Six

On April 13th, General Grant came to Washington with every intention of leaving again as
soon as possible. Secretary Stanton had asked him to handle “war related” matters
before he and his wife, Julia, went on to New Jersey to see their four children. But Grant
hadn’t expected the adulation. Leaving soon would not be easy. That afternoon, he met
with Lincoln, who took him around town in an open carriage, to loud cheers “on every
street corner.”

Booth met with his conspirators and explained the plan. Powell was the only one who had
killed before, “and may have enjoyed it very much.” His military background taught him
the value of reconnaissance, so he had strolled past Seward’s house for a look. He’d even
managed to talk with Seward’s male nurse to confirm the secretary’s presence at home.
Now Booth knew where two targets, Johnson and Seward, would be.

George Atzerodt, drunk as always, had agreed to smuggle Lincoln–not kill him. He wanted
no part of anyone’s murder. Booth needed Atzerodt’s boat and his knowledge of Potomac
currents. He had also suspected Atzerodt might be a problem, so he had set a blackmail
trap in advance.

It involved a horse. In 1865, a man’s horse was part of his identity, and for weeks, Booth
had shared a horse from Pumpfrey’s stable with Atzerodt. That “simple and thoughtful
gesture” on Booth’s part absolutely connected Atzerodt to the conspiracy. He was
reminded that he’d ridden Booth’s horse all over Washington, past any number of
witnesses. Realization leaked into his eyes. He was wriggling on the hook.

Unexpectedly, Lincoln stayed in on the night of April 13th with a migraine. Booth prowled,
frustrated. At the same time, former conspirator Mike O’Laughlen, was under a different
kind of stress. He had quit Booth’s conspiracy when he’d realized kidnapping a president
was a hanging offense. Doing some stalking of his own, he followed General and Mrs.
Grant to a party at Secretary Stanton’s home. Sneaking in, he crept-up behind Stanton
and Grant, stopping at arm’s-length from Stanton. O’Laughlen wasn’t there to do harm,
but to warn of Booth’s plan. He just “doesn’t know what Stanton looks like, and as a
former Confederate soldier with deep respect for rank, he is too nervous to speak to
Grant.” Mortified, he “disappears into the night and drinks himself blind.”

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Chapters Twenty-Seven through Thirty

On Good Friday morning, April 14, 1865, Lincoln rose at seven. The migraine was gone.
Elsewhere, Booth went to say goodbye to Lucy Hale. Their relationship was over, but
surprisingly, he requested a photograph to remember her by. She gave him one, which
he slipped into his jacket pocket. There were pictures of four other women in the same
pocket. “The pictures will remain in Booth’s pocket for the rest of his short life.”

Mary Lincoln had tickets to Aladin, or The Wonderful Lamp, but was torn. “The legendary
actress Laura Keene” would give a one-night-only performance of Our American
Cousin at Ford’s Theatre. The more Mary thought about it, the less she cared about
Aladin. At breakfast, Lincoln promised to arrange the tickets.

Lincoln went to see Secretary of War Stanton, who adamantly opposed the first couple
going to a public place like a theatre. At his party the night before, he’d warned Grant as
well. The city was hemorrhaging assassination rumors. If one was true, Lincoln might not
be as lucky as he’d been with fruit baskets. But the president wouldn’t budge. Stanton
pleaded with Lincoln to take a guard along. Lincoln returned to the White House.

The Ford brothers, John and Harry, were delighted. Having the Lincolns in the house
meant a huge bump in ticket sales, since Our American Cousin paled by comparison to
the flashier Aladin. The State Box, where the Lincolns sat, would be festooned with “red,
white and blue bunting.” A portrait of George Washington would face the audience,
“designating that the President of The United States is in the house.”

Rehearsal continued. Carpenters readied the State Box. Booth entered Ford’s Theatre
and immediately understood: he would “kill Lincoln tonight… in this very theatre.”
Reviewing entrances and exits, his familiar face raised no questions for anyone.

Chapters Thirty-One through Thirty-Four

At 11:00 a.m., Grant walked to the White House. His scheduled 9:00 a.m. meeting was
changed so he could join the cabinet meeting. He was uncomfortable because he felt

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obligated to attend the play that night with the Lincolns. But Julia Grant “thinks Mary
Lincoln is unstable and a gossip,” and insisted that they catch the afternoon train to New

Grant hated turning Lincoln’s invitation down, but Julia had made so many sacrifices that
he couldn’t refuse her. At the cabinet meeting, Lincoln asked him to explain the
surrender, to show how “pragmatic lenience (sic), instead of the harsh measures Vice
President Andrew Johnson advocated, would better heal the nation.

The meeting dragged on. A note from Julia summoned Grant back to his hotel. The train
for Burlington, New Jersey, would leave at 6:00 p.m. Lincoln tried to persuade his friend to
stay, but he of all people understood, a wife’s insistence was powerful. They said their

On an emotional roller-coaster, Booth felt his “spirits rising and falling as he ponders the
assassination and its consequences.” He dressed entirely in black, looking every inch the
villain. He wanted to be recognized and dreaded anonymity. He even wrote to the editor
of the National Intelligencer, explaining everything. “He signs his name, then adds those
of Powell, Atzerodt, and Herold.” He gave the envelope to an actor friend, John Matthews,
asking that it be mailed the next morning. Just in case, he said he would take the letter
back if he found Matthews before 10:00 a.m. But Booth was just being spiteful. He once
invited Matthews to join the conspiracy, and was turned down. Now, by mailing the letter,
Matthews would implicate himself, anyway.

On his rented horse, Booth spotted General and Mrs. Grant riding to the railroad station in
a carriage “piled high with luggage.” Stunned, he trotted his horse past them, then turned
around, and walked the bay straight toward them. He stared at Grant with such hate and
intensity that Julia instantly thought of it on hearing of the assassination. No one had to
tell her who the man in black had been. No one had to tell Booth one of his two prime
targets had just been taken off the table. He consoled himself with drinks and a nap. But
he would not sleep for long.

Lincoln and his bodyguard, William Crook, again walked from the White House to the
War Department. Lincoln confided: “Crook, there are men who mean to take my life. And
I have no doubt that they will do it.” Crook, fond of Lincoln, found this disturbing. Lincoln
assured him of his complete faith in his guards. “I know that no one could do it and
escape alive.” But if someone wanted to, he knew there was no stopping it. Walking back
to the White House later, Lincoln admitted: “I do not really want to go(to the theatre).”
Lincoln spoke the words “like a man facing a death sentence.”

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At the White House, he took Mary for a long-promised carriage ride. The war and the loss
of their son, Willie, had been hard on them. Both wanted to travel and enjoy life. The
president thought he might even return to his old law practice.

William Crook remained uneasy. He wondered, as usual, where his lazy evening
counterpart, John Parker, was. Parker was often late, he drank. His career as a
policeman was checkered, the highlights involving alcohol and prostitutes. Yet this was
the man who would protect the president at Ford’s Theatre.

Parker was lucky the Lincolns were late, since he was several hours overdue, himself.
Crook brought him up to date. The four-seat carriage would stop to pick up Major
Rathbone and Miss Harris, so Parker could not ride with the Lincolns. He was to leave
fifteen minutes ahead and arrive first to secure the theatre. Before Crook left, he said
goodnight to Lincoln. “He and the president had repeated this scene a hundred times,
with Lincoln responding in kind. Only this time it’s different. ‘Good-bye, Crook,’ Lincoln
replies. All the way home, that subtle difference nags at William Crook.”

Chapters Thirty-Five through Thirty-Eight

The play was at eight, Booth’s “cue” at 10:15 p.m. He thought about the point in the third
act, “when the actor Harry Hawk, playing… Asa Trenchard, is the only person on stage.”
Hawk had a line that always brought down the house. It was aimed at Mrs.
Mountchessington, a busybody who had insulted him before leaving the stage a moment
earlier. “Well I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal – you sockdologizing
old man-trap.”

The laugh was always huge. At that moment, Booth would kill Lincoln, capitalizing on the
distraction of the moment. Then he would throw the gun aside and, Bowie knife in hand,
he would vault over the rail to the stage, pausing to announce: “Sic semper
tyrannis:” Thus always to tyrants. The line, O’Reilly nicely points out, wasn’t
Shakespeare–it was the state motto of Virginia.

Booth’s gun was loaded, his knife in its sheath. He had two extra guns if someone forgot
their own. He left behind a piece of paper with the written “keys to top-secret coded
Confederate messages that link him with Jefferson Davis’ office in Richmond, and the
million-dollar gold fund in Montreal.” He also left evidence tying John Surratt “and, by
extension, Surratt’s mother, Mary,” to the assassination. If Booth went down, he was
taking everyone with him. But there would be no doubt: he was the architect of the
Lincoln assassination.

The curtain rose before the Lincolns left the White House. At 8:25 p.m., they entered

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Ford’s Theatre. John Parker, the tardy bodyguard, ushered the presidential party upstairs
to the box. At Lincoln’s arrival, the audience rose, cheering. The orchestra slammed into
“Hail to The Chief.” The president finally eased “into the rocker on the left side of the
box.” Only the actors and those in his box could see him as he sat back.

There was only one door to the state box. Another, at the end of the hallway, opened
onto a hallway, then the stairs down to the lobby. John Parker was to remain at that door,
“making sure no one goes in or out.” But he was not cut out for this. He soon became
thirsty and bored. He couldn’t see the play. “Taltavul’s Saloon calls to him,” O’Reilly
writes. “Pushing his chair against the wall, he leaves the door to the state box unguarded
and wanders outside.” He invited the Lincolns’ carriage footman, Charles Forbes, to
share an ale at Taltavul’s, next door. They had nothing but time.

As the curtain rose at eight, Booth met again with his co-conspirators. The president’s
assassination would be at 10:15 p.m., because it would take exactly that long to get to
Harry Hawk’s “sockdologizing” line. Booth insisted the murders of Seward and Johnson
happen at the same time to avoid any advance warning.

Powell had a phoney medicine bottle supposedly from Seward’s doctor. Herrold would
wait with the horses, then lead Powell–not a Washington native–to safety across the Navy
Yard Bridge into Maryland. George Atzerodt would knock on Vice President Andrew
Johnson’s hotel room door and shoot him when he answered.

In the alley behind Ford’s Theatre, Booth was annoyed. Ned Spangler could not hold his
horse because he’d lose his job moving scenery if he missed his cue. He recruited Joseph
Burroughs, aka “Peanut John,” to watch the horse instead. Booth entered through the
stage door. He made sure all escape routes were clear, and then went into Taltavul’s for
a drink. John Parker was in the same bar, at the same time.

Chapters Thirty-Nine through Forty-Two

Act Three had begun. Lincoln was ready to leave the moment it ended. He donned his
Brooks Brothers overcoat, peered down at the audience, then resumed watching the
play. Booth crossed the lobby and went upstairs. Parker’s chair was empty.

O’Reilly’s narrative is clear and taut. “Booth has a head full of whiskey and a heart full of
hate. He thinks of the Confederate cause and Lincoln’s promise to give slaves the vote…
no one can put a stop to it but him.” That afternoon Booth noticed a wooden music stand
in the hall. Now he jammed it diagonally between the side of the door to the corridor and
the wall. It couldn’t be opened from the other side. He went to the state box door and
peered through “a very small peephole” that he had, according to O’Reilly, made with a

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penknife that afternoon.

In a November 11, 2011 salon.com (link above) article, theatre owner Harry Clay Ford’s
son, Frank Ford, is quoted: “That hole was bored by my father, Harry Clay Ford, or
rather on his orders… for the very simple reason it would allow the guard, John Parker,
easy opportunity whenever he so desired to look into the box rather than to open the
inner door to check on the presidential party…”

Booth didn’t bore the hole. But he looked through it and saw Lincoln. He took stock of the
presidential party–Rathbone and Clara Harris to his far right, the Lincolns more directly
before him, slightly to the left. Right on time, the “sockdologizing” line boomed out. The
audience exploded in laughter.

Suspending time, O’Reilly leaves his reader on the precipice and shifts viewpoint…

William Bell, answered the front door at Secretary Seward’s house. There, Lewis Powell
held a medicine vial to be personally delivered to Secretary Seward. Bell balked, so
Powell forced his way in. He stopped when he saw Frederick Seward and repeated that it
must be delivered personally.

Frederick went up to his father’s bedroom, but returned saying Powell couldn’t see him.
He, Frederick, would accept the medicine. Powell pretended to agree, then suddenly
pulled his gun. Incredibly, it jammed. Frustrated, Powell used the butt to viciously pistol-
whip Frederick, knocking him cold. William Bell shrieked “Murder! Murder!” from below,
and ran out into the night, where David Herold, holding the horses, panicked, tied Powell’s
horse to a tree, and left. Powell continued beating Frederick’s head. Blood, bone, and
brain matter flew. Powell’s pistol finally broke into pieces.

Twenty-year-old Fanny Seward and Sergeant George Robinson, sent by the army to
watch over the secretary, heard it all from Seward’s room. Powell burst in, slashed
Robinson with his Bowie knife and knocked Fanny unconscious.

Seward awakened as Powell pounced on him and stabbed him repeatedly. Only a splint
on Seward’s jaw from his carriage accident kept the knife from slashing his jugular. The
right side of his face was carved off the bone.

As Powell raised the knife again, Seward’s son Augustus, a career soldier, ran in.
Augustus had never been wounded, but Powell stabbed him seven times. Robinson got
back up but was stabbed four more times. Powell fled, sure all four were dead. He was
completely wrong.

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Just then Emerick Hansell, a State Department messenger, had walked in through the
open front door. “He sees Powell, covered with blood, running down the steps and turns
to flee for his life.” Not fast enough. He was stabbed just above the fourth vertebrae, but
Powell pulled the knife out too quickly, and Hansell was spared. Screaming that he was
“mad,” Powell ran out of the house, actually quite sane and hoping to keep others away.

Powell found his horse, tied where Herold had left it. Instead of galloping, Powell walked
his mount to appear innocent. But Herold had betrayed him. How would find his way?
Only later did he remember: Lincoln and Vice President Johnson would be dead by now.

George Atzerodt drank especially hard to summon courage. Both he and Andrew Johnson
stayed at Kirkwood House, four blocks from the White House and one block from Ford’s
Theatre. He had wandered, nervous and sweating, all day. Now he was too drunk to ride
a horse in a straight line, let alone walk.

Andrew Johnson was lucky. If anyone other than Atzerodt had been sent to kill him, he
would have been an easy target. As it was, Atzerodt only killed off a lot of whiskey.

Chapters Forty-Three and Forty-Four

Booth used the huge laugh to step forward, extend his arm almost to the back of
Abraham Lincoln’s head, and fire. “The ball entered through the occipital bone about one
inch to the left of the median line.” The bullet traveled “seven and one-half inches before
plowing to a stop in the dense grey matter.”

Mrs. Lincoln noticed the president slump. Major Rathbone heard the shot, and jumped to
his feet. Booth dropped the gun, moving the knife to his right hand as Rathbone lunged.
Booth hacked downward, cutting through the biceps to hard bone. He stepped to the
front of the box and shouted: “Freedom!” Outside the state box, only Harry Hawk, alone
onstage, had any idea that something was wrong.

O’Reilly, letting the story unfold by keeping out of the way with spare, descriptive prose,
does not miss a beat. “Booth hurls his body over the railing… But now he misjudges the
thickness of the massive United States flag decorating the front of the box.”

He landed awkwardly on the stage, probably amazed. This kind of leap was his specialty–
”Booth is famous in the theatrical community for his unrehearsed gymnastics”–but his
right spur had snagged on the flag’s folds. “The fibula of Booth’s lower left leg, a small
bone that bears little weight, snaps two inches above the ankle. The fracture is complete,
dividing the bone into two neat pieces.”

Onstage in a nearly full theatre with a broken leg and a blood-smeared dagger in his right

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hand, Booth had left one man bleeding profusely and another, Abraham Lincoln,
unconscious and doomed. He stood painfully, slashing the knife back and forth, saying:
“The South shall be free!” Hawk ran. “Stop that man!” bellowed Rathbone from above.
Someone in the audience asked why. Clara Harris replied: “The president has been shot!”

Instant chaos. Booth limped backstage, and out to the alley. He kicked Peanut John away
as he got into the saddle. “In an instant, John Wilkes Booth disappears into the night.”

Mirroring Lewis Powell, Booth walked his horse to avoid notice. People passed him,
running toward Ford’s Theatre to see for themselves. At Grover’s Theatre, where
Aladin was playing, Lincoln’s son, Tad, 12, was in the audience with a White House staffer
when the news was breathlessly announced. Soon more bad news: Secretary Seward had
been attacked in his bed. Booth waited almost until he was to the Navy Yard Bridge
before spurring his horse. To cross, he had to fast-talk the night guard, but he managed.
Not far behind, David Herold did the same.

Chapters Forty-Five through Forty-Seven

Rathbone used his uninjured arm to yank the music stand from the hallway door. Among
the first in was 23-year-old Dr. Charles Leale. He checked Rathbone’s eyes to assess his
condition, then quickly turned to Lincoln, who was barely breathing. Leale could find no
sign of a wound. He called for a lamp, removed Lincoln’s shirt, and had him put gently
onto the floor. He expected a stab wound because of Rathbone’s injury, and he’d heard
no gunshot. Examining Lincoln’s eyes, he saw that the right optic nerve had been cut.
Examining the back of the head for the second time, Dr. Leale found a small clot just
above and behind the left ear.

It was no bigger than his little finger, but when he pulled that finger away, the blood
flowed freely. Lincoln’s chest rose with a more normal breath. Leale, though a doctor
only two months, was war-trained and knew about gunshot wounds. He directed more
experienced doctors, who did what he said. He gave Lincoln mouth-to-mouth
resuscitation, a startling sight in 1865. It was a temporary success. “Only Dr. Leale has
seen the dull look in Lincoln’s pupils, a sure sign that his brain is no longer functioning.
‘His wound is mortal,’ Leale announces softly. ‘It is impossible for him to recover.’”

Lincoln could not be allowed to die on the floor. After the claustrophobic chaos of
carrying him down the narrow stairs and through the lobby–every inch of which was
jammed with people–they bore him into the street. The wound clotted incredibly fast,
each time causing great discomfort. Leale repeatedly stopped everything and inserted
“his forefinger into Lincoln’s skull to clear the hole, bringing forth even more blood but

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taking pressure off the president’s brain.”

There was uncertainty about where to take him. Taltavul’s Saloon, from which John
Parker had already slithered into the night, wouldn’t do. There were row houses across
the street. To clear the way, “…the Union Light Guard… the men who have served as
Lincoln’s bodyguards during his rides around the city and out to the Soldier’s Home,
parted the mob on horseback. Henry S. Safford, “a 25 year old War Department
employee hollers… ‘bring him in here’.” Safford guided Lincoln’s bearers and Dr. Leale to
a first-floor room with an empty bed where the president, because of his height, was set
down diagonally.

Lincoln’s clothes were removed and Dr. Leale searched the body for other wounds. “‘No
drug or medicine in any form was administered to the president,’ Leale will later note.”
Another physician, Dr. Taft, attempted to remove the ball from Lincoln’s head, but the
bullet was beyond his fingertip. The doctors believed Lincoln was fighting to live. “A
normal man would be dead by now.”

Surgeon General of the Army Dr. Joseph Barnes entered the room. Dr. Leale knew his
duties were ending. He explained his actions to Barnes and “future surgeon general
Charles H. Crane.” Both concurred with everything Leale had done. Leale stayed at the
president’s side, continuing to clear the hole in his skull every few minutes. The vigil
continued until Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. More than twenty men in the room were
witnesses. For a full five minutes, the room was silent before Stanton softly spoke: “Now
he belongs to the ages.”

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Chapters Forty-Eight and Forty-Nine

Booth’s injury forced him, with Herold, to seek refuge at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd. In
Washington, Powell and Atzerodt remained at large. First to be in the crosshairs was
Atzerodt. Detectives found his room in Vice President Johnson’s hotel. A ledger book with
the name John Wilkes Booth on the inside cover cemented the connection. In Atzerodt’s
bed: a loaded revolver, and a Bowie knife under the covers. A warrant was issued.

After an anonymous tip, Mary Surratt’s boarding house was raided. Her behavior was
suspicious, so police kept her under surveillance. Another anonymous tip led to room 228
at the National Hotel, where Booth had left many clues. A business card with “J. Harrison
Surratt” was found. Detectives went to Seward’s house, and were told of the intruder and
the man outside. Seward was in a coma. He awoke on Easter Sunday.

Anger surged Across America. North vowed revenge against South; South rejoiced at
Lincoln’s death. Secretary Stanton knew catching Booth was paramount. Along with the
largest dragnet “in American history,” he summoned Lafayette Baker, “his former
spymaster and chief of security.”

Atzerodt awoke at dawn on Saturday, largely unaware that the world was breathing down
his neck. He left the Pennsylvania House, where he had slept, and walked across town to
Georgetown to see an old girlfriend. From there, he pawned his gun, using the money to
buy a stagecoach ticket.

Booth was miserable. Dr. Mudd cut off his boot and pressed on the hugely swollen ankle.
Booth screamed. His horse had thrown him, hurling his body onto a rock and making the
injury worse. Mudd put a splint on the leg. Booth would have to ride “one legged, half on
and half off his horse–if he can ride at all.”

Booth was desperate to flee. They could have crossed the Potomac by sunrise, if not for
his leg. Finally, exhausted, he slept. He knew he was the object of a manhunt, but didn’t
realize that “more than a thousand men on horseback are within a few miles of his
location–and Lafayette Baker is now on the case.”

Chapter Fifty

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O’Reilly’s narrative stumbles into conjecture once more, devoting the entire chapter to
Lafayette Baker, raising questions which, as we discovered in Chapter Twenty-two, have
already been resoundingly debunked. He starts with fact–Baker was in his room at the
Astor House in New York City when he learned Lincoln was shot. “The disgraced spy, who
was sent away from Washington for tapping Secretary Stanton’s telegraph lines, is not
surprised.” Editorializing, O’Reilly says Baker’s first thought, “as always,” involved his own
personal gain. That is one assumption. Another is that “Baker loves glory and money.”
Baker understood immediately that whoever found Lincoln’s killer would be rich and
famous. “Baker longs to be that man.”

Consider why Stanton might summon Baker. Those who believe Stanton was part of the
conspiracy could say, as O’Reilly implies, that it was odd how Stanton knew, in all the
world, exactly where to find Baker. But since the two had long known one-another, and
since Baker had been rousted out of Washington, D.C., for tapping Stanton’s own
telegraph lines, one could just as easily argue that Stanton would always want to know
where this scoundrel was. Stanton had also entrusted Baker with organizing the National
Detective Police, which was the forerunner of all federal law-enforcement agencies.
Could it not be that Stanton merely wanted the best man for the job, and was willing to
forget a transgression in order to solve the most heinous crime in American history?

Next, O’Reilly writes: “If Baker were an ordinary man and not prone to weaving elaborate
myths about himself, that telegram would be a very straightforward call to battle. But
Baker is so fond of half-truths and deception that it’s impossible to know if he is traveling
to Washington as a sort of supersleuth, handpicked by Stanton to find Lincoln’s killers, or
if he is traveling… to find and kill Booth before the actor can detail Secretary Stanton’s
role in the conspiracy.”

O’Reilly has assumed again: that Baker is fond of half-truths, that Stanton would want him
to kill Booth for reasons other than the assassination, and finally, the entire idea assumes
Stanton was the puppet-master and secret Confederate sympathizer.

Baker rode an overnight train to Washington and was struck by the “inexpressible,
bewildering horror and grief” he saw. Stanton made him head of the investigation, which
already included the entire detective forces of New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and
Boston. O’Reilly seems to doubt Stanton would do this without ulterior motive.

Chapters Fifty-One through Fifty-Four

David Herold knew they couldn’t stay at Mudd’s house much longer. They needed a
buggy. Mudd wouldn’t loan his, fearing that if they were captured in it, he and his wife

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would hang. Mudd suggested a ride into Bryantown for supplies. Herold went along, but
gut instinct told him not to enter the town. This was wise. The U.S. cavalry had Bryantown
surrounded, and they weren’t letting anyone leave. Herold got back to Booth, waking him
at dusk. It was time to get out.

Booth got into the saddle, and they headed for Zekiah Swamp. The trails were confusing
in the dark, and they became lost. It was cold, damp, and Booth wasn’t wearing a boot on
his injured leg.

“The last sympathizer they visited… promised to send a man to ferry them across to
safety.” The rescue signal was a soft whistle, a pause, and another soft whistle. They
waited hours.

Finally, the whistle. Then again. Thomas Jones was a disaster in his own right. A smuggler,
he’d served prison time, watched his wife die, and lost his home. He smuggled people
now, across the Potomac. He was not in a hurry. His first visit was just to meet Booth and
Herold. He came back a day later, his whistle preceding him, with “ham, butter, bread
and a flask of coffee.” And newspapers, which Booth craved most of all. Jones counseled
patience. The cavalry was everywhere. He advised killing the horses so they couldn’t
whinny and give them away.

When Jones had gone again, Booth looked at the newspapers. He was outraged. His great
achievement was universally scorned. They called him a coward “for shooting Lincoln in
the back.” His act had destroyed all “‘kindly feeling’ toward the South… “ Even the
National Intelligencer, the anti-Lincoln paper Booth wrote to, called him “an

The police surrounded Mary Surratt’s house at midnight, April 17th. When she answered
the door, they arrested her, along with her daughter, Anna. Mary asked to pray before
leaving. As she did, there was another knock at the door. “When the detectives open it,
they are shocked by the sight of a six-foot-two man with a pick-axe slung over his
shoulder… there appears to be blood on his sleeves.”

Lewis Powell knew immediately: he had “made a grave error.” He was arrested. Because
he matched the description of Seward’s assailant, the servant, William Bell, was
summoned to look at a lineup. Bell instantly recognized Powell.

The Union Army scoured southern Maryland. They marched through swamps, bogs, and
undergrowth in the most thorough search ever seen. Appallingly, 87 soldiers drowned in
one week. Booth and Herold were not found.

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In Washington, Lafayette Baker offered a reward, inundated the area with photographs,
and sent “handpicked detectives to scour the countryside.” He also sent a telegraph
operator to Point Lookout, at the mouth of the Potomac, with orders to “tap into the
existing line,” and report anything of note.

Chapters Fifty-Five through Fifty-Eight

Soldiers came to Dr. Mudd’s farm on Tuesday, April 18th. He had confided to his cousin
George that two men had been at his home the night of the assassination, and that his
life was in danger if they came back. Mudd tried to sound naive, but George was a Union
sympathizer, and he returned with the cavalry.

Lieutenant Alexander Lovett grilled Dr. Mudd, who contradicted himself often. He said
“one stranger had a broken leg,” so he’d splinted it. Lovett knew Mudd was lying, but
wanted evidence linking Mudd to the strangers. The soldiers left him stewing in his fears.

George Atzerodt tried to go northeast instead of south. He wandered “from home to
home,” lingering instead of traveling. His most glaring error was “boldly supporting
Lincoln’s assassination while eating dinner with strangers.” At a cousin’s house in
“Germantown, Maryland, twenty miles outside of Washington,” the cavalry came calling.
Atzerodt didn’t resist. He was “soon fitted with wrist shackles, a ball and chain, and a
hood over his head, just like Lewis Powell.”

Lincoln’s body rode a special train to Illinois. General Grant supervised as the body of the
Lincoln’s son, Willie, “rides along in a nearby casket.” The funeral was on Wednesday,
April 19th. Six-hundred mourners had filled the East Room, though Mary Lincoln remained
alone in her bedroom. The body “was escorted by a military guard through the streets of
Washington,” as 100,000 people turned out to see the casket, on the same caisson that
would carry John Kennedy almost 100 years later.

Lincoln’s train stopped in twelve cities, passing through 444 communities. Thirty million
human beings saw it go past before it reached Springfield.

Dr. Mudd’s nightmare returned on Friday, April 21st. Lieutenant Lovett’s men searched
the Mudds’ home. At Dr. Mudd’s direction, his wife, Sarah, ran to get something upstairs.
She returned and handed Lovett a razor and a boot. The boot belonged to the stranger
with the broken leg, and had been cut off of him. Lovett wanted to be sure this was the
boot the stranger wore, and Dr. Mudd assured him, it was. He swore it was the same
boot. Staring at him, Lovett showed Mudd–inside the boot was the means of his
destruction. It was written clearly: “J. Wilkes.” Dr. Mudd was arrested.

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Lafayette Baker hoped to fry bigger fish. He knew Booth had limited escape routes
because he couldn’t be on horseback. He had surely hidden in the swamps, but when he
came out he wouldn’t follow the coast, where there were “deep rivers to cross, and he
would easily be spotted.” Baker also thought Richmond was unlikely–Booth wouldn’t head
“straight into Union lines.” That left “the mountains of Kentucky,” or Tennessee. And it
meant they were already across the river, in Virginia. The question was where they had
crossed. Baker studied his map and decided that Port Tobacco, a vile little hamlet “given
over to depravity,” as he later wrote, was the most likely place. “Lafayette Baker is
wrong–but not by much.”

Chapters Fifty-Nine through Sixty-One

After six days and nights, Thomas Jones said it was time. Progress was painstaking. Jones
ventured ahead, then whistled for them to follow. This was how Jones had smuggled
during the war, and it worked. At the river, his twelve-foot boat waited.

Booth was carried down the steep bank. He took the stern, Herold the bow. Safety was
two miles across the Potomac, no easy crossing with currents, tides, and Union warships
on patrol. Jones said to head southwest by the compass. He gave them the name of Mrs.
Quesenberry, who lived near the mouth of Machodoc Creek.

Out on the river, only Herold rowed. Booth used his oar to try and steer. They nearly
paddled “headlong into the Juniper, a Federal gunboat,” but were not seen. “Finally, they
land, four miles upriver from where they departed, still in Maryland.” They hid in the
brush with the boat another 24 hours, then tried again and made it across to Virginia.

Samuel Beckwith was Lafayette Baker’s telegraph operator in Port Tobacco, Maryland.
On Monday, April 24th, he sent a coded message: Booth and Herold had crossed the
Potomac. It was wrong, referring to a group of men smuggled into Virginia on Easter
Sunday, but Baker didn’t wait. Twenty-five men of the 16th New York Cavalry went “by
the steamship John S. Ide from Washington downriver to Belle Plain, Virginia.” Colonel
Everton Conger, a 29-year-old Civil War veteran, and Lieutenant Luther Baker,
Lafayette’s cousin, were the senior officers. They docked just after dark.

The men rode quickly “into the countryside, knocking on farmhouse doors and
questioning the occupants.” They were motivated: they would get equal shares of “the
more than $200,000 in reward money awaiting those who captured Booth.” But they
feared it was another false lead, and that the they would miss the Ide’s return trip.

On the trip South, Lieutenant Baker made “the rather wise decision to give the command
back to Conger. ‘You have been over the ground,’ he told the veteran.” Luck was about

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to come their way. At the last minute, “on the shores of the Rappahannock River, at the
Port Royal ferry crossing, two men positively identify photographs of Booth and Herold.
They passed through the previous day… traveling with a small group of Confederate

At 2:00 a.m., “at a handsome whitewashed farm three hundred yards off the main road,”
the soldiers stopped. Hooves were silent in the soft clay. The men dismounted and
readied guns. Lieutenant Baker opened the main gate. It was a hunch. The best hunch
he’d ever had.

Booth had been happy in Virginia, where many people thought as he did. The last day had
been spent “at the farmhouse of Richard Garrett, whose son John had just returned
from the war.” Hearing word that Federal Cavalry had crossed the ferry over the
Rappahannock River, Booth was alarmed. The Garretts became wary. They wanted Booth
and Herold to leave. They refused, but did not threaten. John Garrett finally
compromised. They could sleep in the barn. But he and his brother William slept outside
the barn, to be sure their guests didn’t steal the horses.

At 2:00 a.m., dogs began barking. Booth didn’t know the Garrett brothers or the cavalry
were outside. John Garrett, ashen, stepped into the barn and said the building was
surrounded. They had to give up their weapons. Booth told him to get out or he would
shoot. “You have betrayed me,” he bellowed. Garrett left, locking the barn door behind
him. They were trapped. Herold, sick of this, wanted to go home. He was innocent, and
wanted the world to know. Booth hollered out the window: “There is a man in here who
very much wants to surrender.” He turned to Herold in disgust: “Go away from me,
damned coward.”

Herold went, immediately arrested and taken away. Lieutenant Baker hollered to Booth:
the barn would be burned down unless he surrendered. But Booth challenged: ”Draw up
your men. Throw open the door. Let’s have a fair fight.” But he heard the straw burning
and smelled the cedar smoke. Lieutenant Baker opened the barn door. Booth lifted his
carbine, ready to shoot. But he heard “the crack of a rifle,” and felt “a jolt in his neck, and
then nothing.” The bullet severed his spinal cord, paralyzing him from the neck down.
Sergeant Boston Corbett had put an end to the chase. Baker and Conger pulled Booth
from the barn, but by morning, he was dead.

Chapter Sixty-Two

Americans were riveted by the pursuit of the Lincoln conspirators and their trial. Anyone
remotely suspicious was jailed. Secretary of War Stanton elbowed Lafayette Baker out of

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the limelight and oversaw the effort. John Surratt remained unaccounted for. His mother,
Mary, waited in Arsenal Penitentiary, in the same shackles and heavy cloth hood that
George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell wore. Three days after the trial ended, Mary Surratt,
Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt and David Herold were found guilty and sentenced to
hang. Dr. Samuel Mudd, Michael O’Laughlen, Ned Spangler and Samuel Arnold would do
hard time at “the remote penitentiary of Fort Jefferson in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mary Surratt’s priest came to her defense, along with her daughter, Anna. Her attorney
portrayed her as “trying to make ends meet.” She had never pulled the trigger and never
came near Ford’s Theatre. She was the only one sentenced to hang who wasn’t part of
Booth’s inner circle. It didn’t matter. She was hanged with the others, although Lewis
Powell shouted out her innocence before yet another hood was placed over his head.
Each of the four dropped six feet. Only Mary Surratt’s neck did not break. She struggled
for five minutes before finally stopping. “Mary Surratt becomes the first and only woman
ever hanged by the United States government.”

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John Wilkes Booth’s body was returned to Washington. Edwin Stanton retained his Diary.
Photographs of the body “soon disappeared.” Eighteen pages were cut out of the diary
and never found. Booth is buried at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore.

Mary Lincoln wore only black until her death. In 1871, Tad Lincoln, 18, died of “a
mysterious heart condition.” Mary was institutionalized in 1875 and later released after
conducting a letter-writing campaign protesting her situation, which she blamed on her
son, Robert. She died in 1882.

Edwin Stanton died four and one-half years after Lincoln, most of which he spent clashing
with President Andrew Johnson over Reconstruction. Johnson advocated revenge, but
Stanton favored Lincoln’s gentler ideas. In 1868, Johnson fired Stanton. Stanton refused
to leave and the Senate backed him, voting Johnson’s actions unlawful. Johnson tried it
again, triggering impeachment hearings he survived by one vote. Stanton had won, and
retired soon after. The next president, Ulysses S. Grant, nominated him to the Supreme
Court, but he died in 1869, before he was sworn in.

Lafayette Baker gained fame for masterminding Booth’s capture. He found Booth’s diary
and was responsible for giving it to Edwin Stanton. Baker’s memoir created the public
demand for Stanton to produce the diary, lighter by 18 pages. Stanton denied having cut
out the pages. Here O’Reilly recounts a truly wacky theory: in 1960, amateur historian
Ray Neff claimed an article by Lafayette Baker in a British military journal, Colburn’s
United Service Magazine, included a coded message about the conspiracy. Baker
supposedly alleged “at least 11 members of congress… no less than 20 Army officers,
three Naval officers, and at least 24 civilians, of which one was a governor of a loyal
state, were involved. Five were bankers of great repute, three were nationally known
newspaper men, and 11 were industrialists of great repute and wealth… Only eight
persons knew the details of the plot and the identity of others. I fear for my life.” O’Reilly
says “there is no consensus about whether Neff’s hidden message is authentic,” but a
few lines later notes: “Neff’s hypothesis and his entire body of work have been repudiated
and dismissed by the vast majority of trained historians and assassination scholars. Civil
War Times, which originally published his findings… later denounced him.” 18 months
after the close of the investigation, Baker was found dead in his home in Philadelphia.

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“While Baker was at first believed to have died from meningitis, evidence now points to a
slow and systematic death by poisoning.” This was more evidence from Ray Neff, who
believed Baker was poisoned by his brother in law, Wally Pollack, with arsenic-laced
imported German beer.

William Crook, Lincoln’s bodyguard, worked in the White House for over fifty years,
ending with the Woodrow Wilson administration. He died in 1915 at 77 and is buried in
Arlington National Cemetery. President Wilson attended the funeral.

Robert E. Lee applied for a pardon “for his acts against the United States,” which
Secretary of State Seward never filed, instead giving it to a friend “as a souvenir.” In
1975, President Gerald R. Ford officially reinstated Lee as a U.S. citizen.

General Ulysses S. Grant helped implement Reconstruction before being elected
president in 1868. He served two terms. He lost his entire fortune to bad investments, but
recovered financially after writing his acclaimed memoirs, edited by Mark Twain. “He died
of throat cancer on July 23, 1885.”

General James Longstreet had long been friends with his adversary, Ulysses S. Grant, and
was quick to embrace Reconstruction. This angered “die hard” Confederate sympathizers
who tried to tarnish his reputation, with some success. He died in 1904 at age 82.

General George Armstrong Custer never abandoned “the same aggressive, impulsive
tactics that served him so successfully at Sayler’s Creek.” Those tactics cost him his life at
Little Bighorn, at the hands of Chief Crazy Horse and the Ogalala Sioux. First buried on
the battlefield beside his brother, Tom, Custer’s remains were moved to West Point.

William Seward lived seven years after his night of trauma at the hands of Lewis Powell,
long enough to purchase Alaska for the United States. It was termed “Seward’s Folly” at
the time. Some folly. Silver, gold, and oil from Alaska have silenced those critics forever.
He died on October 10, 1872.

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Key Information

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Historical Figures Relevant to
Killing Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln – Sixteenth President of The United States. Led the Union through the
Civil War and saved the republic. Assassinated April 14th, 1865.

Andrew Johnson - Seventeenth President of The United States. Survived impeachment
proceedings by a single vote and lost his bid for re-election.

Robert E. Lee - Commanding General, Confederate Armies.

Ulysses S. Grant - Commanding General, Union Armies and eighteenth President of
The United States.

John Wilkes Booth - Lincoln’s assassin and mastermind of the conspiracy.

Lucy Lambert Hale - Booth’s fiance until shortly before the assassination.

George Pickett - Confederate General famous for the disastrous “Pickett’s Charge” at
Battle of Gettysburg.

James “Pete” Longstreet - Confederate General of great skill. An old friend of Grant.

Jefferson Davis - President of The Confederacy.

Junius Brutus Booth - Actor father of John Wilkes Booth.

Samuel Arnold - One of Booth’s original co-conspirators to kidnap Lincoln.

Michael O’Laughlen - Another original co-conspirator. Later quit Booth’s group.

Dr. Samuel Mudd - Confederate sympathizer in Maryland. Gave shelter to Booth after
the assassination and splinted his broken leg.

John Surratt - Elusive Confederate sympathizer and agent who put Booth in contact with
Confederate spies in Montreal to fund Booth’s conspiracy.

John Hay - One of Abraham Lincoln’s personal secretaries.

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Robert Todd Lincoln - Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s eldest son, and another of Lucy
Hale’s suitors.

William Crook - Abraham Lincoln’s loyal bodyguard.

Thomas Rosser - Confederate Major General who led cavalry to stop Union soldiers
from destroying High Bridge.

George Meade - Longest tenured Union General, commanding general at Gettysburg.

Francis Washburn - Union Colonel led effort to burn High Bridge before Lee crossed it.

George Armstrong Custer - Union General whose aggressive tactics helped bring down
the South, but cost him his life at Little Bighorn.

Charles Marshall - Union Colonel assigned to choose the site for the truce.

Wilmer McLean - Grocer who owned the house in which Lee surrendered.

James Pumphrey - Stable owner and Confederate sympathizer who rented horses to
Booth and other conspirators.

Andrew Jackson - President of The United States, target of earlier assassination

Tutankhamen - Egyptian pharaoh killed by his own advisors in 1324 B.C.

Eglon - Moabite king disemboweled in his chambers, so fat that his killer lost the knife in
the folds of his fat.

Julius Caesar - Roman Emperor killed by members of the Roman Senate.

Mary Surratt - Attractive widow and Confederate sympathizer, mother of Secret Agent
John Surratt. One of four hanged for conspiracy to kill the president.

John Ford - Owner of Ford’s Theatre.

Ned Spangler - Carpenter and scene-shifter at Ford’s Theatre. Friend of John Wilkes
Booth but not a conspirator. Sentenced to six years.

David Herold - Former pharmacy clerk born and raised in Washington, D.C. conspirator
who helped Booth flee from justice after assassination of Lincoln.

Lewis Powell - 22 year-old ex-Confederate soldier and spy and conspirator who

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attempted to murder Secretary of State Sewell.

Clara Harris - Dear friend of Mary Lincoln and daughter of a New York senator.
Attended Our American Cousin with the Lincolns on the night of the assassination.

Edward Lincoln - Son of Abraham and Mary who died of tuberculosis in 1850, age three.

Willie Lincoln - Son of the Lincolns who died of fever in 1862, age 11.

William H. Seward - Secretary of State hated in the South. Attacked in his bed by Lewis

George Atzerodt - German carriage repairer and alcoholic tasked to kill Andrew

Edwin M. Stanton - Secretary of War under Abraham Lincoln.

Lafayette C. Baker - Flamboyant founder of National Detective Police and mastermind
in the capture of John Wilkes Booth, et al.

Edwin Booth - Older brother and better actor than John Wilkes Booth.

Julia Grant - Wife of General Grant.

Tad Lincoln - Son of Abraham and Mary, 12 years old at time of assassination. Died in
1871 of a mysterious heart ailment, age 18,

James Ford - Manager of Ford’s Theatre.

Laura Keene - Famous actress headlining Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre.

Frederick Seward - Secretary Seward’s son. Stabbed by Lewis Powell, but lived.

John Matthews - Actor who Booth asked to mail the letter to the National Intelligencer.

John Parker - Bodyguard who abandoned his post outside the state box in Ford’s
Theatre, inadvertently leaving the way clear for John Wilkes Booth.

Major Henry Reed Rathbone - Clara Harris’ date in the state box at Ford’s Theatre,
first man to try and stop John Wilkes Booth.

Harry Hawk - Actor who uttered the fateful laugh-line Booth used for cover while he
shot President Lincoln.

Schuyler Colfax - Speaker of The House of Representatives in Lincoln’s Administration.

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Charles Forbes - Footman of Presidential Carriage.

Joseph Burroughs aka “Peanut John” – The young boy who does odd jobs at Ford’s
Theatre and holds Booth’s horse until he returns.

William Bell - Secretary of State Seward’s servant, not stabbed by Lewis Powell but
picks him out of a police line-up.

Sergeant George Robinson - Man sent by the Army to watch over Secretary of State
Seward, and a victim of multiple stabbings by Lewis Powell.

August Seward - Another of Seward’s sons, a war veteran, who also tried to protect his
father from Lewis Powell, and was stabbed for it.

Emerick Hansell - State Department messenger, also stabbed by Powell.

Dr. Charles Leale - Young Army doctor who kept Lincoln alive for hours after shooting.

Peter Taltavul - Told the soldiers looking for a place to put Lincoln “don’t bring him in
here. It shouldn’t be said the President of the United States died in a saloon.”

Henry S. Safford - 25 year-old War Department employee who lived in a row house
across from Ford’s Theatre and said “bring him in here.”

Thomas Jones - Confederate Sympathizer and smuggler who helps Booth and Herold
cross the Potomac.

George Mudd - Cousin of Dr. Samuel Mudd, and a Union sympathizer.

Lieutenant Alexander Lovett - Arrested Dr. Mudd and picked up key evidence in
tracking Booth and Herold.

Lieutenant Luther Baker - Lafayette Baker’s cousin; an officer involved in the capture
of Booth and Herold.

Colonel Everton Conger - Civil War Veteran in charge of the 16the New York Cavalry
unit sent by Lafayette Baker to catch Booth.

Richard Garrett - Owner of farm where Booth and Herold were captured.

John Garrett - Son of Richard Garrett. Had just returned from Civil War.

William Garrett - John’s brother.

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Boston Corbett - Fired the shot that severed Booth’s spinal cord and ultimately killed

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Notable Terms and Definitions

City Point - Busy Virginia Port where Lincoln awaited news from the front.

Marse Robert - “Master” as rendered in southern parlance; a nickname for Robert E.

The Confederacy - The United States of the South, under President Jefferson Davis,
which seceded from the United States, triggering the Civil War.

Traveller - General Lee’s famous gray horse.

Richmond, Virginia - Capitol of The Confederacy.

Torpedo - In Civil War times, anti-ship mines that floated on the surface.

USCT - United States Colored Troops. The first black unit of the army.

M1857 Napoleons - Cannon capable of firing 12 pound projectiles into a small area
from a mile away.

Howitzers - Cannon capable of firing 18 pound shells from a mile away.

Assassin - From “Hashshashin”, the name of a group of hit men who worked for Persian
kings from the 8th to 14th centuries.

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Interesting Related Facts

John Palmer, the bodyguard who wasn’t there when needed most, was never punished
for his dereliction of duty.

John Surratt never tried to exonerate his mother, allowing her to hang without so
much as a letter of protest.

The life sentences of Dr. Mudd, Michael O’Laughlen, and Samuel Arnold were carried
out under the supervision of black soldiers, who had absolute control over everything
they did. Ned Spangler’s sentence was for six years.

O’Laughlen died of fever in prison at age 27.

Spangler, Mudd, and Arnold were pardoned in 1869 by Andrew Johnson.

Major Henry Reed Rathbone eventually married Clara Harris. Later, he went insane
and killed her with a knife. He spent the rest of his life in an asylum.

In Mexico, years before the Civil War, Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant met General Robert
E. Lee and was “loudly chastised… for his appearance.” Grant never forgot.

Grant also remembered strengths and weaknesses of other southern generals he’d
known in that war, and used it to advantage.

Mary Lincoln gave the president a leather-bound copy of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar,
which he had seen the year before. Ironically it had starred Edwin Booth, John’s older,
more talented brother.

More ironically, Edwin saved the Lincolns’ eldest son, Robert, when he was shoved
from a railway platform into the path of an oncoming train.

Robert never told the president of the rescue, but his commanding officer, General
Grant, wrote Edwin Booth a thank-you letter.

Laura Keene, star of Our American Cousin, secretly married a convicted felon who fled
to Australia. While in that country, she starred in Shakespearean productions with

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Edwin Booth, whom she despised for his arrogance.

Harry Hawk was jailed for a short time because he had shared the stage with Booth
the night Lincoln was killed.

Booth often rented the very room in which Lincoln died. As recently as three weeks
before, Booth had lolled on the same bed.

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USA Today, Bill O’Reilly takes on Lincoln’s Assassination

Publishers’ Weekly: Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America

Author Website: About Martin Dugard

Kirkus Reviews: Killing Lincoln

The Christian Science Monitor: Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln” is “Lincoln Lite”

Salon.com: Ford’s Theatre flunks O’Reilly’s Lincoln Book

The Baltimore Sun: The Assassination Conspiracy That Would Not Die

US News and World Report: Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy, Like 9/11, Stirred Nation
to Vengeance

NPR.org: Bill O’Reilly: ‘Abraham Lincoln Was Our Best Leader’

The Washington Post: ‘Killing Lincoln’ and ‘Jack Kennedy’: Preoccupied with the

All quotes without attribution are taken from Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination
That Changed America Forever

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Additional Reading

The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/13/bill-oreilly-killing-

ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/bill-oreilly-tackles-history-thriller-killing-

The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/09/18/bill-o-reilly-

Chicago Sun Times: http://www.suntimes.com/news/nation/8877817-418/bill-oreillys-

UPI: http://www.upi.com/Entertainment_News/2011/11/13/Critics-OReilly-Lincoln-book-

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About The Author

Tom Szollosi
Tom Szollosi graduated from UCLA in 1972 with a degree in English
Literature. After a short stint in advertising, he wrote for television
beginning in 1976, and has continued to the present, logging over 100
episodes of both drama and comedy. Tom has also written five motion pictures, four
novels, and taught screenwriting at UCLA Extension for six years. Tom loves baseball,
writing, books, and politics, though not necessarily in that order. Most recently, he has
been exploring the world of e-books. He is married, has two sons, and lives in Los

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