Synopses & Reviews
Combining magnificent historical research with a thrilling story, Manhunt describes the hourandndash;byandndash;hour details of the twelve days after Abraham Lincoln's assassination when various factions within the U.S. government andndash; and even some outside it andndash; hunted for the President's killer, John Wilkes Booth.
The pursuit of Lincoln's assassins is one of the greatest untold stories in American history. From April 14th to 26th, 1865, the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices transfixed, thrilled, and horrified a nation of mourners who watched as this oneandndash;time thespian star led the Union army on a wild chase across the swamps of Maryland and into the forests of Virginia. Manhunt is the first book devoted entirely to these twelve, dramatic days between the murder of the president and the capture and death of his killer.
The hunt begins with Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, an imperious and fearsome man whom Lincoln called, "Mars, God of War." From a makeshift command center set up just step from the president's death bed, Stanton took control of the government and the manhunt.
An hour by hour account of those twelve days told through the eyes of the hunted and the hunters, Manhunt makes clear why Booth refused to be taken alive and exposes which conspirators, now lost to history, escaped justice and lived to tell the tale.
"In the early days of April 1865, with the bloody war to preserve the union finished, Swanson tells us, Abraham Lincoln was 'jubilant.' Elsewhere in Washington, the other player in the coming drama of the president's assassination was miserable. Hearing Lincoln's April 10 victory speech, famed actor and Confederate die-hard John Wilkes Booth turned to a friend and remarked with seething hatred, 'That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I'll put him through.' On April 14, Booth did just that. With great power, passion and at a thrilling, breakneck pace, Swanson (Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution) conjures up an exhausted yet jubilant nation ruptured by grief, stunned by tragedy and hell-bent on revenge. For 12 days, assisted by family and some women smitten by his legendary physical beauty, Booth relied on smarts, stealth and luck to elude the best detectives, military officers and local police the federal government could muster. Taking the reader into the action, the story is shot through with breathless, vivid, even gory detail. With a deft, probing style and no small amount of swagger, Swanson, a member of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, has crafted pure narrative pleasure, sure to satisfy the casual reader and Civil War aficionado alike. 11 b&w photos not seen by PW." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]s gripping a page-turner as anything you'll find on the mystery shelf....[Swanson] makes the characters in this great American tragedy actually seem human. Even Booth comes across as viscerally real... (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly
"[Mr. Swanson] has successfully streamlined the assassination's aftermath into an action-adventure version of these events. He makes Manhunt very accessible and infuses it with high drama." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Artfully arranging Booth's flight with the frantic federal dragnet that sought him, Swanson so tensely dramatizes the chase, capture, and killing of Booth that serious shelf-life...awaits his account of the assassination." Booklist
"[E]xtraordinary....This is a story as gripping as any tightly scripted crime drama, yet Swanson doesn't play fast and loose with historical facts." Boston Globe
"The narrative's most interesting character Lincoln himself is gone after the first act....On balance, though, Manhunt is a rattling good read. And it's a surprisingly suspenseful one." USA Today
"Mr. Swanson's moment-by-moment account of the 12-day chase is compulsively readable....Swanson reminds us that history is ultimately governed not by impersonal economic and social forces but by all the emotions that make up individual human beings..." Wall Street Journal
"Swanson's precise, minute-by-minute account is surprisingly suspenseful....With scrupulous research as the bedrock to an enthralling story, Manhunt will appeal to casual readers of popular history, as well as academic historians." Charlotte Observer
The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness.
At the very center of this story is John Wilkes Booth, America's notorious villain. A Confederate sympathizer and a member of a celebrated acting family, Booth threw away his fame and wealth for a chance to avenge the South's defeat. For almost two weeks, he confounded the manhunters, slipping away from their every move and denying them the justice they sought.
Based on rare archival materials, obscure trial transcripts, and Lincoln's own blood relics, Manhunt is a fully documented work, but it is also a fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. A gripping hour-by-hour account told through the eyes of the hunted and the hunters, this is history as you've never read it before.
About the Author
James L. Swanson, an attorney and Lincoln scholar, has held a number of government and think-tank posts in Washington, D.C. He has written about history, the Constitution, popular culture, and other subjects for a variety of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and American Heritage. He is the coauthor of Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution. Swanson is a member of the advisory committee of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. He lives in Washington, D.C.