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American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies Paperback – October 18, 2005
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
As historian William C. Davis once wrote, "no one has studied [John Wilkes] Booth longer or more in depth than Michael W. Kauffman, a well-known figure and voice of reason in the field of Lincoln assassination studies."
For thirty-five years, Kauffman has been a fixture at assassination-related symposia, tours, and news events. He has written numerous articles on the subject, and his bus tours of the John Wilkes Booth Escape Route have been a staple of feature publications all over the U.S., making Kauffman "legendary," according to The Washington Post. Taking a full-immersion approach to history, he has rowed across the Potomac where Booth rowed, leaped to the stage in Ford's Theatre, and burned down a tobacco barn almost identical to the one in which Booth was cornered and killed. (It was already slated for demolition!) For a time he even took up residence in Tudor Hall, the Booth family home in Maryland.
Kauffman has written for Civil War Times, the Washington Post, American Heritage, Blue and Gray, and the Lincoln Herald, among others. He has lectured throughout the United States, and has appeared in more than twenty television and radio documentaries, including programs on A& E, The Learning Channel, the History Channel, National Geographic Channel, and the Discovery Channel.
His works include a modern edition of Samuel B. Arnold's Memoirs of a Lincoln Conspirator, as well as American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies, which was named by the New York Times, The Washington Post, and several other media outlets as one of the best non-fiction books of 2004.
The Wall Street Journal named American Brutus one of the five best books ever published on political violence, and Civil War Interactive put it high on the list of Most Important Civil Books Ever Published. It received several awards, including the Walt Whitman Award for the best Civil War-related book of the year.
With an eye for the offbeat, the poignant, and the previously unpublished, Kauffman draws deeply from a wide range of interests. He once knew and worked with the people who developed the concept of criminal profiling, and from that experience, he learned to key in on personality traits and personal interactions. From friends in the legal profession, he learned to ferret out the intricacies and quirks of the law. His acquaintance with famous actors taught him much about the lives and unique concerns of a stage celebrity. With a spirit of fun and curiosity, he takes these insights and weaves an unforgettable tale that is also a delight to read.
American Brutus is not a narrow biography. It is an all-encompassing account of the Lincoln conspiracy and the people behind it. It is the first book on the subject based entirely on primary sources, and it strips away more than a century of myth and folklore. Historian William Marvel calls it "a work that can probably never be equaled in breadth of study, soundness of reasoning, or maturity of judgment." The late historian David Herbert Donald said, "There are many books on [the assassination] but this is by far the best."
With a companion documentary, The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth, that appears regularly on the History Channel, American Brutus has spawned a cottage industry in assassination-related tours.
Now, in response to popular demand, Michael W. Kauffman has put the highlights of his own Booth Escape tours into a stunning and informative book/CD package from TravelBrains, the leader in touring books and software. It is called In the Footsteps of an Assassin. This 161-page book guides the reader across the hills and swamps encountered by John Wilkes Booth on his flight from Washington after the Lincoln assassination. Many of the houses and sites are still much as they were in 1865.
Fully illustrated with maps, rare photos, panoramas, and matching then-and-now images, In the Footsteps of an Assassin is packed with little-known trivia and pictures of family treasures -- much of which you've never seen before.
An accompanying CD and downloadable audio tour let you follow along as you drive. Bring along your smart phone and have your picture taken, via Augmented Reality, with Booth or Lincoln at different points along the way.
Top Customer Reviews
This is the best single description that I have ever read of the night that Lincoln was murdered, at the moment of his greatest glory with the Civil War winding down with the surrender of General Lee earlier in the week. Most of the previous assassination/conspiracies accounts have centered upon Lincoln, with John Wilkes Booth as the mysterious off-stage actor. Mr. Kauffman has written for this generation the definitive story of how Lincoln came to die, with this prominent actor pulling the various strings to accomplish his goal.
"American Brutus" has all the usual suspects (Mary Surrat, Dr. Mudd, David Herold, et al) being manipulated in the elaborate web that Wilkes has weaved for the Confederate cause. One comes away with a sense of what it was like to live in the Washington D.C. region during the Civil War. Current residents (and future visitors) of that region will especially enjoy this book (with its maps) and be able to re-trace Wilkes' escape route, tour Ford's Theater and see the locations where the plotting occurred.
Mr Kauffman had performed exhaustive research without cramming all of it down the throat of the reader. This is a book that a non-reader of history will enjoy and a likely nominee for next year's Pulitzer's Prize for history.
Not until Chapter Five do we get a glimpse of Booth's background. His father was also an actor and seemed to get along well with the "rented" slaves he kept. Junius Booth Sr. had no problem with negroes eating at the same table. Kauffman suggests that military school may have had something to do with Booth's attitude toward blacks.
Kauffman hypothesizes that Booth saw himself as a Brutus character. According to Booth, Lincoln was a tyrant, like Julius Caesar, who had trampled on the Constitution. In the picture section, we see John Wilkes acting with his brothers in Julius Caesar, although he played Mark Antony to Edwin's Brutus. Kauffman says John Wilkes played many such characters throughout his career.
There are several other illuminating hypotheses in AMERICAN BRUTUS. One would be that Booth tried to implicate anyone he talked to about the plot, plus several other innocent bystanders. He shows how Dr. Mudd was "set up" by Booth and Surratt. He also shows how Booth tried to do this with Vice President Johnson by leaving him a note prior to the assassination.
Kauffman also works hard at exploding several misconceptions about the assassination. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton is shown taking charge after Lincoln was shot. Far from hating Lincoln, he was genuinely fond of the president. Also, John Wilkes Booth did not break his leg when he jumped from Lincoln's box.Read more ›
Mr. Kauffman has done what other historians have not: he went back to the eye-witness accounts taken on that night and the following days. In other words, he used information that has not been polluted by the exaggeration and imagination of the human memory. For example, immediate eye-witness accounts at Ford's Theater dispell the oft-quoted "fact" that that Booth broke his leg when he jumped from the balcony to the stage.
But this book does not address Booth's escape only. Mr. Kauffman includes additional information about the times. The contemporary reader will be interested in the parallels between 1860-1865 USA and the current status of the USA: a politically polarized nation, criminal profiling (a US Congressman was detained at a train station because he looked somewhat like Booth), sketchy homeland security (the bridges out of DC were like sieves allowing Booth and Herold to escape), a massive military search for the assassins, joyous celebrations in foreign countries and anti-American sentiment following an American tragedy, etc.
Mr. Kauffman's Booth is a consummate villian who carefully and thoughtfully plotted the Lincoln Assassination and who skillfully manipulated numerous people, thus entangling them into his web. His book gives the reader a good idea of the times and shows us that after 130 years, nothing much has really changed.
Wonderful book. Well researched. Well presented.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The actual assassination has been recounted so much it's tawdry and just plain sad to wade through the first chapters which rehashed it disjointedly. Read morePublished 1 month ago by David Pell
I've read quite a few books about Lincoln, but this is the best one I've found on Booth. Extremely well-researched and well-written. I learned a lot.Published 2 months ago by writes
I liked reading this book, a little long, but worth the read. I would recommend this to anyone.Published 5 months ago by Buzzin Bee Reviews
Having read some of the other reports of the time it is like a police investigation with background on the characters. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Sharon J. Twentier
Though I've read other books on the assassination ,including Killing Lincoln, this book was among the best. American Brutus was very fun to read and well researched. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Kwan
Kaufman’s premise here is ingenious: he revisits the primary sources for the Lincoln assassination and subjects them to modern data analysis. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Ann Marie Ackermann