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Bloody Crimes: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Chase for Jefferson Davis Paperback – August 16, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006123379X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061233791
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,155,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2010: It's April 1865 and General Lee's troops have officially surrendered. Abraham Lincoln, looking forward to rebuilding the nation, celebrates with an evening—his last alive—at the theater. On the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line Jefferson Davis plans to move the Confederate government to North Carolina, away from Union troops that have captured Richmond. Under much different circumstances, both men embark on a dramatic final journey depicted by James. L. Swanson in Bloody Crimes, a gripping account of the weeks following Lincoln’s death and the end of the Civil War. While arguments erupted about where and how Lincoln’s burial should take place, Jefferson Davis—refusing to let the South succumb—attempted to rally his people despite being hunted by Northern troops who suspected his involvement in Lincoln’s assassination. Using relics and key documents of the day, Swanson juxtaposes the travels of Davis and Lincoln, weaving a fast-paced narrative that lures readers in from the get-go. We know that eventually Lincoln makes it to his final resting place and Davis is captured, but along the way it’s hard not to wonder if these two heroic leaders were more similar than perhaps anyone would have guessed. Whether read as a companion to Manhunt—Swanson’s account of the 12-day search for John Wilkes Booth—or on its own, Bloody Crimes is the next great Civil War-era read worthy of the recognition that Lincoln once said we should all strive for. --Jessica Schein


Amazon Exclusive: James L. Swanson on Writing Bloody Crimes

I wrote Bloody Crimes as a way of answering a question many Manhunt readers asked: “What happened next?” In Manhunt I told just one of the three incredible stories that unfolded at the climax of the Civil War. I could only hint at the strange and amazing things that happened to Lincoln’s body after he died, and I could do no more than allude to Jefferson Davis’s dramatic flight from Richmond and his six week odyssey to save the Confederacy. So it would be correct to say that Bloody Crimes is a sequel to Manhunt.

Since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by the Lincoln funeral train, and I debated whether to write a book about that story alone. It is hard for a modern reader to comprehend how much Lincoln’s death, the White House funeral, the Pennsylvania Avenue procession, and the president’s sojourn home to Illinois influenced America. Imagine the death of President Kennedy and intensify by several degrees the emotions it released. As I researched the Lincoln funeral pageant, I began thinking about another president on his great journey. As I studied Davis, I realized that he is one of the “Lost Men” of American history. Today we know so little about him. To my great surprise, he and Lincoln had much in common. Some of their shared experiences were stunning, even profound. And in April 1865, both presidents left their White Houses, took to the field, and sought to rally their armies at the climax of the war.

Combining the final journeys of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis into one book presented several challenges. I needed to return to the assassination, but I did not want to repeat material from Manhunt. I solved that problem by, like a film director, shifting the camera and pointing it in a different direction. In Manhunt, my camera captured every moment of action inside Ford’s Theatre. In Bloody Crimes, that camera never sets foot inside Ford’s, but instead takes position inside the Petersen House, capturing the assassination through fresh eyes, those of the boarders who lived there and the visitors who descended upon it. In Manhunt, once Lincoln was dead, he ceased to be a principal character in the book. In Bloody Crimes, though Lincoln is dead, he remains a vital character until the end. One of the pleasures of writing the book was meeting the splendid cast of characters who played significant roles in the death pageant, including the larger-than-life Commissioner of Public Buildings in Washington, D.C., Benjamin Brown French, who kept an amazing diary.

Another great pleasure was experiencing the final journey of Jefferson Davis through the firsthand accounts of his inner circle, cabinet members, young female loyalists, and his family, especially Davis’s wife Varina. The love letters they exchanged during his darkest days go unread today, but they are as moving as the correspondence of John and Abigail Adams.

I cannot write a book without holding in my hand the original sources—Civil War newspapers, documents, photos, and artifacts—and I must visit the sites where history happened. Through these objects and places, I travel back in time and, I hope, take my readers with me. Many of the places I visited while writing Bloody Crimes still haunt me: The Confederate White House, where toys still lie upon the floor, as if the Davis children will return momentarily to continue their play; the East Room of Lincoln’s White House, site of his majestic funeral; the cemetery vault in Georgetown, where Abraham Lincoln’s dead son Willie waited for his father to claim him and bring him home to Illinois; and the graves of Jefferson Davis and his family at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. Indeed, shortly before the publication of Bloody Crimes, I visited the grave of Jefferson Davis. A powerful storm had twisted and torn from the ground a mighty oak tree that had, for the past century, offered shade to Davis’s grave and bronze statue. Had the massive tree fallen in a slightly different direction, it would have smashed the gravestone and toppled Jefferson Davis from his pedestal.

The final journeys of Lincoln and Davis, each a martyr to his cause, tell the stories of two men, two peoples, and two nations during the most thrilling days in American history. Their dual stories form an American epic, a kind of American Iliad, that made our history, and that continues to influence it to this day.



--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The disparate fates of contending presidents make an odd juxtaposition in this ungainly history of the Civil War's last gasps. Swanson recounts the April 1865 odyssey of Abraham Lincoln's funeral train as it wound through the North, intercutting it with Jefferson Davis's flight south from Richmond through a disintegrating Confederacy. The intertwined narratives lack the drama of the John Wilkes Booth saga Swanson told in his bestselling Manhunt. Lincoln's progress is a vividly described but lugubrious study in Victorian pomp, with giant hearses, trackside bonfires, choruses of white-robed young women, and huge crowds filing past the slow-moldering corpse. Davis's journey is a deluded, lackadaisical picaresque as he tries and fails to rally demoralized Southerners--his own cavalry escort pillaged the accompanying treasury wagons--until his anticlimactic capture by Union forces. Swanson works hard to make Davis a noble (no, he was not captured wearing his wife's dress, just her shawl) worthy of the Dixie-wide memorial procession with which the book closes. But Davis's story is incomparably less resonant than the martyred Lincoln's; in Swanson's best sections, outpourings of grief--Lincoln's own and those of his mourners--make for a moving evocation of wartime loss. B&w photos.
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.

More About the Author

James L. Swanson is the author of the New York Times bestseller Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. He is an attorney who has written about history, the Constitution, popular culture, and other subjects for a variety of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, American Heritage, Smithsonian, and the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Swanson serves on the advisory council of the Ford's Theatre Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Campaign and is a member of the advisory committee of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

Customer Reviews

The contrast of Lincoln and Davis is fantastic.
H. F. Miglino
James L. Swanson himself has already written about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth in his book, "Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer."
James D. Miller
This is one of those history books that anyone (including those who don't think history books are fun to read) will not want to put down.
J. Brandt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Richad of Connecticut VINE VOICE on October 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think you will love this book. If history is what you want and Lincoln and the Civil War are your passions, then James Swanson has brought to life a period that is central to the American story. I have always found it amazing that some authors can take extraordinary historical events and make them as boring as watching wet paint dry, while others can put you right into the event. You feel you are there, and you can't put the book down until you are finished. This is what Bloody Crimes does for you.

When Swanson is done, you will understand the Civil War, and you will understand not just Lincoln but his counterpart, Jefferson Davis the President of the Confederacy. Davis was a man who many felt was destined to be President of the United States, West Point educated, an innovator who changed the army with his concepts of command and control before leaving for his position in the South.

In the early days of April 1865 word came to Lincoln that the North was ready to invade Richmond, Virginia, it had never happened before in four long years of fighting. President Davis was informed that you have to get out of Richmond, and get out now. Davis knew there were still things he had to do would take another 24 hours, but he instructed his wife to get ready to leave within hours.

As she was leaving she embraced him. He told her, if I live, you can comfort me when the struggle is ended, and then realizing how dire the situation was, he told her, I do not expect to survive the destruction of the constitutional liberty. The poignancy of the departure is striking. Even though most readers are dedicated to Lincoln and the sacredness of his mission, the author is able to get you into both corners sympathizing with both sides.
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70 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on August 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
James Swanson's "Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse" is to to some extent a companion piece for his enthralling "Manhunt", the story of the hunt for John Wilkes Booth after the Lincoln Assassination. But "Bloody Crimes" is painted upon a much broader canvas and becomes a dramatic, illuminating portrait of the end of the American Civil War. The tale is told by intertwining two skeins: the funeral of Abraham Lincoln and elaborate transportation of his body to its grave in Illinois, a lengthy somber journey that did much to raise Lincoln's stature in the American memory; and the efforts of Jefferson Davis not so much as to escape capture as instead to bring the remnants of the Confederate Government to safety in what remained of the Confederacy west of the Mississippi River to continue the war until victory could be achieved, a journey that was probably doomed from the start.

In comparing these journeys of Lincoln and Davis in the immediate aftermath of the fighting of the Civil War, Swanson explores the pasts and personalities of these two men, both similar and yet so different. It perhaps was tempting to make one man a hero and the other a villain, of sorts, but Swanson shows admiration for both leaders, and he does much to restore Davis's place in American history as something more than a hopeless failure. Swanson's page-turning account is an emotionally effective of the weeks when America turned from her most devisive war to the troubled peace beyond.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Athanasius on October 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
How can one heap too much praise on James Swanson? He's among our best historians, as well as a most accomplished and vivid writer. What I admire and enjoy most about Swanson is his Jack Finney-like ability to whisk his readers off in a time machine, escorting them to a world long vanished. Astonishingly gifted.

"Bloody Crimes" isn't quite in the same league as "Manhunt" (inevitably, given that the latter dealt with an inherently more dramatic and suspenseful tale), but it's nevertheless outstanding. I wasn't completely confident that Swanson could meaningfully juxtapose the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln's death and the hunt for Jefferson Davis. Oh me of little faith. And even if he hadn't been successful, his rendering of both topics is fascinating. The aftermath of Lincoln's death is poignantly (but not sentimentally) evoked, while Davis (a largely and outrageously ignored historical figure) is magnificently painted in hues of self-sacrifice, integrity, courage, and dignity. Davis is emblematic of the chivalric code of honor. This was discerned by many a great man, including Pope Pius IX. During Davis' unjust imprisonment, the Holy Father honored him by sending gifts, including a crown of thorns crafted by the Supreme Pontiff's own hands. And yet Davis is almost unknown today; and, if known, scorned. Well, one can't expect much from a people whose idea of history is what was on MTV the night before.

Swanson deserves additional congratulations for pointing out that no court ever ruled the South's secession (or secession in general) unconstitutional. That's a tidbit worth keeping in mind!

I have no significant negatives to mention, but.... I'm not a fan of the title, which strikes me as rather irrelevant and gratuitously lurid. And I don't like the pretentiously designed and constructed dust jacket. No other complaints -- you'd be hard pressed to read better than this book.
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