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70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, compelling account of the end of the Civil War
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...
Published on August 28, 2010 by Bruce Trinque

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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but uneven continuation of "Manhunt"
I am not the huge Lincoln fanatic that my late father was, but I was so captivated by James Swanson's storytelling style in brining forth the history of the Lincoln assasination as told in "Manhunt" that I eagarly looked forward to picking up this book; his next work entitled "Bloody Crimes."
"Bloody Crimes" tries to do to things at once; act as a coninuation of...
Published on February 19, 2011 by Peterack


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70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, compelling account of the end of the Civil War, August 28, 2010
By 
Bruce Trinque (Amston, CT United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse (Hardcover)
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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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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling History that Reads like a Novel - What more could one want???, October 1, 2010
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This review is from: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse (Hardcover)
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.

If one reads serious history, then you realize that true history may not be as it is portrayed in the history books. History is written by the victors, and so the losers are relegated to being bad guys no matter what the real story is. In this book some of the amazing things you will learn include:

* On April 4th, 1865 a week before his death, Lincoln is getting ready to enter Richmond himself and he thinks to himself, that thank God, he has lived to see the end to this horrid dream for four years, and now the nightmare is gone.

* In the midst of this horror show Lincoln talks about a man who came to visit him, and asked for an ambassadorship. Lincoln told him he could not accommodate him. He then asked to become a minister somewhere; Lincoln could not help him out. Well what about a civil service job - can't do it.
The man left after Lincoln gave him a pair of trousers. Even amongst the pain and horror of the war, Lincoln kept his sense of humor.

* Richmond has been taken, the city severely damaged, burned and looted. Lincoln accompanied by just a dozen soldiers takes a small boat to Richmond. Getting off the boat he quickly is seen by a handful of former slaves. The group enlarges within seconds, and they kneel down to him, grabbing his pants leg. Lincoln looks at them and tells them, not to kneel down to him, that is not right. Kneel only to God. He Lincoln, is only God's instrument, but they may rest assured that as long as he lives, no one shall put a shackle on their limbs, and they shall have the rights that God has given to every other free man, and citizen of the Republic.

* Jefferson Davis was a former Secretary of War in the American government. Learned, educated, the possessor of a vast library, he revered George Washington and the founding fathers. He was an able and elegant statesman. His library numbered books in the thousands, and Davis had studied every one of them.

* Lincoln meanwhile couldn't afford books, so he read the same books narrowly, and deeply. He had read Shakespeare, the Bible, politics and history, until he had thoroughly absorbed their contents and could quote from them verbatim.

* Lincoln knew he was not a perfect man, but thought that George Washington and Henry Clay were. He also felt that if Washington was not perfect, it was better if we thought of him that way. This allowed Lincoln to staff his government with super stars who were not perfect but thought of themselves as such. Lincoln found he could understand and deal with such men.

* Davis however could not deal with men who were not perfect. He could not abide men who failed to live up to the standards he set for himself. This would be his downfall.

* Lincoln dies, and it is a 1600 mile trip to Springfield. The detailed and sad events of the circumstances surrounding the hours it took Lincoln to die, the events, the chase, the mourning, it's all here in detail, and very well written.

* One million Americans viewed the open casket, and another 3 million Americans stood at the railroad sidings to see a man who would become immortal in history. Davis on the other hand travels throughout the South with a $100,000 bounty on his head.

This book and this author have it all. The event is a game changer. The Civil War changes everything. It addresses the one issue that the founding fathers knew they could not address. The founding of the Republic had to include slavery or the Southern states would not join the United States.

It was left to Lincoln to end slavery and begin the second founding of the United States with his election, and his actions. This will ultimately make him the second greatest President in American history after the founder George Washington.
Doris Kearns Goodwin a masterful historian in her own right returns the favor and calls Swanson a "master storyteller". Prominent historian Douglas Brinkley says that Swanson now "emerges as one of America's greatest historians."

I couldn't put the book down, and neither will you. Compelling history, our history, wars, battles, assassination, chases, ceremony, euphoria, sadness, and depression, it is all here, and told as well as it can be told. Give yourself a chance to relish a history told in a way that has never been told before. It is an exquisite book of hope, and reverence. Enjoy it, and thank you for reading this review.

Richard C. Stoyeck
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb...Inevitably, October 1, 2010
This review is from: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse (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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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What happened after the Manhunt, September 14, 2010
This review is from: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse (Hardcover)
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Being greatly interested in anything to do with Abraham Lincoln (easy to do while living in Illinois because there is so much Lincoln history here), I was excited to read "Bloody Crimes". A few years ago, I read James Swanson's previous Lincoln book "Manhunt" and quite enjoyed that one. "Bloody Crimes" focuses on what happens after Lincoln dies and follows his path from Washington D.C. to the tomb in Springfield. A lot of books have been written about the assassination but they don't really focus on what happens after Lincoln dies. The book goes into detail about how the Washington D.C. funeral was put together and what happened on each stop of the funeral train. There were details about Lincoln's funeral that I didn't know about previously. I got immersed in the details and sort of felt like I was there experiencing the mourning back in 1865.

It also follows what happens to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, in the final days of the Civil War. To be honest, I don't know much about Jefferson Davis and it was interesting to find out about him more. I think as someone from the North and that the North won the war, I've been kind of taught that Confederates were bad and evil but I found out that Jefferson Davis was just a regular man who just happened to be elected as the president of the Confederacy. Yes, the intentions of the confederacy were not right but Jefferson Davis was not evil through and through. He, like Lincoln, was a man with a wife and children. He suffered sorrows just like Lincoln. He was a well-respected man in Washington before the war. The book shows that even though these two men are fighting for two very different causes, they are more alike than what we thought.

I very much enjoyed reading this book. My only gripe is that the author shows his views on Mary Lincoln whenever she is mentioned in the book. Mary Lincoln is a woman that most people seem to love or hate. I'm probably one of the few that see her both ways-she certainly was not perfect and had a lot of bad qualities but I feel sympathy towards her somewhat. But Mr. Swanson seems to have a slight vendetta against Mrs. Lincoln. He mentioned that she should have let Tad Lincoln go on the funeral train back to Springfield but was selfish and made him stay. But Robert Lincoln did not go on the train for the whole trip, so why should Tad? There were other Mary Lincoln mentions that left a slight distaste in my mouth and I felt that perhaps Mr. Swanson should have been a bit more impartial in talking about Mrs. Lincoln. But other than that, I'm proud to have this book on the shelf with my other Lincoln books. "Bloody Crimes" is a must read for any fans of Lincoln (I know there are a lot out there) or anyone interested in reading non-fiction about the Civil War era.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional history of what happned just after the Civil War, November 20, 2010
This review is from: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse (Hardcover)
Bloody Crimes does a wonderful job of filling in the blank sports in certain parts of Civil War history. Here we see what happened just after the fall of Richmond, Lee's surrender and Lincoln's assassination. James Swanson takes the reader on not one, but two journeys. We follow the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln and are told about all the planning that went into it. At the same time we are kept up to date on the desperate desire of Jefferson Davis to live to fight another day by avoiding capture. His flight from Federal troops is fascinatingly told.

Swanson does a great job of exploring the tensions of the period and how rumors easily spread but how facts resulted in such things as Jefferson Davis going from shackled prisoner waiting for the hangman to free man and revered spokesperson for the Confederate cause. Most interestingly is that while Lincoln's fame seemed to ebb a bit at first, he grew in stature and by the bicentennial of his birth he was so well known and Jefferson Davis had become a minor player by comparison. I find it interested that according to Swanson, the opposite was somewhat true.

He deserves great praise for making this a very personal story and by willing to include little known anecdotes and dispelling more commonly repeated myths. All in all this is a very interesting book and I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in American History or the Civil War.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bloody crimes, November 2, 2010
By 
Dthom (Findlay, OH usa) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse (Hardcover)
One of the best books on the conclusion of the civil war I have read.
The author follows the last few days and the immedidate aftermath of the civil war from the lives and death of the two presidents, A.Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. His research must have been extensive as he goes into great detail into their lives in these last days. I believe even the most knowlegeable civil war historian would learn many details and interesting antecdotes from this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely entertaining and insightful, February 10, 2011
This review is from: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse (Hardcover)
This book reads like a high powered thriller and it's simply hard to put down. I have read many books about Lincoln (as I'm sure most of you have too) but this gives such a different perspective that it can't help but be very interesting. Besides learning about the amazing funeral procession the book does a great job of following Jefferson Davis' life. It's pretty hard to find information about Davis but this book does an amazing job. The last page, referring to Davis, is simply a crazy irony. I won't spoil it for you. In summary, very enjoyable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis, November 2, 2010
This review is from: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse (Hardcover)
This extremely well-written book details the aftermath of Lincoln's assassination and also the hunt for Jefferson Davis in the wake of that killing. There are thumbnail biographies of both men throughout the book, but the concentration is on what happened after Ford's Theater.

Lincoln's death is written about in all of its grisly detail, ands then the laying out of his body in the White House and the Capital is covered. After that comes a day-by-day recounting of the funeral trail that made its circuitous way from Washington, through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York State, Pennsylvania again, Ohio, Indiana and, finally, Illinois, where Lincoln was buried in Springfield, the town where he lived when elected President in 1860.

We are told of the various communities where the body was displayed competing with each other to have the most magnificent tribute to Lincoln, and some of the speeches that were made. Once the initial plans for the funeral and all that followed were set, the search for Jefferson Davis began in earnest.

Davis is shown as a man of upright character who truly believed in his cause (that became the "Lost Cause"). Even after the fall of Richmond and Lee's surrender he wanted to fight on west of the Mississippi. Even though he was advised to hurry along and get to a ship taking him either west or to, possibly, Cuba, he procrastinated, and this led to his eventual capture, and the nasty and untrue rumor that he was caught wearing his wife's clothes.

The former President was transported in chains to a casement cell in Fort Monroe, Virginia. When I was in the Air Force and stationed near Fort Monroe I had the opportunity to view this cell and, believe me, I would not have put a dog into it! There was a clamor to have Davis tried as a potential coconspirator in Lincoln's assassination, but no evidence for that could be found. Eventually, his imprisonment became less onerous and the Federal government, not wishing to have him executed and therefore create a Southern martyr, allowed him his freedom on $100,000 bail, after two years of incarceration.

The last part of the book tells the story of the remaining years of Davis' life, which he initially lived quietly at a Gulf Coast mansion willed to him by one of his supporters. He became a speaker for the Confederacy at many gatherings and never changed his belief in the righteousness of his Cause, but he did wish for reconciliation between North and South. When he died, his funeral train went from New Orleans to Richmond, eerily copying Lincoln's death train, with the same type of track side adulation his martyred opponent had in 1865.

To the reader who has an interest in the Civil War and the lesser known aspects of what happened after the guns fell silent, this is an excellent book to read to fill in their knowledge gaps, particularly as they relate to Jefferson Davis. I highly recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Southern Perspective, March 15, 2011
This review is from: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse (Hardcover)
As a Canadian and descendent of a southern soldier I have had almost no knowledge of Jefferson Davis. This book has enriched my understanding. All I had ever heard was how wonderful Robert E Lee was and how generous the North was after defeating the South. Like one reviewer said, history is written by the victors. Good read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT!, October 13, 2010
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This review is from: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse (Hardcover)
Just finished this and was sorry to have the book end. This was riveting and I thought very interesting how the author used the parallels in lives of Lincoln and Davis. Anyone who enjoys reading about Lincoln, Civil War or the Confederacy will enjoy this. Fascinating, well written.
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