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Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution [Hardcover]

James L. Swanson , Daniel R. Weinberg
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 1, 2001 1892041421 978-1892041425 1
On April 14, 1865, the president of the United States went to the theater. Five days earlier Lee had surrendered to Grant. The Civil War was over and the North held a jubilee. On that night John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln, and soon the murderer was hunted down and killed by federal troops. But the story of the Lincoln assassination does not end with his state funeral and the death of his killer. Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution resurrects these events by presenting an unprecedented visual record of more than 200 contemporary photographs, documents, prints, woodcuts, newspapers, pamphlets, books, and artifacts, many hitherto unpublished. Highlights include original albumen prints, cartes de visite, stereo cards, reward posters for the conspirators, the trial transcripts, the manuscript order for execution, and the seminal series of photographs by famed Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner of the conspirators in prison and during their execution. A unique work, the book will appeal to anyone interested in American history, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, law, crime, assassination, nineteenth-century photographic portraiture, and the history of American photojournalism.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This beautifully produced, groundbreaking volume of over 300 documents, portraits, memorabilia and arcana relating to Lincoln's assassination manages to transcend its immediate historical importance to become something artistically unique. Swanson and Weinberg, both Lincoln collectors and scholars, have assembled a remarkable collection of images relating to the assassination and the fate of its perpetrators (whose guilt some historians question today), including many that have not been easily available before. Some of the more common images include memorial posters of the assassination, wanted posters, newspaper reports and reproductions of plates from books about the event. They also reproduce letters from a young John Wilkes Booth as well as hand-written death warrants issued by the Union army. But the centerpiece of the volume is the collection of photographs taken by Alexander Gardner of six of the indicted conspirators as they awaited trial. These photographs formally posed, beautifully shot and eerily evocative are reminiscent of the work of artists such as Diane Arbus and Robert Mapplethorpe. Equally moving and disturbing are Gardner's photographs of the executions by hanging of several of the conspirators photos in which one can see the reality of death. Swanson and Weinberg contribute enough text to place all of these artifacts in historical context and provide an intelligent, informative primer on the topic. (Nov.)Forecast: While the idea of a coffee-table or art book on such a topic might seem grisly, this volume achieves high marks in both categories and will be read and examined by both academics and Civil War enthusiasts.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"[A] fascinating book." (New York Times Book Review )

"Even the most serious Civil War devotee can expect to find something new here." (Chicago Tribune ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Arena Editions; 1 edition (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892041421
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892041425
  • Product Dimensions: 11.7 x 9.7 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,769,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Amazing Photographs! December 22, 2001
By todd
This book is a fabulous photographic piece on the Lincoln assasination, covering the events and the people involved. The artifacts that are pictured are truly excellent examples. The quality of the photographs make for a wonderful book with great content. Many of the photos included have never been seen before. Swanson and Weinberg have put together a wonderful book that should be on every Lincoln bookshelf! I hope that the authors consider producing other fine books about President Lincoln that follow the same format. This is a great companion book to "Blood on the Moon" by Edward Steers, Jr..
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing January 4, 2007
By Publius
What Weinberg and Swanson give us here is a journey back in time to the Spring and Summer of 1865. For some reason, Lincoln assassination scholarship has been gaining interest of late with Swanson's other book entitled "Manhunt." No doubt, interest is also gaining momentum with the proposed Harrison Ford movie about the assassination. Nevertheless, Swanson's book is destined to be a classic illustrated compendium of the events around Lincoln's death. It is equal or maybe even better to Kunhardt's "Twenty Days" which was published during the 1960's.

The stories behind the photographs are well worth mentioning. In particular, there is a very poignant story of a soldier leaning on the scaffolding for the gallows during the execution. That soldier is right below Mary Surratt, and in one of Gardner's pictures (which were beautifully restored for this book) you can see this soldier puking as the death warrant is read aloud. Another story which Weinberg and Swanson relate is how the 4 hooded prisoners could hear, the night before their execution, the gallows being constructed. Overall, a great companion piece to either Swanson's "Manhunt" or any other book on the Assassination.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Rare February 22, 2007
This is a truly excllent monograpraph with some intriguing photographs and commentary not available before this account. This is a beautiful treatment of what happened to the almost mystical and undeniably lunaticical cadre of villains responsible for one of America's most horrifying and haunting domestic events. Like everything else that this dark chapter in US history provokes, these pictures catapult the reader back onto the streets of Washington D.C. where you stand as witness to this shocking tale.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten December 4, 2006
"They are forgotten now, long buried in their graves." So begins this compelling pictorial book on the trial and execution of Lincoln's assassins. The photographs are excellent and have a way to drawing the reader back into the 19th century. People who were relatively unknown jump off the pages as flesh and blood who plotted one of the most evil deeds in our nation's history. Take time to read the copies of handwritten letters that Swanson has included. Written in cursive (a style that is almost lost in the 21st century), the letters bring the characters to life. Swanson and Weinberg's work is an important piece of our national history.
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
On April 13th I went on a John Wilkes Booth Escape Route tour in
Clinton, Maryland, and just by sheer luck, Mr. Swanson was in attendance and though it was the 3rd time I'd been on the tour, it was the best. He is a most enthralling person and though I didn't know who he was for almost an hour, he was obviously very knowlegeable on the subject of the assassination. He was kind enough to sign a copy of his book for me that I purchased in the Surratt Society bookstore and wrote a very lengthy and personal note in it-but I'm rambling- The book is simply fabulous-The text is extremely informative and the photos are the best I've ever seen-some are very rare and have never been published before-This book is a MUST for anyone interseted in either the Civil War or the Lincoln assassination- it's definitley top drawer and well worth ever cent-I can't recommend it highly enough!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth It Just For The Photos June 26, 2007
This is a wonderful addition to the book collection of any reader of Lincoln or civil war history. I have studied the story of the Lincoln conspirators for nearly 20 years, and have read a lot of fine material on the subject, but this book contains amazing photos I did not know existed. Where one may have seen a single picture of the conspirators or their July 1865 hanging.......this book contains pages and pages of photos of them, taken shortly before their execution, often from the original glass negatives. Of course, it also contains a vivid narrative of their trial and last moments. Others have written superb accounts of these events. This book is "worth it just for the photos."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent January 25, 2008
This is more of a picture book than a text-laden history book, but it's the appeal of the many photos, pictures, illustrations, and even cartoons that make this book a fascinating one to read. The book includes photos of all the conspirators, in life as well as death, along with other interesting details such as a letter Booth wrote as a teenager. Today few remember that John Wilkes Booth was the teenage heart-throb of his day, making it all the more shocking when he was involved in the assassination.

The details of the trial sound like something from some fantastic kangaroo court, not the U.S. For example, the defense had no time to marshall their case, interview or call witnesses, or even to meet much with their clients. The jury was composed of generals and military men, not civilians, and their decision would be final, with no right of appeal.There were indeed judges in the courtroom, but they were watching from the audience.

The public and the press constantly talked about their favorite conspirators, of which the young, handsome and dashing looking Lewis Powell was the favorite, who attempted to kill secretary of state William Seward with a Bowie knife on the night of the assassination, rather than the president, but was foiled. Even the decision of who to prosecute left many questions unanswered, as several suspects with far more incriminating evidence weren't even brought to trial, whereas others with less evidence were tried and executed. The authors suggest that this might have had more to do with who actually plotted the murder vs. who was involved with post-assassination attempts to shelter Booth.

However, it's the stunning visual presentation here rather than the now well known history that is the star here. This book will be enjoyed by any history or Americana buffs or anyone interested in a well done presentation of a unique event in our history.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Service
This is not only one of the best purchases I have made, but I enjoyed receiving it fast and well packaged. Will definitely purchase from again!
Published 15 days ago by Nellie Bledsoe
5.0 out of 5 stars another great book....
By Swanson. Historically accurate with just the right amount of author's emotional input. I really enjoyed reading this book and if you are a Lincoln buff like me, you won't want... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gem
4.0 out of 5 stars New insight into history
Never knew much about the trial. This book makes one feel like he is living in the time. I do not think all deserved to be hanged. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Roy L. Banne
4.0 out of 5 stars Very concise history.
Very well researched with TONS of pictures from the time. I would have liked more words. The authors pass over most of the trial and related events without in depth discussion. Read more
Published 5 months ago by D. Williamson
4.0 out of 5 stars LINCOLN'S ASSASSINS.........
Published 6 months ago by W.N.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great pics!
This book was not exactly what I expected, however I was pleasantly surprised. It contains many interesting pictures, several of which I had not seen before in other Lincoln... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Kris Bailey
4.0 out of 5 stars Swanson does a good job in Text and Pictorial Presentation
The author does a very good job in depicting the events leading up to the trial and execution of the Lincoln's assassin's. Read more
Published 13 months ago by E. Rau
5.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution
Truly excellent work for any Civil War or Abraham Lincoln buff. Great in details and pictures of which at least 75% I have never seen before.
Published 17 months ago by BIG-GATOR
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent visuals - minimum details
If you're looking for an excellent photographic record of the trial and execution of Lincoln's assassins, this is THE book to choose. Read more
Published on February 27, 2012 by Ray Mooney
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Items From Private Collections of Weinberg and Swanson!
Is it the definitive book on the Lincoln Assassination? No. But I don't think it pretends to be. The narrative is basic but the period photographs and photographs of artifacts... Read more
Published on February 23, 2012 by Jim Schmidt
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