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The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln [Kindle Edition]

Kate Clifford Larson
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Set against the backdrop of the Civil War, The Assassin’s Accomplice tells the gripping story of the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln through experience of its only female participant.

Confederate sympathizer Mary Surratt ran a boarding house in Washington, and the depth of her complicity in the murder of President Lincoln has been debated since she was arrested on April 17, 1865.

Calling upon long-lost interviews, confessions, and court testimony, historian Kate Clifford Larson magnificently captures how Surratt’s actions defied nineteenth-century norms of piety and allegiance. A riveting account of espionage and murder, The Assassin’s Accomplice offers a revealing examination of America’s most remembered assassination.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Was Mary Surratt an accomplice in Lincoln's assassination and justly sent to the scaffold? Larson freshly tackles these questions in this spirited narrative, mining just about every shred of evidence. While having started out believing in her subject's innocence, she ends up convinced that Surratt was guilty of joining John Wilkes Booth's plot to kill the president. Less sure, however, that Surratt should have swung from the gallows, Larson (Bound for the Promised Land) leaves this deeply freighted moral question open, as it should be. The tale itself could not be better told, nor could the cast of characters be brought more to life. What mars the work is Larson's maddening, anachronistic use of Mary to name her subject (no Abe for Lincoln here, no John for Booth) and her missing the chance to draw out the implications of the role of Surratt—a widow in an otherwise all-male plot—for our understanding of women's place in her day. But it's now up to those who still think Surratt innocent to prove Larson wrong. They'll be hard put to do so. Illus., maps. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Larson captures brilliantly the atmosphere of Mary Surratt’s trial in a crowded court room — murder trials attract morbid spectators — during the sweltering heat of a Washington summer. Her description of the drama of Mary’s last hours, when she was broken by a death sentence that neither she nor her lawyers had believed possible, makes compelling reading.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 1387 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (March 12, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003Z9JMPM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #936,359 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Was she guilty? June 13, 2008
More specifically, was Mary Surratt guilty of helping plot the murder of Lincoln? Author Kate Clifford Larson is so convinced of Mary's complicity, she calls her Booth's accomplice. The evidence against her is circumstantial but compelling.

Even today, there is a reluctance to attribute guilt to Mary Surratt. She was widely viewed as loving, kind, and regular in church attendance. Weichmann testified to her exemplary character. Fellow inmate Virginia Lomax cited examples of her kindheartedness to others in prison. Even Mary's ex-slave, Rachel Semus (p. 187), testified Mrs. Suratt always treated her fairly and she thus never had reason to complain. [As a descendant of slaves, I certainly don't grant Mrs. Surratt a pass. Unfortunately however, even our most revered figures - Washington and Jefferson - engaged in this detestable commerce. Second, at a time when incivility and sometimes cruelty to slaves were not uncommon, Mary was utterly blameless. Compare with "kindly" Dr. Mudd who shot a slave for insubordination (Edward Steers, "His Name is Still Mudd"). Compare with Lewis Paine who was arrested after stomping a black maid for talking back.]

Mary Surratt's saintly image frustrates attempts to see her as complicit in Lincoln's demise. But, says author Larson, she lied when she denied knowing Paine. She lied when she denied knowing David Herold who had visited frequently at her tavern. And why the many visits by Booth to her H Street boarding house, the two sometimes disappearing for clandestine conversations lasting an hour and longer? Why could she not find that exculpatory letter from her son, purportedly received the very day detectives demanded it?

Why the April 11 hushed tones with Lloyd about having "shooting irons" ready soon?
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Inaccuracies But Interesting At Any Rate April 22, 2010
Having read previously MANHUNT (and other books by James Swanson) and AMERICAN BRUTUS, I felt this book fell short a bit. Nonetheless, as the first book I've read primarily devoted to Mary Jenkins Surratt and her alledged participation in the Lincoln Assassination, I found this book flawed but compeling reading.
This book could easily be split into two parts.....before the assassination and after the assasination. Mrs. Surratt's participation up until the point of the assassination appears potentially damaging at the very least. Based on the testimony of people such as Louis Weichmann (her boarder), Mrs. Surratt appears to be complicite in a plot to kidnap Lincoln and hold him hostage. She offered her home to Booth and the conspirators over and over again as the initial plot was hatched. She took trips into Southern Maryland to convey information and secure supplies necessary to affect the kidnapping plot. She appeared to aid her son John on numerous occasions. John was a known confederate spy and operative. Mrs. Surratt herself was loyal to the cause of the south. The fact that she was involved at least on a superficial level in the plot to kidnap Lincoln was fairly obvious. However, things get a little fuzzy once the game plan evolved into an assassination plot. While evidence suggests she may have well been involved, it probably isn't as completely convincing because things evolved so quickly from a kidnapping plot to a assassination.
After the assassination, the conspirators were rounded up rather quickly. A speedy trial was held and within a matter of a couple months a verdict was handed down on the evidence that was presented. The veracity of the evidence has long been viewed as questionable as some information was withheld and testimony may have been altered.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, but not authoritative August 19, 2008
This is a compellingly written book that brings together data from a wide variety of primary and secondary sources to paint a vivid, well-realized portrait of Mary Surratt.

That said, the other reviewers who have complained about historical, factual, and typographical errors have quite a bit of justification. I was disappointed by the sloppiness of the book.

But Kate Clifford Larson's prose style is engaging, and although not an authoritative text by any means, this was a fascinating read.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Aw, C'mon July 25, 2013
Format:MP3 CD
This is one of the worst books I have ever read to the end. Where other reviewers, more knowledgeable than I, cite historical error after error, my problem is primarily with the author's perspective. Although she refers to the defendants consistently as Mary's "co-conspirators" from the first moment of their respective arrests, she presents no proof that any conspiracy ever took place. There seem to have been several people involved in the aborted kidnap plot; but there is no evidence that the actual assassination was carried out by anyone but Booth, alone. Further, Larson bases her conclusions of Mary's guilt exclusively on circumstantial and hearsay evidence. While a corrupt military court, totally committed to vengeance, might convict on such testimony, it is hard to believe that at 21st Century writer could be persuaded by such flimsy stuff. Finally, who cares? Larson doesn't present a single sympathetic character in her entire account. I don't see how she could have come to the conclusions she did. I read the entire book--which is now useless because of my outraged marginal scribbles--just to see whether there could be some redeeming element. But if it was there, I failed to find it. (How this was awarded a "Best Reads" star demeans that whole program.)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars I can't agree with this portrayal
Kate let her own prejudices draw conclusions about a woman that she couldn't begin to understand. This books reeks of a mind unable to grasp the persona of this 18th century woman. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Michael Hagen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I love it
Published 12 days ago by robert nussberger
3.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating yet frustrating look at Mary Surratt
I became fascinated with the story of Mary Surratt after watching Robert Redford's movie The Conspirator. Since then I have read several books, articles, documents, etc. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mike Vane
4.0 out of 5 stars You love Civil War history, don't miss this book
Great story, which did not offer opinion as to Mary Suratt's innocence or guilt. Larson wrote the story with as much accuracy available to him.
Published 2 months ago by Billie Beaudette
1.0 out of 5 stars this is the worst written book I've ever read
While the story was very interesting, this is the worst written book I've ever read! It's a brutal read. And I'm only on page 52!
Published 3 months ago by stanleyclanley
3.0 out of 5 stars Mary Surratt's Guilt
Larson compares the anger toward all of the conspirators involved in Lincoln's assassination, including Surratt, with the strong Victorian attitudes about women's roles in the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by LFD
4.0 out of 5 stars Larson but did enjoy her point of view
Found this to be a well written and researched edition on Mary's involvement in the plot. Not sure I agree with Ms. Larson but did enjoy her point of view. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Joseph A. Truglio
4.0 out of 5 stars This was a fantastic book! It was very informative about the plot ...
This was a fantastic book! It was very informative about the plot and about Mrs. Surratt that was not known.
Published 7 months ago by phil
1.0 out of 5 stars Sorry I wasted my time on this
Throughout the book I wanted to read something worthwhile or interesting or relevant. Can't say that ever happened except maybe a few minor details in the last couple chapters. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Annie
2.0 out of 5 stars Fact or Supposition?
I read this book because I was interested in the topic after watching the movie "Conspirator". Read more
Published 11 months ago by Bethany Paradee
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