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"They Have Killed Papa Dead!": The Road to Ford's Theatre, Abraham Lincoln's Murder, and the Rage for Vengeance Hardcover – December 30, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Small details often clog a narrative, but here they fill out the tale of one of the most consequential events of American history-the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. While Pitch (The Burning of Washington) relies somewhat too heavily on hearsay reports of conversations that no one can fully credit, he has mined every resource, read every book, and turned up some documents that had escaped others. More important, he's found new evidence that Lincoln was under genuine threat as early as the eve of his first inauguration, not just after his second one. The result is a fast-moving telling of the multiple plots on Lincoln's life, the implementation of the successful one, its complex aftermath and the way it threw the nation into deep mourning and despair. No reader will come away unmoved, even at this distance, by anguish about the event. The author elicits our feelings for even the plotters in captivity and on the scaffold. A real page-turner about real history. Illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Pitch claims discovery of previously unknown facts about the Lincoln assassination. Peripheral to the essence of the crime, Pitch’s new information, while certainly interesting to history readers (such as a plotter’s job application to the War Department), does not alter the history of the case. What would alter the history of the case would be convincing evidence of a Confederate government hand in the assassination––which neither investigators in 1865 nor historians subsequently have ever found. Pitch’s laudable revelations nevertheless leave him with the storyteller’s task of dramatizing John Wilkes Booth’s conspiracy, his and his accomplices’ attempted escapes from the scenes of their crimes, and the punishment meted out to them. Pitch acquits himself well in this endeavor, integrating scene-setting detail with kinetic pacing that leaves his readers dreading what will happen next, well though they know that the president will be murdered, that pandemonium will erupt, that Booth will be killed, and that Mary Surratt will not be reprieved from the gallows. Pitch’s energetic narrative will be highly popular amid the bicentennial upsurge of Lincoln books. --Gilbert Taylor

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Steerforth; First edition (December 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586421581
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586421588
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This outstanding, very readable account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the subsequent manhunt, trial and punishment of the guilty is a monumental work of research and writing. Anthony Pitch so completely combines his formidable skills as a journalist and historian here that he has fashioned a book that will please the everyday reader, as well as the scholar. His treatment of the actual assassination of the beloved president is so poignant that it may make you weep. His riveting account of the manhunt for Booth and his accomplices reads like a modern-day thriller. This book may well stand as the definitive work on the Lincoln assassination. For nine years the author plowed through obscure documents -- many of them revealed here for the first time -- enabling him to construct an incredibly detailed (and richly annotated) book of this landmark event in U.S. history. The book also is instructional in portraying how an aggrieved, bereaved nation responds to the aftermath of such a national tragedy. One of the best American history books I've read in recent years.
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Format: Hardcover
It might wll be asked: Why another Lincoln Assassination book? What new could be said, without conjecturing up some fantastic, unlikely, "previously unknown" secret conspiracy?

The author has succeeded in creating something new and interesting, while sticking towards a traditional narrative of the Lincoln Assassination, without wild claims of vast secret conspiracies that only he has had the wit and good fortune to uncover. What he has done instead was to thoroughly examine a vast amount of primary source material -- especially private letters, diaries, etc. -- to seek out those small, vivid details of the moment that do so much to bring the whole tragedy to life.

Even if you have read other Lincoln Assassination books, this new volume is worth your attention.
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Format: Hardcover
Anthony S, Pitch has given us a much needed addition to the Lincoln assassination story. His writing is superb, the footnotes are detailed, the bibliography is comprehensive, and his primary source work is outstanding. He has added much that was not known about Booth's whereabouts during the second Lincoln Inaugural. He has uncovered new information about the assassination. I highly recommend this for anyone interested in Abraham Lincoln.
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Format: Hardcover
Only a couple of years ago, a full-length book about John Wilkes Booth's twelve days in the wilderness was published. The condensed version of that saga related in this book is even better, somehow making the reader feel sorry for the suffering endured by that evil fellow. Mr. Pitch is quite a good writer, and his nine years of research in primary source material shows up in these pages. Back in the 60's I visited Ford's Theater, and the Peterson House in which Lincoln died. At the theater, I managed to get away from the crowd and walk alone at the rear of the balcony, overlooking Tenth Street. I found a room between the auditorium and the front wall of the building that looked as if it had been untouched in 100 years. That moment, along with looking at the assassination items displayed on the main floor, has stayed fresh in my mind all these years. This book brings the tragic events to vivid life, from the threats aimed at Lincoln en route to take office for his first term, to the savage murder attempt in the home of Secretary of State William Seward. I'm a Yankee, and so I have no sympathy for Booth's decision to kill Mr. Lincoln after his plans for a kidnap were ruined by Lee's surrender. Yet sympathy for some of his co-conspirators is possible. Eight were tried together after Booth's killing in Virginia, and four of those were hung. The other four were imprisoned under horrid conditions for four years before being paroled. Mr. Pitch does not provide his own scholarly opinion as to whether Mary Surratt was guilty enough to deserve hanging, or Dr. Mudd innocent enough to escape it (by one vote.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
It is almost impossible to find fault with this book. The author has written a readable, detailed history of Lincoln's Assassination. I expect this book to become the standard secondary source on the subject, while raising the bar on assassination histories to an almost impossible height in the process.
We have an excellent overview of the kidnapping plot and the change to murder by Booth. Each of the assassins, conspirators and helpers has a full portrait. The attack on Lincoln and Seward is detailed, as is the escape of each of the attackers. The pursuit, capture, interrogation and confessions of the participants are well reported. The indictment, military trial, imprisonment and execution are almost a book within the book. The author covers the questions raised by the military trial, the defense lawyers actions and press coverage in an evenhanded non-judgmental way giving us a full picture of the events.
All of this detail stays in a story that always is moving and never drags. Somehow, the author manages to work the details into the story without burdening it. These details form a personal interaction with the participants that most histories lack. The account of the assassination and the hours following are very well done. The author captures the uncertainly, fear and anguish Washington feels as the event unfolds. This is powerful writing, showing how different America was and how upsetting things were. Lincoln was the first President murdered which adds to the horror and fear. We tend to overlook this 145 years later but this is an important fact that the details impress on us.
While this is a different America, some things do not change. Throughout the book are little asides about the scramble for the reward.
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