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Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 7, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 636 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Greatest Manhunt in American History

For 12 days after his brazen assassination of Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth was at large, and in Manhunt, historian James L. Swanson tells the vivid, fully documented tale of his escape and the wild, massive pursuit. Get a taste of the daily drama from this timeline of the desperate search.

April 14, 1865 Around noon, Booth learns that Lincoln is coming to Ford's Theatre that night. He has eight hours to prepare his plan.
10:15 pm: Booth shoots the president, leaps to the stage, and escapes on a waiting horse.
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton orders the manhunt to begin.
April 15 About 4:00 am: Booth seeks treatment for a broken leg at Dr. Samuel Mudd's farm near Beantown, Maryland. Cavalry patrol heads south toward Mudd farm.
Confederate operative Thomas Jones hides Booth in a remote pine thicket for five days, frustrating the manhunters.
April 19 Tens of thousands watch the procession to the U.S. Capitol, where President Lincoln lies in state. Wild rumors and stories of false sightings of Booth spread.
April 20 Stanton offers a $100,000 reward for the assassins, and threatens death to any citizen who helps them.
After hiding Booth in Maryland, Jones puts him in a rowboat on the Potomac River, bound for Virginia. More than a thousand manhunters are still searching in Maryland. In the dark, Booth rows the wrong way and first ends up back in Maryland.
April 20-24 Booth lands in the northern neck of Virginia, and Confederate agents and sympathizers guide him to Port Conway, Virginia.
April 24 Booth befriends three Confederate soldiers who help him cross the Rappahannock River to Port Royal and then guide him further southwest to the Garrett farm.
Union troops in Washington receive a report of a Booth sighting. They board a U.S. Navy tug and steam south, right past Booth's hideout at the Garrett farm.
April 25 The 16th New York Calvary, realizing their error, turns around and surrounds the Garrett farm after midnight that night.
April 26 When Booth refuses to surrender, troops set the barn on fire, and Boston Corbett shoots the assassin. Booth dies a few hours later, at sunrise.
April 26-27 Booth's body is brought back to Washington, where it is autopsied, photographed, and buried in a secret grave.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the early days of April 1865, with the bloody war to preserve the union finished, Swanson tells us, Abraham Lincoln was "jubilant." Elsewhere in Washington, the other player in the coming drama of the president's assassination was miserable. Hearing Lincoln's April 10 victory speech, famed actor and Confederate die-hard John Wilkes Booth turned to a friend and remarked with seething hatred, "That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I'll put him through." On April 14, Booth did just that. With great power, passion and at a thrilling, breakneck pace, Swanson (Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution) conjures up an exhausted yet jubilant nation ruptured by grief, stunned by tragedy and hell-bent on revenge. For 12 days, assisted by family and some women smitten by his legendary physical beauty, Booth relied on smarts, stealth and luck to elude the best detectives, military officers and local police the federal government could muster. Taking the reader into the action, the story is shot through with breathless, vivid, even gory detail. With a deft, probing style and no small amount of swagger, Swanson, a member of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, has crafted pure narrative pleasure, sure to satisfy the casual reader and Civil War aficionado alike. 11 b&w photos not seen by PW. (Feb. 7)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (February 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060518499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060518493
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (636 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The most notoriously infamous murder in American history occurred on Good Friday April 14, 1865. President Lincoln was

shot with a derringer by John Wilkes Booth (1838-April 26, 1865) in a murder most foul!Booth came from the most renowned acting family America. He was a superb actor, rake and handsome man who favored Southern Independence, hated the blacks and viewed Lincoln as a tyrant. Booth killed Lincoln after several earlier kidnap schemes went awry.

As an avid Civil War buff and student of the Lincoln assassination this is one of the two best books on the murder of the railspliter. The other great book on this topic is Edward Steers.Jr's classic "Blood On the Moon."

This book is not as dry as Steers book and could serve as the basis of a motion picture or better yet mini-series on the horrific event.

In great detail Swann tells us what really happened on the 12 day flight by Booth and his fellow conspirator David Herold on their flight to the Garrett family barn near Port Royal, Va. where Booth was shot to death by Sergeant Boston Corbett and

Herold was captured. (Herold along with George Atzerdot; Mary

Surratt and Lewis Powell would die on the scaffold on July 7, 1865.

Powell had sought to kill Secretary of State Seward in his bed where he was recovering from a painful carriage accident. He failed. George Atzerodt failed to even try to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson living in the Kirkwood Hotel.

If you want to excite a young person in American history this is a wonderful place to begin. Swann can write well and simply about complex events regarding the assassination. Finishing this book I have a new respect for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton who led the manhunt for the killers.
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Format: Paperback
There is no doubt that this is a compelling page turner, well written and researched. But upon finishing and taking a step back, it leaves an imperfect, maybe even unsettling, impression with me
First, in a sense, "Manhunt" might not be the best title, because while it does chronicle the 12-days that Booth was on the run, it is largely told through his eyes, not those of his pursuers. So maybe "Flight" or "On The Run" might give anyone who hasn't read it a more accurate idea of the narrative.
Second, the author clearly takes generous liberties in filling in the thoughts and motives of everyone involved, especially Booth, to the point where the reader has to wonder whether the narration has crossed the line from non-fiction to fictional novelization.

Put the two together, and you have the bigger issue -- a jarringly sympathetic portrait of Booth. Which is not to say that Booth didn't have sympathetic qualities or even believe in actions were justified. He surely must have. But I found too often, especially as the book wears on and the narrative becomes even more focused on Booth, that the author brushes aside his obvious flaws - among them his extreme bigotry, violent streak, hot temper and consistent deception of friend and foe alike - to paint him as something of a martyr. As the book nears its close, the author really seems to go all in, depicting Booth's pursuers as incompetent glory seekers and Booth... well, I'm telling the truth here, there's actually one passage in which a character who helps authorities is compared to Judas and another passage with a direct comparison of Booth to Jesus as he lay dying and tended to.

Again, there's much to like about this book and I recommend reading it. But since so many people have given it such sterling (5 star) reviews, I thought I would try to communicate a bit about what bothered me about the narrative. It's very good, but can't see it as 5 stars.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read several accounts of the death of Lincoln and its aftermath over the past 50 years, but not any of the recent publications, until picking this off the library shelf last week. I enjoyed it immensely. The flaws mentioned by prior reviewers are probably justified, but if, like me, the weakest part of your Lincoln lore was the escape and capture of Booth, this is a sufficient remedy for that gap. It is detailed enough, with interesting notes, yet it does read like a novel. One comes to feel sorry for Booth's suffering on his 12-day run, while not excusing his foolish crime, which did the South more harm than good. More photos would have been nice, including some modern views of the Maryland/Virginia locations. I've been to Ford's Theater and the Peterson House, and Swanson's treatment of those locales is nicely done. Although billed as the story of the manhunt, Lincoln does not die until page 139 of a nearly 400-page text, so the actual killing, and the simultaneous attack on Secretary of State Seward, are depicted in more-than-adequate detail.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been reading about the Lincoln assassination for over 45 years and this is the best book to date. It is riviting, filled with heretofore unrevealed details and updates. A wonderful read! Mr Swanson has done a lot of research and has woven a thrilling story...yet it is all true! He could not make these things up! Great book. Thanks
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Format: Hardcover
Manhunt tells a fascinating story that has been hidden in plain site. Virtually all Americans with any eductation know that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theater in Washington D.C. His assassin, the infamous John Wilkes Booth, an accomplished actor, escaped, but broke his leg jumping from Lincoln's box on to the stage, and was later shot and killed. Perhaps the details of the story are overwhelmed by the sheer tragedy of the assassination along with the drama, sense of triumph and celebration, and relief the end of the Civil War. Lincoln's death is painful history for me, and detailed descriptions of his assassination, killer, his co-conspirators, and subsequent manhunt seemed too unpleasant a subject to dwell on. Books such as "American Brutus" have been written recently past, but I had no desire to read them solely because of the subject matter.

When I received Manhunt as a gift I inwardly signed and wondered if it was a book I would actually read, let alone enjoy. However, I was hooked quickly. The first page describes John Wilkes waking up on April 14, 1865 and reflecting on what a bad month it had been so far (fall of Richmond and Lee's surrender at Appomattox). From that point, assassination day is described from the perspective of both Booth and Lincoln. The reader learns that Booth headed a real-life conspiracy, not something that arose from conjecture, a convoluted hypothesis, and thin evidence after the fact. This conspiracy first aimed to kidnap Lincoln and take him to Richmond. Assassination became Booth's aim after the kidnapping plot broke down and he became frustrated and vengeful as the Civil War closed. The final conspiracy did not stop with Lincoln as Secretary of State Charles Seward and Vice-President Andrew Johnson were also targets.
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