Civil War Book Review: Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

by James Durney on February 24, 2012 · 6 comments

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever
by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805093079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805093070

KillingLincolnOReillyDugardMuch of what is written and said on this book depends on the author’s view of Bill O’Reilly and not on what is between the covers of the book.  The “this is a great book” are slightly ahead of the “this is garbage” on Amazon.   The reality is between these two groups.  While not a great book, for that matter how many great histories are published each year, it is not garbage either.

A fair review should state that this is a very readable, reasonably accurate telling of the last days of Lincoln’s life and the events following his death.  A member of my round table and something of an assassination buff enjoyed the book.  We both found it to be very readable and enjoyable.  As with most books, you will find statements to take issue with.  However, the authors do not drift too far from the historical accepted version of events.  Their handling of the questions about Stanton’s involvement is very good without taking a position.  They accept Doctor Mudd is a Confederate agent that helped in Booth’s escape.   I feel they tie Booth too closely to the Confederate Secret Service in Canada.

The book is a daily chronicle of events from April 1 to April 13.  April 14, is almost an hourly chronicle of events covering Booth and Lincoln.  Booth’s escape, the trial and execution are covered in hours to weeks, depending on the events occurring.  Their is an excellent Afterword, a re-creation of the April 29, 1865 Harper’s Weekly covering the assassination.  Some very basic end notes cover major sections and the book has a full index.

While Killing Lincoln may not add to our knowledge, it is a very readable account with no major errors.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Bodner February 24, 2012 at 4:27 pm

And he does mention at the end of the book that dna tests are pending, to either confirm that the body at Garrett’s Farm was, indeed, John Wilkes Booth. Or if it was not. DNA tests on Edwin Booth’s body (buried in Massachusetts) and on a sample of the neck vertebrae of the man shot in the barn would be compared (presumably the yDNA) to see if a brotherly association existed. [Finding and comparing the dna of the body of the man thought to be JWB is complicated, since he is likely buried under siblings, etc in Baltimore].

News on this started to be available in late 2010, and it continued into the summer of 2011. At the last media coverage (that I saw, at least) during the summer of 2011 nothing had started to be done. The Booth family is in favor of the dna comparison, but obtaining permission to exhume Edwin, and in getting permission to obtain a sample of the dna neck bone that the US government has may be very difficult – for various reasons.

Has anyone heard if the dna tests have begun? Completed? Results?

Perhaps a petition drive is needed to help this effort along?

Maybe funding is needed?

Anybody out there know anything about all this?

Dave

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Josh February 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Does this book add anything to “American Brutus” by Michael Kauffman? That book seemed a pretty comprehensive coverage of Lincoln and Booth.

Does O’Reilly’s political bias show and in what ways? My problem with Bill O’Reilly – or any other talking head from FOX News or MSNBC – writing a history book is an unwillingness to even give it a chance as I fully expect them to try to slant history somehow to prove their political viewpoints.

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Pat Young February 25, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I wonder if books like O’Reilly’s bring in newly curious folks to the study of history or merely crowd out better works. Some of the criticism of O’Reilly seems pretty picky, but there are better treatments of the subject.

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Kurt March 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm

This is an interview of three individuals that debate the theory that John Wilkes Booth actually died in Enid, OK. DNA test results are still pending and this time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ghGrQUM8Po

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Dave Bodner March 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm

A great summary of the situation. And hopefully modern science can shed some light on this, and perhaps clear up some 20-odd other Booth escape myths [including the one I prefer, the one that has him escaping to India].

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Andie May 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Personally – I cannot stand Bill O’Reilly but I have to admit that I found this book quite enjoyable. I read it in just a few days as it is quite fast paced. I’ve never been much of a history buff but I found the manner in which this book was written to be both entertaining and informative.

One of the posters above asked if books like this are helping to pull more readers into the study of history – I would answer with a resounding yes. If more events in history were put into this type of format I don’t think I would have fallen asleep reading my history books so often. I would actually love references for more of this genre; accurate historical thrillers bring in those who may not have originally enjoyed history with an entertaining viewpoint.

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