TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog

Lincoln Robbed, O’Reilly Banned

Truly nothing is sacred to metal thieves, not even Abe Lincoln.

Thieves have nabbed a 3-foot-long copper sword atop Lincoln’s Tomb in what is believed to be the first theft at the site in more than a century.

An employee noticed last week that the sword was cut from a statue of a Civil War artillery officer, the (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported Saturday. Officials think the sword was stolen sometime between September and early November.

Apparently, though, this is not the first time the sword has been stolen, although the last time was a hundred years ago.

The headline screams that Bill O’Reilly’s book on the Lincoln assassination has been “banned” at Ford’s Theater. Well, not exactly—it’s just not being sold there. Presumably if you walk in with a copy the security guards will not take it away from you.

Why? Misteakes, and not just copy editing.

“Killing Lincoln” suffers from factual errors and a lack of documentation, according to a study conducted by Rae Emerson, the deputy superintendent of Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, which is a unit of the National Park Service. Emerson’s review recommended that the book not be sold at Ford Theatre’s store.

Having sold a few books myself at various sites I can tell you how the process works: NPS does not sell books but works through concessionaires, in this case Eastern National. In order to sell it you first have to convince EN, then have them submit the book to the Park Service for approval. NPS likes to have books that are factually accurate with lots of footnotes, but readable. Not all books are accepted as there is a limited amount of shelf space. It took me over two years to get my sharpshooter book approved for Manassas. Still, it’s surprising that O’Reilly’s book was not accepted, because it would generate a lot of money.

There is the usual kvetching from academics, who only wish (don’t we all) their books would sell as well.


3 responses to “Lincoln Robbed, O’Reilly Banned”

  1. Josh Avatar

    Does O’Reilly’s book add anything that “American Brutus” hadn’t already covered better?

    Besides, I find it unlikely O’Reilly authored a history book that wasn’t intended as some kind of political message.

  2. Dave Avatar

    O’Reilly said on his program last night the report was in fact wrong and quoted a spokesperson for Ford’s Theater. Here is the link to the story.

  3. Terry Walbert Avatar
    Terry Walbert

    I just started “Killing Lincoln.” The writing is detailed and enjoyable. It is written in mostly the present tense, which I don’t like for historical works. That is just a matter of taste.

    Based on reading Rea Emerson’s review and news accounts of Edward Steers’ review in North and South, I think the biggest problem is that the book wasn’t copy edited very well and may not have been vetted adequately to outside readers.

    For example, the first mention of General Longstreet refers to him as Pete Longstreet, not “Pete” Longstreet. Normally you put nicknames in quotes, at least in the first instance. I would have suggested using James Longstreet and introducing the nickname in the next sentence.

    One more minor point. The book refers to John Wilkes Booth as having success on the “Broadway stage.” I would have cut “Broadway” because I question that that phrase would have been used in the 1860s. Theatres were everywhere in the America without radio, television, or movies.

    By themselves, each of these glitches is minor, but taken together they add up to a book that was probably written and produced in haste.

    If you think I’m being obsessively compulsive about it, I admit it. I write and edit technical manuals for a living. I once saw a movie where the leading character received a Christmas present of R. E. Lee by D. S. Freeman. In the movie it was three volumes, but I checked and Freeman’s work was four volumes. That bothered me.

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