Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Our current topic for American History Club is the Civil War. I wanted us to read something about President Lincoln, and this book showed up when I did a search. It sounded interesting, and a little different since it was nonfiction, so I thought it was worth a shot.

Published: 2009

Genre: YA biographical nonfiction

Length: 194 pages

Setting: mostly April, 1865, the area around Washington, D.C.

Summary: The book starts with a bit of setup as to why John Wilkes Booth didn’t like President Lincoln. Booth had a plot to kidnap Lincoln and turn him over to General Lee, but it was unsuccessful. On the morning of April 14th, 1865, Booth found out Lincoln would be attending an evening performance at the Ford Theater. Booth immediately decided to assassinate the President and got two acquaintances to agree to kill the Vice President and Secretary of State for maximum confusion. Booth’s part of the plan worked perfectly, although he broke his leg humping from the Presidential Box to the stage. Atzerodt decided he couldn’t go through with killing the Vice President, and Powell injured but didn’t kill Secretary of State Seward. Booth escapes Washington, D. C., and meets up with Herold who guides him through the countryside to several safe houses. booth eludes capture for 12 days, mainly by hiding in the woods. He crosses the Potomac into Virginia, but is soon captured and killed. His co-conspirators are tried and hanged.

Final thoughts: This was an interesting choice for American History Club since it is nonfiction and used as much source material as was available. It is full of newspaper clippings, photographs, and illustrations from that time period that help put you in that time and place. One of the boys noticed there was no dialogue in the book, since the author only used quotes if they came from a verified source. The book did a great job of elaborating on an event that I know of (Booth assassinating Lincoln in Ford’s Theater) but had no details of. It’s always interesting to see how big events turn on little details. I was happy with the choice and I think the boys enjoyed the book as well. There’s a couple of scenes with gory details which probably just added to their enjoyment. It probably helped that it reads fast since there are so many illustrations added to the text. If you’d like a more in-depth version of the events, read Swanson’s adult nonfiction book Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.

Title comes from: It is descriptive of the plot of the book.

Reading challenges fulfilled: book #3 for the year, and a S in my author Reading the Alphabet Challenge (Mr. Curiosity said he was claiming the C title and didn’t want me to share it for the same book)

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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