The Lincoln Assassination, And Beyond.

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April 14th marks the anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It was the first assassination of an American president (sadly, the first of four) and to this day is one of the most compelling and dramatic stories in American history. John Wilkes Booth and a group of conspirators attempted to not only kill the president but also several members of the cabinet in an attempt to throw the American government into chaos. The murder happened just days after Robert E. Lee’s Confederacy surrender to signal the end of the Civil War. And Booth and his Confederate-sympathizing band of conspirators had enough. It was a central piece in a tumultuous month: April 1865.

My favorite book on the assassination and this crucial moment in American history is April 1865: The Month That Saved America by Jay Winik. From the publisher:

One month in 1865 witnessed the frenzied fall of Richmond, a daring last-ditch Southern plan for guerrilla warfare, Lee’s harrowing retreat, and then, Appomattox. It saw Lincoln’s assassination just five days later and a near-successful plot to decapitate the Union government, followed by chaos and coup fears in the North, collapsed negotiations and continued bloodshed in the South, and finally, the start of national reconciliation.

The details in the book—the geography of our nation’s capital, the wounds sustained by Secretary of State William H. Seward, the quotes from citizens and participants in the events—create a narrative that is informative, harrowing, and captivating. And while the book is about the month, with a focus on the assassination plot, the book looks beyond; it opens with Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and certainly illuminates upon the Civil War. It is a book that scholars of American history can enjoy as much as a high school student. And in a time when our nation’s current divisions are more visible in a digital age, it’s an important look at what was overcome in order for us to be unified again after years of bloodshed.

Also, check this link to the History Channel’s article on the Lincoln assassination. It has a brief overview along with more in-depth links and short videos, including some with the author.

Please leave any comments below about the book. NOTE: blog originally posted April 14th, 2017.

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