Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Billy O'Reilly's The Killing of Historical Figures a Goodreads list
The book begins on Saturday, March 4, 1865. President Abraham Lincoln has taken the oath of office as president for a second term. His vice president is Andrew Johnson. While Lincoln is being sworn in to office, the Civil War is still raging, and John Wilks Booth is furious and anxious for revenge. Booth is sympathetic to the Confederate cause to the point of frenzy. While Booth wants to take a murderous action against Lincoln. Lincoln's face is set to reunify the nation of America.
We are reminded that Lincoln has six weeks to live.
Killing Lincoln is a solid study of the last six weeks of Abraham Lincoln's life. O'Reilly and Dugard have captured this period with a close-up view of Lincoln, but also his family. Other characters are also studied: John Wilkes Booth, Lucy Hale, General Ulysses S. Grant, General Robert E. Lee, Andrew Johnson, Frederick W. Seward, and the co-conspirators of Booth.
The lengthy Civil War battle near Petersburg, Virginia has worn down General Lee's army. General Grant has the upper hand and Lee is in retreat. The war soon ended with Lee surrendering. I can't say I enjoyed reading about this sad chapter in American history. The war weary men. Soldiers who were so hungry they were willing to eat tree bark. However, to understand this period in American history is important. The actual event of the surrender I found interesting. The conversation between Lee and Grant, because Grant was so swept up in conversation with Lee that he forgot what he was there for. It is facts like this that make this book wonderful. Small moments of humanity, either between characters or an individual, that brings the book to life.
A few points I was unaware until reading this book:
1. Lincoln was a hated man."He is by far the most despised and reviled president in American history." Page 99.
I had not known there were other people who had wanted to kill Lincoln.
Lincoln was revered by freed blacks. But, white people on both sides of the war, were weary of the war and its cost.
2. John Wilkes Booth is examined to the point I understood him a bit better, and related him to other people who have became assassinators. He was psychotic in his frenzy of believing he had to commit the act of murder. He was obsessed with ending Lincoln's life, and those who were on the cabinet with Lincoln. He had a huge ego. He was a narcissist. He perceived himself to be godlike. He did not go down alone, but made sure his conspirators were found.
3. The grim details of Lincoln's death. What position Lincoln was in when he was shot, how long it took him to die, and those who were present with him during his death process.
I read this book in one day! I was unable to place it down. I even read while eating.