Monday, November 26, 2012

Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

Bill O'Reilly with his collaborator has created a fast paced, engaging account of the last days of Abraham Lincoln.  He has successfully developed the cast of characters that comprised of the conspiracy to eliminate Lincoln.  The book reads like a thriller.  He describes the last battles and General Lee's attempt to escape General Grant's grasp.  His descriptions of U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee are compellingly accurate.  Lincoln comes off sympathetic and prophetic in expecting his own doom.  Mary Lincoln is sympathetically depicted as mentally unstable.  John Wilkes Booth, however, is described fully with aplomb.  He comes off suave, a lady's man, confident if not arrogant, even narcissistic.

Lincoln's magnanimity is shown through his policies of reconciliation. For example, Robert E. Lee is very impressed with the terms of surrender.  Lincoln, very aware of the need to unify the country is not interested in prosecuting southern soldiers.  He wants people to get on with their lives and not fester hard feelings through harsh measures.

Unfortunately, many were not willing to accept the loss; they were not interested in accepting a different South.  John W. Booth was an angry man bent on destruction.  His anger prevented him from seeing that he could not change the fate of the country by just eliminating the president.  His arrogance knew no bounds.  His little known accomplices came off believable.  Powell, for example who viciously attacks Secretary Seward and his family at his home was described as a classic cold blooded killer.

American History comes alive in this very readable volume.  O'Reilly successfully teaches a tragic episode of the conclusion of the Civil War. In a divided country, Killing Lincoln is a fine reminder that one must be alert for unchecked passions.

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