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Stealing Lincoln's Body

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  987 Ratings  ·  150 Reviews
On the night of the presidential election in 1876, a gang of counterfeiters out of Chicago attempted to steal the entombed embalmed body of Abraham Lincoln and hold it for ransom. The custodian of the tomb was so shaken by the incident that he willingly dedicated the rest of his life to protecting the president's corpse.

In a lively and dramatic narrative, Thomas J. Craughw
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published April 15th 2007 by Belknap Press
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Oct 23, 2007 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Craughwell's chronicle of the attempted theft of Lincoln's body begins the night of Lincoln's assassination and gives a pretty amazingly detailed account of everything that happened from there on out. You can tell that a huge amount of research went into this book, but thankfully Craughwell avoids spending too much time on the boring details that must inevitably crop up when you research something as in-depth as this.
I found it interesting to learn about what was such an event at the time, yet t
May 05, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Amy by: Received this recommendation from a person on Fiction-L
Intriguing! I learned a lot. For example, in the mid-1870's, southern Ohio experienced a rash of grave robberies culminating with the theft of John Scott Harrison's body in May 1878 from its grave in a cemetery in North Bend, Ohio. The grave robbers sold the body to the Medical College of Ohio in Cincinnati. This case attracted national attention because John Harrison was the son of President William Henry Harrison & father of President Benjamin Harrison. In the uproar that followed, the dea ...more
Eric Knudsen
Jan 04, 2008 Eric Knudsen rated it liked it
This is a good book. Not a great book, but a good one. The main problem is that Mr Craughwell touches on so many subjects connected to the attempted tomb robbery that are worthy of whole books of their own. Lincoln's funeral, the Republican's theft of the 1876 presidential election, the rise of American Nativism, the Pullman strike,...the list goes on and on. Still, I enjoyed it, and it inspired me to read more on the subjects above. There is also a wonderfully creepy "spirt picture" of Abe and ...more
Mar 04, 2008 fleegan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: American history fans
Shelves: non-fiction
How do you pronounce that last name? crafwell? crah-well? I dunno.

In continuing with my Lincoln fetish. Heh. fetish. This was a great book. It was short, which is so rare in Lincoln books. It's not really so much about Lincoln though, it's about a heist to steal the dead president's body back in the 1870s. The fellows who were going to steal the body were doing so to hold it for ransom. What did they want? One of their buddies released from jail and $200,000. I know, the plan itself is even mor
Jan 20, 2011 William rated it liked it
This was the first book read on the new NOOK ereader I got for Xmas. It was an inauspicious start. Although it was all charged up on Xmas day and formated I forgot it was a battery operated device when picking it up to use 3 weks later. Finally able after many pokes and prods to come to the realization that another charge was needed I proceeded on my subway commute without a scrap of reading material...ugh! That would never happen with a printed page!
The book itself is a historical accounting o
Dec 26, 2009 R.Friend rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
As a lincoln buff, this premise has always been intriguing to me; but some 50 pages into this book, I began wondering when we were going to actually get to the point...

Craughwell seemed to take the long way home, in a manner of speaking—getting caught up in the history of counterfeiting in America along the way. I'm not particularly interested in the history of counterfeiting in America, unfortunately. And while there's obviously a connection to the larger story, I don't think it was the wisest
Aug 13, 2008 Jodi rated it liked it
I had never before heard of the plot to steal Abraham Lincoln's corpse and hold it ransom. I found this to be a fascinating little story, but that is all it really is, a little story. I think that this material would have made a nice couple of chapters in a larger book on Lincoln, but there wasn't enough there to make a whole book about the subject.

Along the way you'll learn all kinds of interesting things about counterfeiting in the 1800s (that I found more interesting that the Lincoln story ac
Dec 09, 2008 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Overall I enjoyed Thomas Craughwell's Stealing Lincoln's Body. The description of the planning and execution of President Lincoln's funeral in the Prologue was highly engaging. The sections pertaining to nineteenth century funeral and cemetery customs was also quite interesting. However, chapters one and two regarding the history of counterfeiting and the Irish immigration to America in the nineteenth century proved to be rather dull. The chapters dealing with the trial and conviction of the wou ...more
Feb 17, 2009 Matt rated it liked it
Total coincidence that I finished reading this on the same day that the History Channel showed a 2-hour movie of the book. Weird. Not crazy exciting, as it basically just tells the story of the plot to steal Lincoln's dead body and hold it for ransom. What a great idea. No.

At the time it happened it was overshadowed in the news by the rigged election between Rutherford Hayes over Samuel Tilden. It does get pretty detailed, covering all of the main characters (Lincoln's family and friends, the r
Ann Gillespie
Feb 10, 2009 Ann Gillespie rated it it was amazing
The author does a good job of providing the factual history, the human angles, and a great read. I knew a bit about this story before I read the book, but there was so much detail provided, without being tedious. A gang of forgers tried to steal Lincoln's body in 1876, planning to use it to get their engraver released from prison. In order to tell this story, the author first provides the circumstances under which Lincoln was buried in this particular cemetery, then explains the history of curre ...more
Mar 03, 2009 Jennifer rated it liked it
This book was a really interesting history of the plot to steal Lincoln's Body. There was some good background given regarding counterfeiting at the time. I would have liked more information regarding embalming practices in that era.

The reason I only gave it three stars was the writing style. It was a bit dry for my tastes. For such a weird piece of history, the storytelling was not that engaging.

I also would have liked to know more about the would-be grave robbers.

As a former Springfield resi
Apr 07, 2009 Stephen rated it it was amazing
Such an odd, odd little story. Did I say odd?

I first encountered the book “Stealing Lincoln’s Body” in the gift shop at Gettysburg on a vacation a couple of years ago. Such a curious story but running low on money, I didn’t buy it.

This is the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth and remembering the book, I found and bought a copy.

“Stealing Lincoln’s Body” begins with his death on April 15, 1865 and follows the saga of his body. It seems he did not go home to Illinois to rest in peace. The R.I
Apr 12, 2009 Christina rated it it was ok
Who knew that some bumbling counterfeiters would try to get their engraver out of prison by holding Abraham Lincoln's body for ransom? Or that as a result Lincoln was reburied multiple times before finally ending up inside a lead box inside a wood crate inside a steel cage completely covered in concrete? If they'd only mention the interesting stuff in history class!
Sep 20, 2010 Andrew rated it it was amazing
After watching a documentary on the History Channel about how the body of Abraham Lincoln was almost stolen, I knew I had to read this book. One might think this was a work of fiction, but it is actually a narrative of true events. Craughwell takes Abraham Lincoln, a President who, at this point has been dead almost a half a century, and reignites his character. This time, however, Lincoln is sought after by "body snatchers."

Reading this book showed me that reading texts based on history can be
Nov 05, 2010 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Just a few years after his death, a couple of con men conspired to steal President Lincoln's body and hold it for ransom.

I learned quite a bit from reading this book. It's short and presents a bit of history that I had never even heard of, which is amazing when you think about it. A couple of guys hatch a plan to grave rob one of the most beloved presidents, getting so far as to pull his coffin from its sarcophagus, and we never hear anything about it? Crazy! While I liked learning about this in
Jul 30, 2011 Meleya added it
I enjoyed this book because it was extensively researched per all of the footnotes. I found the information regarding Mary and Abe's relationship to be fascinating. It is amazing how one person's grudge can turn into a "fact" throughout history. I always had the image that Mary and Abe didn't get along but it is nice to know this is a falsehood. Too bad Abe's son didn't think the letters were important, I'd certainly like to read some of those.

A quick read, and an interesting topic. I'd never ev
Dec 04, 2011 Megan rated it liked it
I like the book but got confused when reading it. When I was reading the book it would be talking about one thing then it would go to another thing and then go back to the other topic. It confused me when it did that because that topic it went to had little to do with what it was talking about before. I like the book because I learn so neat things about what went on around Lincoln and his tomb.
The auther, Thomas J. Craughwell, purpose for writing this book was to explain the events of what hap
Taz Boot
The author of the book Stealing Lincoln’s Body is Thomas J. Craughwell. He is also the

author of several books on Catholic history, like Saints Behaving Badly and The Wisdom of the

Popes, and books about American popular culture, including Urban Legends.

Thomas J. Craughwell’s purpose in writing the book was to inform. Very few people

know that there have been attempts to steal Lincoln’s body, and it is mentioned in very few

biographies about Abraham Lincoln. He wanted to tell this story so peopl
John Goode
Jul 12, 2012 John Goode rated it it was ok
Not the book I was was expecting nor wanted to read.

This is one of the most interesting moments in US history yet it is rarely talked about outside of Lincoln books. This reads almost like a crime blog of a minute to minute events that led up to the crime, except I wasn't looking to read about the crime and more of the impact. I wanted to read about the cultural impact and how Lincoln's son felt having to identify his father's body after all those years. It seems like someone took what little in
Sep 13, 2012 Shamela rated it liked it
Fascinating. Craughwell has done meticulous work, and the facts and connections are all there, and his writing style employs some lovely Victorianesque turns of phrase. But his organization, lamentably, reminds me somewhat of reading an undergraduate research paper. After the preliminary chapter about Lincoln's death; cranial autopsy (because, what, there was any question?); embalming; "wake"; countrywide funeral procession; original resting place; and arguments over the final resting place and ...more
For a history buff, this book may have A LOT of appeal for my it introduced way too many characters at the same time. I had a difficult time keeping track of who was bad, the mastermind, a helper, etc. I also felt it repeated inself a bit, just adding a bit more detail each time. This 2 factors made it difficult to continue to read. However, I LOVED the pictures and the last 2 chapters. It was new material, less characters, and very informative.

The old saying goes "the book is always better tha
Oct 06, 2012 Alice rated it it was amazing
Who knew?!! What an engaging and interesting book. I love knowing out-of-the-way details on Lincoln and this book does not disappoint. The author has a love of the subject, a depth of historical knowledge and a refreshing sense of humor that makes the book a pleasure to read. I highly recommend it.
Dec 27, 2012 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
The story at the heart of this book is the most interesting - that of the plot, the attempt, and the consequences of the grave robbery - but there is almost too much "other" mixed in. Craughwell brings in a ton of peripheral material, which makes concentrating on just the attempted robbery hard to do, especially in light of the many people already involved (too many names too fast - it's hard to keep the robbers and the secret service guys straight). And, the detailed histories of the Irish immi ...more
Mar 02, 2013 Jonathan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Doug Phillips
Mar 25, 2014 Doug Phillips rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-general
If you think you have read most accounts of Lincoln's life, this one book you should read about Lincoln after his death.

The author does an excellent job of setting the stage for the period immediately following Lincoln's death, and the surprisingly unsecured method of internment. The text follows the almost unbelievable steal-body-for-hire thugs who attempt to perpetrate the crime, as well as their punishment. Robert Lincoln features prominently (as you would expect) in the subsequent decades a
Nov 21, 2013 Stephen rated it really liked it
Odd story. Well written. A bit morbid. To be clear, this is a work of non-fiction. Grave robbery was common at the time- though this incident that the story revolves around involves ransom. I think from a standpoint of history, this is a very interesting read, but as far as story goes, the title doesn't live up to the contents. Maybe two chapters are devoted to the theft, the rest are devoted to interesting auxiliary topics- funeral practices, fraternal organizations, counterfeit operations, inv ...more
Mr. Southmayd
Jan 07, 2014 Mr. Southmayd rated it it was ok
I had the hardest time getting through this book. It felt as though I was reading a text book. I know that this was supposed to be a historic informational book, but I thought with such a compelling title it would be interesting. Unfortunately I didn't find this to be an interesting read. 'Stealing Lincoln's Body' was such a disappointment for me as I found it was filled with useless information and people that sometimes I found myself necessarily instantly forgetting names that were dropped a m ...more
Michael Hermann
Mar 27, 2014 Michael Hermann rated it really liked it
This was a great read. As some what of a history buff and a huge fan of Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly, I have become kind of fascinated with Abraham Lincoln. There are a lot of books out there that explain the life and times of Lincoln, so I was really shocked when I read about a plot to steal Lincoln's body to hold it for ransom. If you have never read anything by thomas Craughwell, I highly recommend him. This book was a great read and to me it never felt like I was reading a text book. He ...more
Damon Lively
Apr 21, 2014 Damon Lively rated it it was ok
This was a challenging book to rate. Mainly due to story as a whole. The story of the attempt to steal Lincoln’s body is very simplistic and short as a whole. The author therefore branches into other historical components – such as the history of counterfeiting in the U.S. – which is interesting to know. Probably the more compelling part of the story is the acts to protect Lincoln’s body, multiple interments, how his remains were “in a sense” mishandled for a period of years – leading up to the ...more
Joseph Durham
Sep 21, 2016 Joseph Durham rated it liked it
An interesting, though macabre insight to American life: the greed, the venality of crime and its imagination to do such a thing.

I recall that they looked at Lincoln's body around the turn of the century, little did I know the circumstances and the history behind it.

Craughwell's work is well documented. As he noted there are gaps in the historical record that are lost and unrecoverable, but that is history.

His writing diverges a bit and inserts other topics which I thought was different.

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