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Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  21,322 Ratings  ·  1,870 Reviews
The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history -- the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling fro ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published February 7th 2006 by William Morrow (first published 2006)
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Sep 20, 2009 S. rated it liked it
I suggest reading "Manhunt" backwards. That way, when you get to the end, Lincoln hasn't been fatally wounded, Mary Todd hasn’t tottered over into madness and that poor couple of horses haven't been shot and sunk in the swamp.

Seriously though, this account of JW Booth’s capture is worth reading. The drawback is sometimes the writing lays it on too thick. It works effectively at the beginning: the assassination itself, for example, is gripping. And since Booth was an actor, the Shakespearian allu
Will Byrnes
After Booth did his thing at Ford’s theater, it took the combined forces of the United States, Virginia, Maryland, private pursuers and even Confederate soldiers to track down Booth and his partner in crime. Swanson gives us a beautifully detailed blow-by-blow of the actions that took place before, during and after the killing. There was material in here that was new to me, namely that the assassination of Lincoln was not the only one planned for the day, or the only one attempted, or that Booth ...more
Matt Chittum
Sep 16, 2008 Matt Chittum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves history, or just a good yarn
Recommended to Matt by: good reads
This was positively Shakespearean. Not in the poetry, but in the sheer drama of it. The plotting, the conspiracy, the murder. Swanson does a terrific job of cobbling together a stunningly complete and compelling narrative of Booth's time on the lam while armies hunted for him, all from interviews with the subjects, court transcripts, newspaper accounts, and other books written by those involved at at the time. He reveals the roots of Booth's motivation, and his ego, along with that of his co-con ...more
Jason Koivu
Jun 25, 2012 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How the heck did Swanson manage to make this very well-known story so riveting? I mean, everyone knows that (UNNECESSARY SPOILER ALERT MOSTLY JUST FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE SPENT YOUR LIFE LIVING IN A CAVE---->) President Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theater by stage actor John Wilkes Booth, who was subsequently caught. And yet Manhunt is genuinely exciting, give or take a section that was drawn out a bit, I suspect in order to add a few more pages to the book. The actions of the event ...more
Aug 03, 2012 Gerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had always known since schooldays that John Wilkes Booth had assassinated President Abraham Lincoln but I had no idea of the background and the follow-up to his action.

'Manhunt' most certainly clears that little matter up for it is a stupendous account of the 12-day chase for the killer as well as setting the scene for the deed and giving later detail about what happened to the various key locations in the story.

Once begun it is difficult to put down, for the action rolls on and on without let
May 16, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the book and learned ever so much more about that point in our history than I ever did in school. I appreciate the accounts were taken from primary sources, newspapers and other research - for that reason I have more confidence in the intrepretation by Swanson. I certainly recomend it for people who learned a light version of the events, like myself, and have a curiosity as to what could drive a person to assassinate a president.
There's something magical about a book that is so thoroughly and meticulously researched, yet reads effortlessly and with great entertainment value. It's so easy to make history feel stuffy and dry, but this book is far from it. This is the illuminated kind of nonfiction, aiming more for portraying life than delivering data into the reader's head. Perhaps not for history buffs, but more for people like me, who got solid Bs in history class because text books are so much less interesting than col ...more
Read this book for a fascinating glimpse into the mid-19th century, not for the writing. The author uses first-hand accounts, trial testimony etc. to re-construct some events leading up to Lincoln's assassination and then, mostly, the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators. (Did you even know there were co-conspirators?) It includes many long quotations from correspondence, diary entries, witness statements etc., all of which I greatly enjoyed reading. The author's own writing lef ...more
JD Carruthers
Nov 18, 2012 JD Carruthers rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was impressed by James Swanson's book, Manhunt: the 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, but unfortunately not favorably so. To begin, Swanson treats his subject in such light and casual detail that any serious student of history or anyone with an academic interest in Lincoln's assassination would be poorly served to waste time with this book. Swanson's intended audience is strictly the retail public.

Swanson begins his book with "a note to the reader" in which he makes the claim, "This story is
Bookmarks Magazine

James L. Swanson's Web site includes a glowing review quotation from Patricia Cornwell. The correlation is apt since critics find this nonfiction account of Booth's getaway as compelling as the best thrillers. Swanson, a legal scholar with the Cato Institute and a Lincoln historian, knows the assassination inside and out; he's been studying Lincoln since he was a child, and his previous book (with Daniel R. Weinberg), Lincoln's Assassins, was a photographic and archival study of Booth and his co

Jan 18, 2009 Alicia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book a lot. I had no idea what all was involved with the assasination of Abraham Lincoln. It makes me wonder what they teach us in school. I highly recommend reading it.
Terry Lucas
Feb 08, 2011 Terry Lucas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was reading the chapter where Booth is about to shoot Lincoln and I found myself sitting tensely in the chair with the book close to my face and hurredly turning the pages to find out if he gets away with it, or does he get caught! Hellooo-oooo!!!
This book is so well written that it swoops you up into the excitement and blood-pumping emotions of the aftermath of Lincoln's assassination. Booth is not demonized, nor is he glorified. This is an interesting recount of what was going on around Was
Okay, so I liked this book and there was a lot of new and interesting information. It's interesting to note that there were two other assassination attempts, both of which failed, and other men involved in the assassinations. The writer wrote it in a way that was very engaging. But the last half of the book was a bit odd. It seemed like the author was sympathizing with Booth. He even compared him to Christ in two instances I can think of. That's what really got me.

After thinking about it a whil
Aug 04, 2011 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
April 1865 was one of the most momentous months in American history. Richmond fell to Union troops, Jefferson Davis was on the run, the government of the Confederacy collapsed, Lincoln was assassinated, and a 12 day manhunt was launched for his killer, John Wilkes Booth. In Manhunt, James Swanson has written an incredible book taking the reader through the days before the assassination to the capture, killing and burial of Booth, to the trial, imprisonment, and execution of co-conspirators, to t ...more
Kressel Housman
I read this as a follow-up to Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation, but whereas that was history mixed with humor, this was 100% history that read like a detective/adventure story. I was definitely on the edge of my seat in spots, especially at the end. Earlier in the book, however, I had a more perverse reaction: I found myself actually rooting for John Wilkes Booth to keep evading the manhunters because I didn’t want the book to end. Mostly though, I am thankful to say, I hated him as much as ...more
4.5 stars - a fantastic look at Lincoln's assassination and the subsequent hunt for J. W. Booth. I had never read anything about the assassination before and after reading this I'm not sure if I ever need to. It was incredibly thorough but well-paced, realistic but not merely factual, and honest about the struggle of the injured Booth in escaping without making him into a hero.

Two notes:
1. This book was a little gruesome. It wasn't absolutely disgusting, but the injuries and assassination attem
Jan 23, 2015 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book solidly succeeds in the genre of works that promise to be of compelling reading to the non-history-minded reader while being based on solid historical research. James L. Swanson, a historian and attorney in Washington D.C., shows his knowledge of everything Abraham Lincoln. He provides a new twist to the subject of Lincoln's assassination and aftermath in a field which is jammed to the rafters with Civil War/Lincoln books.

Swanson's twist in writing of this period of national distress
Mar 25, 2009 Heidi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My husband read this first, and his succinct review was that "a whole lot of nothing happens." Yeah, that's about right!

However, I liked this book. Swanson obviously is fascinated by this topic, and it comes through in his narrative. Although he cannot know for certain the thoughts and motivations of the major players, his research seems so thorough that he is in a good place to make reasonable conjectures. Despite the absence of action throughout most of the book, he held my interest as well as
A history book that truly reads like a novel. The old cliche that "I couldn't put it down" holds true for this vivid day-by-day and almost minute-by-minute account of the 12-day search for John Wilkes Booth.

I'll write a proper review of this great book after I spend some time gathering my thoughts.
Fayzan Inayat
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hieu Nguyen
Jan 12, 2016 Hieu Nguyen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, the author tells us the order of events that occurred before and after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The story leading to this tragic event in American history is told in a third-person point of view. The novel tells how the conspirators arranged the assassination. It also explains what John Wilkes Booth, the main conspirator, faced that night on the balcony of Ford’s Theater and his other encounters after he had carried out his pla ...more
Ryan Evans
May 04, 2013 Ryan Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Of course, it's nonfiction, but it reads like a high intensity, suspenseful, thrilling novel. It goes into details of the manhunt that I was not aware of before. And now that I've lived in DC for about 4 years, I found it fascinating how Swanson could transport me back 150 years. I honestly feel a more intimate connection with our nation's history after reading about this particular troubling episode.
Mar 20, 2015 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
History of the assassination of President Lincoln is pretty much familiar in its planning and execution, but once the president is dead, the rest of the story is abbreviated to merely state John Wilkes Booth was captured and killed and his conspirators rounded up, tried and hung or imprisoned.
Swanson takes the assassination story from the attack to the ultimate capture of Booth. He describes how the actor got away, where he went and how he evaded capture for 12 days. He also explores the relat
Mar 24, 2015 J.M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, in-depth look at the days between the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the death of his assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Much of what I thought I knew was incorrect. I found this riveting and difficult to put down.
Jul 10, 2015 Tassie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is pop culture history drivel. You can tell when the author announces at the end that he's only listing the reference works he "likes" rather than trying to give a complete bibliography, because that would be "impossible". That's not how historians are supposed to work.

He gives in to whims of flowery language, assumes conversations and thoughts, and routinely vacillates between present day and the 1860s. While I'm sure most of his hard facts are correct, allowing yourself to give in to
Oct 01, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Linda by: Ford's Theatre bookstore
After finishing our tour of Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2013, my sister and I characteristically lingered in the museum bookstore. The clerk there, seeing us pause over a stack of autographed copies of Swanson’s Manhunt, launched into the most emphatic endorsement of the book, telling us how excellent it was and how it read like a fast-moving fiction mystery. Intrigued, my sister and I each bought a copy.

The store clerk’s endorsement was no exaggeration: Manhunt is a ver
Tamara Harris
Jan 05, 2010 Tamara Harris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of history, Civil War, Lincoln, crime drama
Manhunt is a historical account that reads like a James Patterson novel. I couldn't put it down despite knowing already how the story ended. The book contains thrilling personal narratives of a defining event in American history. Hearing the impressions of President Lincoln's family, members of his Cabinet, Union loyalists and rebels, made history come alive.

About those accounts, though...I found myself wondering whether Swanson took creative license with history, so frequent were the mentions
Scott Taylor
Feb 13, 2011 Scott Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Picked up this book on a lark, just wanted something non-fiction. Plus it was read by Richard Thomas, one of my favorite all-time actors. This book on CD was fantastic. Cannot recommend high enough. Best book on CD I've listened to this year.

As implied by the title, the subject matter primarily regards the events that occurred directly after Lincoln was shot, until the time Booth was caught. Stanton, Booth, etc. What is not immediately apparent by just the title is that the story is about Fanny
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jan 25, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Ultimate Reading List History
The author James L. Swanson isn't a historian but a journalist. He has been however, as he put it, "obsessed" with Abraham Lincoln since childhood and a collector of memorabilia regarding the assassination and someone who had read exhaustively on the subject even before he began formally researching this book on his assassination by John Wilkes Booth and the 12-day hunt for him. I didn't get farther than the assassination though, and the issue is one of style. Let me give you the passage that st ...more
I loved this, and just raced through it, even though I knew how it was going to turn out. When I was much younger I read a lot about the Lincolns, especially Mary Todd, but there were many treasures in Swanson's account. For instance, the self-castrating christian Boston Corbett who was literally "mad as a hatter," and the haunted Major Rathbone, who never recovered from witnessing the tragedy. Especially riveting were the tales of the other conspirators, including the big strapping fellow who a ...more
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Max's book review#2 1 5 Sep 22, 2015 07:43PM  
Details 10 71 May 28, 2014 09:21AM  
the Truman Capote influence 8 18 Oct 18, 2013 03:08AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: Manhunt 1 5 Oct 04, 2012 07:12PM  
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  • Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America
  • 1861: The Civil War Awakening
  • April 1865: The Month That Saved America
  • The Last Lincolns: The Rise & Fall of a Great American Family
  • Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington
  • Stealing Lincoln's Body
  • Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President
  • The State of Jones
  • Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam
  • The Passing of Armies: An Account of the Final Campaign of the Army of the Potomac
  • The Day Lincoln Was Shot
James Swanson is the Edgar Award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. Swanson has degrees in history from the University of Chicago, where he was a student of John Hope Franklin, and in law from the University of California, Los Angeles.

He has held a number of government and think-tank posts in Washington, D.C., including at the United St
More about James L. Swanson...

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