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Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse
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Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  2,473 Ratings  ·  301 Reviews
Sm Quarto, Pictorial Boards, , PP.464, Stock Photo Is not of first Edition, Cover Below Lincoln Face Photo Is $100,000 Reward In Gold
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by William Morrow (first published 2010)
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Jan 17, 2011 Lewis rated it it was ok
One of my pet peeves is when authors write a good book, get a second book deal, and then rush to write said book. There are many problems with this one (1) it needs an editor to cut out the copious amount of material that is also found in his first book (2) he needs to cut down on the Mary Lincoln bashing and (3) it needs to quit using the obscure term catalfaque every other fecking page. It was disappointing and you would be better served finding any number of other books that handle the dual s ...more
Gary Land
Dec 17, 2010 Gary Land rated it really liked it
This was an excellent book on a somewhat unusual subject. Swanson argues that the process of Lincoln's death pagaent, particularly his funeral train, turned him into America's secular saint. Many years later, though on a smaller scale, Jefferson Davis became a symbol of the South's "Lost Cause," but time has not sustained this image well. This volume surprised me in two ways. First, it makes Davis a much more sympathetic figure than most other works that describe him. Second, although he is not ...more
Parallel Lives. Not Parallel Legacies.

This starts with Robert E. Lee's telegrams to Jefferson Davis about his inability to hold defensive lines and his surrender days later at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. The narrative of events ends with Davis's capture on May 10, 1865. A summation of Davis's last years and an analysis of history's memory of the Lincoln and Davis follows. The title is a little "off" since there is not much on the "bloody crimes" and the book is more than the chase for Davis an
Sep 05, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: U.S. History Buffs
Based on the length of the subtitle, The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse, I should have known that the book wouldn't be short. Because of some incorrect online information (hey, you can get wrong info on the Web??), I expected about 200 pages and was just a little disconcerted to find around 400.

I shouldn't have worried. This book was informative, entertaining, and thoroughly readable. The story starts a few days before the Lincoln assassination and follows L
Paul Pessolano
Feb 02, 2011 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it
"Bloody Crimes" is a folow-up to Swanson's highly successful, "Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer."

This book is quite unique in its telling of the events surrounding the death of Abraham Lincoln and his funeral and the chase to find Jefferson Davis.

The book starts with the assassination of Lincoln and then parallels the chase for Davis, and the transporting of Lincoln's body from Washington to Springfield, Illinois.

Swanson highlights the funeral train carrying Lincoln's body, the tow
Dec 11, 2010 Barb rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Not as engaging as Manhunt; a lot of the urgency from that book is missing. It obviously isn't there in the parts about Lincoln's journey back to Illinois, but it isn't there in the parts about Jefferson Davis's flight, either. It seems like Swanson might have some ambivalence toward Davis. Swanson clearly isn't ambivalent about Mary Lincoln; he does not like her, and the bias shines through clearly every time she comes up in the story. (Fortunately, because she was in seclusion for this period, ...more
Elaine Nelson
Fascinating coverage of a part of the Civil War that I'd never really thought about: the immediate aftermath of Lee's surrender and Lincoln's assassination. In particular, I was intrigued by the slow unwinding of the end of the Confederacy: Davis's hopes to keep going, the surrenders of the various armies, the insistence of his associates that Davis either flee the country or try to keep the Confederacy going in Texas. (!!!)

What bugged me, ultimately, was the entirely sympathetic treatment of Da
Jul 28, 2013 Simon rated it liked it
It's a clever idea to link the hunt for Jefferson Davis with the Lincoln funeral procession, and Swanson pulls it off. There are some interesting biases that come through. He dislikes Mary Todd Lincoln to the point of being contradictory. At one point he criticizes both her and Robert Lincoln for failing to bring Tad to his father's deathbed, but six or seven pages he records the first lady as calling for her younger son's presence. I also think he tends to idealize Jefferson Davis out of all pr ...more
Mar 16, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it
Unlike many books covering the events of April 14, 1865, this book's main focus isn't on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, except to tell about the event itself, as much as it describes what happened from the moment Lincoln was shot until he was laid in his grave. There are dozens of excellent books out there if one wants to read about the assassination of Lincoln and its conspirators but this book is for those who want to read about the pageantry and spectacle of his funeral and transport t ...more
Brenda Clough
Oct 11, 2011 Brenda Clough rated it really liked it
This review originally appeared in the International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Magazine (

The 150th anniversary of the Civil War is upon us, and the tide of publications and commemorations is rising fast. Since the Civil War essentially kicked off the modern funeral industry, this increasing interest offers many relevant books for us. Award-winning author James Swanson’s previous volume was a gripping account of the escape and capture of John Wilkes Booth. His new book BLOOD
Sep 15, 2011 Rob rated it did not like it
Shelves: wasted-time
UPDATE: This book never got better. The writing was completely boring, even to a history buff like me. The "thrilling" chase for Jefferson Davis was anything but thrilling. There was no sense of drama and only the vaguest and feeblest attempt to capture the emotions which accompanied the chase and the actual capture. This book may as well have been a checklist of historic facts. "First this happened; then this happened; then this happened; and then he died." This was the most disappointing book ...more
Jan 03, 2014 James rated it really liked it
Fascinating read, although not quite as gripping as "Manhunt." Could have done with a bit less editorializing, too. But overall a good read and interesting account of Jefferson Davis, whom I had not really read much about before. Well worth the read.
Mar 18, 2011 Jim rated it liked it
I liked the book by the author concerning the chase of Booth a lot more.
Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)
Aug 30, 2010 Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries) rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, reviewed
This review first appeared on my blog:

All of us know at least a skeleton of the story of Abraham Lincoln, but how many of us know the story of Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president?

This book tells you more about both men and their lives starting from right before the Union's capture of Richmond, VA (the Confederate capital), through Jefferson Davis' capture in the forest, to Davis' death at a ripe old age.

Meticulously researched, this history of the
Trevor Rowland
Mar 14, 2017 Trevor Rowland rated it liked it
Interesting book; Definitely not as entertaining of a read as "Manhunt" was. Some sections seemed rushed, like Swanson was hastily trying to meet a deadline, and I think he tried too hard to sell the "parallel journeys" of Lincoln and Davis idea. Oddly enough, the most fascinating parts of the book didn't involve the chase for Jefferson Davis. The details of Lincoln's funeral ceremonies and train journey were a wealth of engaging tidbits for Lincoln buffs (like myself), and I felt moved by the s ...more
A fabulous read!

I learned a lot! I thought I knew almost everything about Abraham Lincoln. Swanson introduced quite a few facts that I didn't know. I especially enjoyed reading about Lincoln's "Death Train".

There is not much out there on Jefferson Davis. History always favors the winners and rarely gives much attention to the losers. Still, Swanson treats Davis equally and fairly.

This book gets its name from John Brown. He dog-eared the pages of the bible most dear to him including Ezekiel 7:2
Julie Failla Earhart
Aug 02, 2012 Julie Failla Earhart rated it it was amazing
as seen on Walrus Publishing:
Even when I was a kid in high school, there was a lot of history to teach and to learn. A lot of areas were merely skimmed over, teaching the highlights. I can’t imagine how history teachers manage today and what they must be forced to leave out or to gloss over.
I’ve always been fascinated with American history, especially the Civil War Era. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the American South, where this history may be skewed a bit differently than in the rest of the
Nov 20, 2010 Robert rated it did not like it
Shelves: history-us
This book was a disappointment. I had read and enjoyed Swanson's previous best-seller "Manhunt" which was a dramatic retelling of John Wilkes Booth's flight after his assassination of Lincoln. This follow-up book is also about a flight, that of Jefferson Davis fleeing capture after the fall of Richmond. While "Manhunt" was well-researched and tightly organized on the single topic of the hunt for Lincoln's killer, in this new book Swanson complicates the narrative structure by telling two stories ...more
Jan 25, 2017 Marilyn rated it liked it
Two Divergent Journeys.

This is the first book I've read that described in some detail the "journey" of Lincoln's corpse from Washington to Springfield, IL. I was impressed by the pictures of the ornate pagodas, arches, and the interior decorations of buildings and rotundas in or under which Lincoln lay. Also the picture of him lying in his ornate casket in New York. [I'm glad Secretary of War Stanton kept the picture and that it was found among his papers. I can understand why he wanted it suppr
Expanding Bookshelf
Dec 26, 2015 Expanding Bookshelf rated it it was ok
One of the issues with being a history nut (besides the fact that people tell you to get a better hobby, have you tried knitting?) is that you end up covering the same ground a lot. Normally that’s pretty interesting; I’ve read way too many books about the Roosevelts, but I’m able to glean something new from each new book. Unfortunately, sometimes you read a history book that’s decent, but it doesn’t really give you something new. Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pagean ...more
Jim Gallen
Jan 17, 2015 Jim Gallen rated it it was amazing
“Bloody Crimes” is the dual story of two presidents, Abraham Lincoln as he lived the last days of his life and whose funeral train retraced his route from Springfield to Washington and Jefferson Davis as his nation collapsed and he fled for his life and a place to make a stand.

The story begins with its focus on Richmond, where Davis receives progressively direr reports from his army, eventually advising him to evacuate the capitol, while Lincoln is with his army awaiting the chance to take posse
Tom Darrow
Jan 22, 2017 Tom Darrow rated it liked it
An ambitious book on an interesting topic, but flawed and somewhat amateurish in its execution.

This book covers the lives and deaths of two American presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, focusing mostly on the conclusion of the Civil War and the years afterwards. Swanson parallels the journey of Lincoln's corpse to its burial site and Davis' attempted escape following the Union capture of Richmond, and attempts to show how the American public responded to each of these events. In plac
Feb 09, 2014 Amy rated it liked it
I had some issues with this book. In some places it is rambling and overly detailed--to the point where I felt like skimming passages. There were editing discrepancies, too--for instance, on one page it says that Edwin Stanton, who was in charge of picking out the clothes that Lincoln would be buried in, selected a suit that "was new, so the president had not had the opportunity to wear it out." Yet just a few pages later, Lincoln's body is described being on display in his coffin "dressed in th ...more
Jun 21, 2011 Sue rated it really liked it
Beginning with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Bloody Crimes tells the parallel stories of Lincoln’s final journey home and Davis’s flight and ultimate capture.
Swanson details the events immediately following the shooting of Lincoln, including the chaos at the Peterson house where Lincoln’s body was taken immediately following the attack. From the hysterical and inconsolable Mary Lincoln to the doctors and government officials who came and went throughout the evening, the Peterson house b
Jan 25, 2011 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
This book is the sequel volume to Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson, which I read back in September of 2010. The title of this book is fairly self-explanatory, but, as is usual with this author’s books, covers more history than just the title states. I very much enjoyed reading this book, and learned a great deal of history from it that I had not known before; and I am now inspired to note Jefferson Davis’s birthday in due time in this weblog, when in the fullnes ...more
Jul 30, 2011 Nick rated it it was ok
I wasn't a big fan of this book. To be fair though, I suppose I can't totally blame the author, since the history explored in the book is really the most nauseating part.
As far as the writing is concerned, here's my issues with it:
1)Way too much cut-and-paste of FULL historical documents. Optimal use would be short quotes, creating the illusion for the reader that they are privy to a conversation. That does not happen here unfortunately. Putting complete-letter-after-complete-letter into this b
James Swanson has a talent for taking historical events and making them interesting and lively. Manhunt is one of my favorite non-fiction books, a fast paced and compelling story about the capture of John Wilkes-Booth. In this book, Bloody Crimes, Swanson returns to the post civil war era and focuses on Lincoln’s funeral procession from Washington, DC to Springfield, IL, and the hunt for and capture of Jefferson Davis after Lincoln’s assignation.

While I didn’t find this book quite as compelling
Mar 11, 2013 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Abraham Lincoln has long been one of my historical heroes, and I've read, well, let's just say more than a few books on him. But none of them have ever especially focused on what happened after Lincoln was shot in Ford's Theatre, or more specifically on the funeral and mourning arrangements. So this was a fascinating read from that respect, reading about the arrangements for the funeral pageant, the political wrangling, the bureaucratic snafus, the way cities vied with one another for a spot on ...more
David Bird
Feb 21, 2014 David Bird rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-extremis
On the whole, I preferred this to Manhunt, Swanson's earlier work about the chase for John Wilkes Booth. This volume feels less padded and over-dramatized.

I was especially grateful that Swanson included a quote from Lincoln about the suffering of slaves as the epigraph on the chapter detailing Davis's imprisonment. As much as Davis was considered a martyr to the cause, at no point did he suffer from treatment that would have excited the least comment if applied to one of the slaves that he foug
Susan T.
May 03, 2014 Susan T. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bloody Crimes alternates between the search for Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and his funeral and weeks long train journey carrying his coffin to Springfield, Illinois.

I read his previous book: Manhunt -The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's killer. I really enjoyed that one. It read just like an action adventure movie. This one, a little less so. The beginning of the book covers some of the same material covered in Manhunt regarding Abraham Lincoln. Sw
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington
  • Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President's War Powers
  • American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies
  • "They Have Killed Papa Dead!": The Road to Ford's Theatre, Abraham Lincoln's Murder, and the Rage for Vengeance
  • My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy
  • Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon
  • Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution
  • Lincoln and His Admirals
  • Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln
  • "We are Lincoln Men": Abraham Lincoln and His Friends
  • Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
  • Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America
  • Lincoln  President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter, 1860-1861
  • The Last Lincolns: The Rise  Fall of a Great American Family
  • Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America
  • The Assassin's Accomplice
  • The Day Lincoln Was Shot
  • House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds: A Family Divided by War
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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