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American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,672 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
It is a tale as familiar as our history primers: A deranged actor, John Wilkes Booth, killed Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre, escaped on foot, and eluded capture for twelve days until he met his fiery end in a Virginia tobacco barn. In the national hysteria that followed, eight others were arrested and tried; four of those were executed, four imprisoned. Therein lie all ...more
Kindle Edition, 544 pages
Published (first published 2004)
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JZ Temple
Aug 14, 2007 JZ Temple rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I picked up this book after reading a review of "Manhunt" which said that it wasn't as good as "American Brutus". I never did read "Manhunt" but "American Brutus" is a very interesting history, covering not only the assassination, but also giving a thorough biography of Booth as well as covering the post-assasination trials of the conspirators. There is an interesting stucture to the book. The first part (IIRC) covers the lead up to the assasination from the viewpoint of Booth. The next section ...more
Aug 22, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"American Brutus" might cause to stop dead in their tracks any history writers planning explorations of similar territory. "How am I going to top that?" they'd ask. Answer: You very likely never could. Michael Kauffman's exploration of John Wilkes Booth and his conspiracies and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln seems to cover it all.

Shame on me for judging a book I haven't read yet (but own), but James Swanson's "Manhunt," which came four years after Kauffman's book, seems to be the mainstrea
Michael Kauffman provides a very detailed look at the Lincoln assassination and all of the members involved from the planning to their manhunt and the results that followed. Don't let the title fool you. This is far more than just a biography of John Wilkes Booth. Kaufmann pulls along voluminous sources of primary information to explore the build up of the conspiracy from the debates about whether or not to kidnap the president and finally the plan to kill him at Ford's Theater. The author piece ...more
I've read quite a few books about Lincoln but almost all of those books (obviously) end with his death, so I've never really known much about John Wilkes Booth. He was an actor; he killed Lincoln in Ford's theatre; he was treated for a broken leg by Dr Mudd; and he was shot dead in a barn. That's pretty much the sum of it. So this book was a real revelation to me, not just about Booth himself but about how many other people were involved in the conspiracy.

I had always assumed Booth was a Souther
Jan 31, 2012 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civil-war
This book is not, as I expected, a biography of John Wilkes Booth, but a thorough account of the Lincoln assassination with an extensive backstory on Booth.

The assassination, and the conspiracy behind it, have fascinated us for years, but too many of the books about it are poorly researched and rely on the author's personal biases for facts. This has resulted in a great deal of misinformation becoming accepted as truth. The author of American Brutus has been careful to use primary sources for hi
Lisa Dornell
Jul 06, 2011 Lisa Dornell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating glimpse into the motivations behind one of the most famous assassinations in American history. John Wilkes Booth's theatrical upbringing, wanna-be-heroic nature, and Southern sympathies combined convinced his ego that he was going to be the American Brutus. A hero to a newly-revitalized South who would laud him as a prince. Honestly surprised and confused by the blame laid on him immediately after the shooting, his ill-fated escape became nothing like the triumphant procession into a ...more
Wonderfully readable study of John Wilkes Booth -- both his history and the last three weeks of his life.

One interesting thing is that Kauffman believes Booth did not break his ankle leaping to the stage. Kauffman believes there is strong circumstantial evidence that Booth injured his ankle when his horse fell.

This is one of those books where you will want to keep a marker in the footnote section at the end of the book. Often there is further information equally fascinating.
Andy Kuhn
Jul 05, 2011 Andy Kuhn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is amazing that Kauffman can create such an exhaustive work from an event that happened 150 years ago. Great research.
Katherine Addison
This is an excellent and thought-provoking book, not a biography of John Wilkes Booth so much as it is a dissection of Lincoln's assassination: everything that can be reconstructed about the events that led up to it and the events that followed. Kauffman works intensively with primary sources, collating and correlating affidavits and testimony and letters and diaries and memoirs, talking carefully about discrepancies and contradictions, talking about the primary sources that did exist but are no ...more
Feb 21, 2017 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can't wait to visit Ford's theatre. This was such an interesting history of Lincoln and Booth.
May 10, 2011 J.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
There are questions that never will be answered about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. But Michael Kauffman has done an admirable job of answering many and refuting some of the myths which have grown up about the subject.

He paints detailed word portraits of the many players, both major and minor, and vividly depicts the events leading up to the murderous attack on Lincoln, Seward and assorted innocent bystanders, the hunt for the conspirators, the shooting of Booth, the trial and hanging of
Randy Endemann
Feb 07, 2008 Randy Endemann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kauffman's American Brutus is really the leading account of the plot to assinate Abraham Lincoln. Having only been given a cursory understanding of Lincoln's assination as a student, I was surprised to learn that the assination of Lincoln was part of a much broader conspiracy to bring down the Federal Government. The book explores the details of the plot in excruciating detail, and offers a window into the minds of both the plotters, and their would be victims.

One of the defining themes revolve
Bookmarks Magazine

Calling Kauffman's research 'comprehensive' or 'exhaustive' would be an understatement; the author appears to know more about the conspiracy surrounding Lincoln's assassination than anyone else alive today. That knowledge, combined with his computer-generated timeline, allowed him to write what The New York Times describes as "a forensically precise" account. But this is no dry, scholarly volume. Kauffman's storytelling skill engages readers even though most already know the basics of the case;

Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 Frederick Bingham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. It is told in excruciating detail, the beginnings of the plot, the murder itself, Booth's escape and capture, and the trial of the co-conspirators. The narrative is lively and compelling. It gives a good picture of why Booth did what he did. He was a classically trained actor with an overdeveloped sense of drama and a deep loyalty to the south. He was also very savvy about implicating others in his plot to keep their ...more
Excellent book and almost mind-boggling in the intricate detail of the conspiracy and flight of Booth. The biographical detail of Booth's career was very interesting, and I appreciated the "extra" things he included about Booth's colleagues such as John McCullough (who should earn a book in his own right). It all made for a very involving read, and pretty much dropped the reader right into the action and atmosphere. Another attempt at this subject would have to be pretty darn spectacular to top ...more
Feb 28, 2012 Reid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As many have said, I read this after coming across Manhunt. I found them to be complimentary and not redundant, despite covering the same topic and time period. The highlight of American Brutus, where it excels compared to other Lincoln assassination books I've read thus far, are the details from the aftermath and trials of the co-conspirators. Interesting to read the proceedings, the various verdicts and conditions of those on trial as well as the public reactions.

Jeffrey Williams
Feb 27, 2011 Jeffrey Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, civil-war
Michael W. Kaufmann has done a lot of due diligency in his research and it clearly shows in the finished work. He is meticulous and methodical, which only enhances the feeling that one were there with Booth and the conspirators. He is also dutiful in separating out fact from fiction. This was one of the best reads on the subject because of the depth of research that went into the work. I recommend this to anyone who is serious about taking on this subject.
Aug 14, 2007 Peri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very detailed and meticulously researched analysis of the character and motivations of Lincoln's assassin. That is not to say the book is difficult to read; quite the contrary. It is interesting, insightful, and enjoyable. It also gives details of Booth's flight and capture, some which conflict with other books on the same topic. Which is the truth? I don't think we'll know for sure.
Apr 06, 2008 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is another book that sat around my library for quite a while. Finally I picked it up and could not put it down. Although I was familiar with most of the action taking place I enjoy anything about Lincoln and the Civil War so much this was well worth the time.

The author's take on Booth's plight is insightful and well researched. I truly enjoyed this book and the 550 pages flew by!
Buzz Borders
This book seems to be the best on the topic as of yet. As is stated many times throught the text, there was so much evidence stolen or missplaced that many facits of the Wilkes conspiracy will always be left up for debate. That said, the book is well written and, at times, can drag on, is a must read for any Licoln scholar.
Nov 26, 2010 Avis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a historical account of the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln, bringing the reader inside the mind of John Wilkes Booth. I loved this story … it was an angle of history I had not learned in school.
Larry Kooper
Excellent study of the Lincoln assassination conspiracy with a lot of relevance to the present day. Lincoln faced the same type of criticism as George W. Bush or Barack Obama, of taking on dictatorial powers, trying civilians in military courts, and the like.
Steve Cornelius
Sep 01, 2009 Steve Cornelius rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched book on the assassination of our 16th president showing how the conspiracy came about, how the plot was "executed" and how the conspirators were finally brought to justice. Recommended for the Civil War buff or conspiracy theorist.
Dec 29, 2008 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. It brings the John Wilkes Booth story to life and teaches much about the era that created his courageous/desperate act.
Jan 04, 2016 Valerie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hate John Wilkes Booth. What an asshole.
Oct 12, 2009 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chock full of info
Dec 30, 2008 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was very interesting and I thought a totally different take on the Lincoln saga.
David Schwinghammer
AMERICAN BRUTUS starts with the assassination of Lincoln. Kauffman quotes just about everybody who was at Ford's theater when it happened: audience members, stage hands, actors etc. Then he moves to the initial investigations and the several law enforcement officers and detectives who were on the trail of the killers. It's hard to keep everybody straight.

Not until Chapter Five do we get a glimpse of Booth's background. His father was also an actor and seemed to get along well with the "rented" s
Rory Zimmel
Nov 03, 2015 Rory Zimmel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In American Brutus, Michael W. Kauffman reveals what really led up to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the conspiracies following it. It follows John Wilkes Booth on his escape and even the government and military officials after him.
The book jacket made me a little more interested in the book after Richard Norton Smith said how, “Booth is a great actor, and a more cunning monster than we ever imagined.”
The cover picture displays the book wonderfully It`s probably one of the most known a
Damon Lively
Apr 15, 2014 Damon Lively rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I agree with other posts – this book is a worth reading regardless if you have also viewed “Manhunt” – I actually read Brutus first – but was compelled to read Manhunt too – due to the high regard it received. If I recall – these both came out relatively close in timing. Brutus gives a much more detailed account of Booth historically and his family. You get a lot of background about the man which Manhunt does not provide. There are also contrasting areas in the story of the assassination itself. ...more
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