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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

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,562 Ratings  ·  307 Reviews
As the Yankees approached Richmond on April 2, 1865, Jefferson Davis fled the capital, setting off an intense and thrilling chase in which Union cavalry hunted the Confederate president. Two weeks later, President Lincoln was assassinated, and the nation was convinced that Davis was involved in the crime. Preparing for the largest and most magnificent funeral pageant in Am ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published August 16th 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 2010)
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Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The author of the very good book, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, sticks with that same time period, the spring of 1865, and chronicles Abraham Lincoln’s final days, murder and extended funeral in parallel with the plight, escape from Richmond, journey south and capture of his Confederate counterpart, Jefferson Davis. These separate historic events taking place as the Civil War concluded.

Swanson also uses the same narrative style he used in Manhunt to tell these two “stories”; ut
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Sep 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a study of the President of the Union and the President of the Confederacy during the last days before Lincoln was killed and the days afterwards. The side by side account of both these Presidents was a fascinating angle of the book and one which I appreciated. There were many moments that I thought the juxtaposition was quite fascinating.

I didn’t know much about Jefferson Davis before this book so I suppose this work gives me a little window into the man and his motivation. I thoug
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the book by the author concerning the chase of Booth a lot more.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched and full of fascinating historical details, but at some point this starts working against the book. It sets up an interesting parallel initially, between Lincoln's murder and funeral and Jefferson's flight and capture, which were happening more or less at the same time. But then a lot of digressions happen, and then the story sort of lingers on pointlessly as it follows Jefferson's life to the very end. It looses the interesting parallel structure and sort of meanders by a loose ...more
Caspar Vega
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More exciting than most fiction thrillers.
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent information about Jefferson Davis and the Lincoln funeral train. Stuff the average non-history major doesn’t get to read or hear.
Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)
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
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
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 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marilyn Penner
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
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
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
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
« 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...