Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer” as Want to Read:
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  26,362 ratings  ·  2,158 reviews

The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, 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 from the just-ended Civil War,

Kindle Edition, 469 pages
Published (first published February 6th 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  26,362 ratings  ·  2,158 reviews

Sort order
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
Jason Koivu
May 29, 2010 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.

Everyone with a lick of American history learnin' has heard the story. Most also know that Booth was subsequently caught, and yet Manhunt is genuinely exciting. You have to admire a writer who can en
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
Mariah Roze
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love this author and I'm trying to read every book by him, so of course I needed to read this one and I am so glad I did. James is a fantastic writer that writes for all abilities and understandings.

A fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. A gripping hour-by-hour account told through the eyes of the hunted and the hunters, this is history as you've never read it before.

The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history -- the pursuit and capture of Joh
Matt Chittum
Aug 29, 2008 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
Will Hubbard
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite non-fiction reads of all time. Thrilling and full of surprising facts about the events and characters involved.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Manhunt is a dramatic but factually accurate and well rendered non fictional account of John Wilkes Booth’s flight following Lincoln’s assassination.

While the book is impeccably researched and stays true to its detailed coverage of Booth and his young assistant, it does struggle to maintain consistent threads on the other co-conspirators. For example there was quite a bit of coverage on the simultaneous assassination attempt of Secretary of State Seward but we heard little about Powell in the la
Aug 03, 2012 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
Apr 04, 2012 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.
It probably goes without saying by now that any time I delve into historical non-fiction the first thing that occurs to me is how little I know about my own country's history. It's never exactly sold to your average American school kid as anything other than the dry memorization of dates and the odd recitation of speeches like the Gettysburg Address. I mean my god we called it "Social Studies" when I was in school.

I wish we'd read things like Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer when I
Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer - Nevisande : James L. Swanson - ISBN : 60518502 - ISBN13 : 9780060518509 - Dar 434 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2006
JD Carruthers
Mar 25, 2009 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
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-history
I don't consider myself a Civil War buff by any stretch of the imagination, but I've had this book in my TBR list for years, and I am trying to incorporate long-standing books into my rotation rather than just new, flashy titles. I was very pleasantly surprised by this book, and I found it engaging and suspenseful, which is not always easily accomplished with a non-fiction story that is also substantive. The story picks up shortly before Lincoln's assassination, and follows both the hunters and ...more
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
Sep 10, 2010 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
Andrew Hiller
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit I'm a bit stymied as to how to review this book. The tale told is a non fiction, well-researched, dramatic narrative of the hunt for John Wilkes Booth, murderer of Abraham Lincoln. The confusion is based mostly in that the book is well-written, has great details, quotes, and descriptions. It's pacing is more than solid. In fact, the story moves at almost a sprinter's pace. The characterizations are far from wooden and revealed information I wasn't aware of it... and yet, I found ...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
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 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.
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 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
Julie  Capell
All most people know about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is a vaguely-remembered grade school history lesson involving a theater box, a gun and an actor named John Wilkes Booth. I can't say I was hankering to know more, but when my book club chose this book, I was mildly interested. As it turns out, "mildly interesting" is also a good description for the book itself. The author gives a blow-by-blow account of the physical movements of Lincoln's murderer in the days immediately prior to an ...more
Terry Lucas
Feb 08, 2011 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
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a remarkable narrative that reads like the author was actually at the scene. It gives insight into the Lincoln conspiracy members, and shows their various personalities. Booth had first intended to kidnap Lincoln ("the tyrant") and use him as a bargaining chip toward the end of the Civil War. Gradually, the plan became to kill Lincoln and several members of his cabinet: Seward, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses Grant, among others.

The author assiduously researched the episo
Mar 25, 2009 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
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
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know too much more than the basics of the Lincoln assassination before I read this book. Really wonderful how the author draws you into the events as they are happening. The sense of tension and suspense that comes through is intense, for lack of a better word. It's also very informative, and I feel that I know so much more about these events now. With some books the information is stated in a boring way, and you forget most of it as soon as you close the book. I didn't feel that here, ...more
Ryan Evans
Oct 03, 2012 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.
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Scott County Readers: Next Book for "Book Talk" @ SCPL Available Now! 1 6 Dec 22, 2018 10:30AM  
Max's book review#2 1 5 Sep 22, 2015 07:43PM  
Details 10 72 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  
  • American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies
  • Stealing Lincoln's Body
  • My Thoughts Be Bloody: The Bitter Rivalry Between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth That Led to an American Tragedy
  • The Last Lincolns: The Rise  Fall of a Great American Family
  • The Assassin's Accomplice
  • House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds: A Family Divided by War
  • Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America
  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War
  • 1861: The Civil War Awakening
  • Lincoln and His Admirals
  • Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin
  • This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
  • Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor
  • Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President's War Powers
  • April 1865: The Month That Saved America
  • Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America
  • Last Flag Down: The Epic Journey of the Last Confederate Warship
  • This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil 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
“At the supreme moment of victory they cheered their Father Abraham, the man who, after a shaky start in office, learned how to command armies, grew in vision and eloquence, brought down slavery, and who, just six weeks ago, had given the most graceful and emotionally stunning inaugural address in the history of the American presidency.” 0 likes
“The best illustrated histories of the assassination are Twenty Days by Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt Jr., and Lincoln’s Assassins: Their Trial and Execution by James L. Swanson and Daniel R. Weinberg. Twenty Days contains more than three hundred black-and-white photos of the people and places connected to the assassination and Lincoln’s funeral.” 0 likes
More quotes…