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

Bloody Crimes by James L. Swanson
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's review
Oct 06, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: civil-war, historical, non-fiction, audio-book, southern-lit-culture
Read from October 09 to 24, 2010

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 as Manhunt, I did learn a lot and wasn’t bored. I knew that Lincoln’s body had been transported by train from DC to IL, but didn’t realize that each stop on the railroad line held their own special events honoring the late President. Swanson also gives lots of back stories about Lincoln’s life and his time as President during the war. He is quite overt in his dislike for Mary Todd Lincoln and has very little, if anything, good to say about her.

Swanson pulls Davis out of modern day obscurity and retells his story of having illustrious military and political (Senator and Secretary of War) careers before becoming President of the Confederacy. He also recounts Davis’ first marriage to a young woman who dies shortly after their wedding day and his second marriage to Varina Howell, whose love letters Swanson thinks are the among the most romantic of all time.

While Swanson likes and respects Lincoln, he believes Lincoln’s stature became exalted once he was assassinated. He seems to have a soft spot for Jefferson Davis and wants people to remember him for the man he really was and for all of the things he did before his Presidency and not just be remembered for being the President of The Lost Cause.

I listened to this on audio cd and thought Richard Thomas did an excellent job reading the book (and didn’t sound like John Boy) and added to the experience.


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