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In Bloody Crimes, James L. Swanson—the Edgar Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Manhunt—brings to life two epic events of the Civil War era: the thrilling chase to apprehend Confederate president Jefferson Davis in the wake of the Lincoln assassination and the momentous 20 -day funeral that took Abraham Lincoln’s body home to Springfield. A true tale full of fascinating twists and turns, and lavishly illustrated with dozens of rare historical images—some never before seen—Bloody Crimes is a fascinating companion to Swanson’s Manhunt and a riveting true-crime thriller that will electrify civil war buffs, general readers, and everyone in between.
On the morning of April 2, 1865, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, received a telegram from General Robert E. Lee. There is no more time—the Yankees are coming, it warned. Shortly before midnight, Davis boarded a train from Richmond and 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 conspiracy that led to the crime. Lincoln's murder, autopsy, and White House funeral transfixed the nation. His final journey began when soldiers placed his corpse aboard a special train that would carry him home on the 1,600-mile trip to Springfield. Along the way, more than a million Americans looked upon their martyr's face, and several million watched the funeral train roll by. It was the largest and most magnificent funeral pageant in American history.
To the Union, Davis was no longer merely a traitor. He became a murderer, a wanted man with a $100,000 bounty on his head. Davis was hunted down and placed in captivity, the beginning of an intense and dramatic odyssey that would transform him into a martyr of the South's Lost Cause.
The saga that began with Manhunt continues with the suspenseful and electrifying Bloody Crimes. James Swanson masterfully weaves together the stories of two fallen leaders as they made their last expeditions through the bloody landscape of a wounded nation.
- ISBN-13: 9780061233784
- ISBN-10: 0061233781
- Publisher: William Morrow & Company
- Publish Date: September 2010
- Page Count: 464
Two men on two very different journeys
In Bloody Crimes, James Swanson returns to the historical vicinity of his 2006 bestseller Manhunt. That book offered a gripping, swift-moving account of the pursuit of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and his accomplices. Bloody Crimes tells the story of two different journeys that unfolded at nearly the same time as the hunt for Booth.
The first journey is the flight of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from Richmond, Virginia, after General Robert E. Lee informed him on April 2, 1865, that his army could no longer protect the South’s capital. Part of Swanson’s subtitle calls this “the chase for Jefferson Davis.” But one of the more interesting elements of his account is the sense that a good many Union commanders (including Lincoln himself) seemed to hope that Davis would escape and not leave them with the thorny task of deciding whether or not to execute him. In addition, Davis’ flight was strangely indecisive. A man of old-school dignity and honor, he delayed and delayed, hoping to rally supporters and carry on the good fight while his armies surrendered and his allies drifted away. In this account at least, his capture feels almost like an afterthought.
The second journey is the extraordinary train trip of Lincoln’s corpse across the country for burial in Springfield, Illinois, during which time his body was displayed to hundreds of thousands of mourners in cities along the route. Swanson’s account shows just how amazing and emotional this journey was and provides context for understanding how this “death pageant for Lincoln’s corpse” (as the engagingly lurid subtitle calls it) shaped our notions of national mourning.
Swanson quotes liberally from period memoirs and documents; this lends a you-are-there feel to the book, but these passages also clearly show that Jefferson Davis was clearly not as eloquent nor as reflective as Lincoln. Davis outlived Lincoln by many years, publishing memoirs, relying on support from friends and a loyal wife and garnering resounding adulation near the end of his life from Confederate veterans. But in some small part because of his body’s long trip home, Abraham Lincoln seems have garnered something different and larger: Call it immortality.