Tag Archives: Lincoln assassination

In Lincoln book news

I was quite pleased (but not at all surprised) to hear that Michael Burlingame will receive the Lincoln Prize for his two-volume biography.  This was an award that was very much deserved. 

I think it’s going to be interesting to trace this book’s trajectory in the coming years.  Scholars seem to have accepted it as the definitive bio for this generation, and I have no doubt that it is.  Still, I wonder if its heft and price tag will intimidate interested readers.  Unless a trade publisher brings out a paperback edition, David Donald’s one-volume work may remain the go-to life of Lincoln for those who simply want to get to know the man.

Speaking of Lincoln books, check out this item from the Abraham Lincoln Observer (a blog you should be reading regularly if you aren’t already).  Apparently Bill O’ Reilly is working on an assassination book which offers “startling new information.”  His co-author is a sportswriter with far too much time on his hands.

ALO speculates that it might have something to do with the pages torn from Booth’s memorandum book, the same memorandum book from which Booth himself tore pages to be used as notes.  It doesn’t need explaining.

So not only will we be subjected to another conspiratorial history book, but one probably based on a non-issue and written by non-historians.  The last time this happened, a chemist tried to convince us that one of Lincoln’s own cabinet members orchestrated his murder.  We need another Lincoln conspiracy book like we need another teenage vampire movie.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Historiography

I’m ready for my close-up

The past few days have given us a flurry of Lincoln movie news, which you can read about in a series of posts by Brian Dirck (here, here, and here).  Robert Redford has a Mary Surratt film in the works, and Spielberg is still pursuing his long-awaited Lincoln project.

Coincidentally, the History Channel has been on a Lincoln assassination kick today, with one documentary on the plot to steal his body and another on Booth’s possible connections to the Confederate government.  The latter is on  right now; as I type this sentence, Ed Steers, Jr. is giving some on-air commentary.  Steers is a diligent Lincoln researcher and the author of Blood on the Moon, a fine book that I highly recommend.

All this reminds me of a story I tell whenever the subject of Lincoln movies or the assassination come up.  Steers came to the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum to lecture during my first stint there, back when I was fresh out of college.  Steven Wilson (ALLM’s curator and my boss) took Steers and his wife to dinner down in Cumberland Gap that night, and allowed me to tag along. 

John Wilkes Booth, via Wikimedia Commons

John Wilkes Booth, apparently a doppelganger of yours truly. Via Wikimedia Commons

When the conversation turned to Lincoln movies, Steven jokingly suggested we all produce our own, with himself in the role of Edwin Stanton, and me as John Wilkes Booth.  Ed Steers examined me critically for a second or two, and then said approvingly, “Yeah, you’d make a good Booth!”

I was pretty flattered.  Remember, this came from one of the foremost Lincoln assassination authorities in the world.  Of course, he was comparing me to the murderer of the most beloved figure in American history.  But still.

With an endorsement like that, you’d think either Redford or Spielberg would’ve called me by now.  Maybe I should get a new agent.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln

A sample of Neo-Confederate historiography

Ladies and gentlemen, I submit for your edification a few selections from the catalogue of The Confederate Reprint Company.

  • The Genesis of Lincoln by James Harrison Cathey.  This startling tome informs us that “the man known to the world as Abraham Lincoln was actually the offspring of an illicit relationship between Nancy Hanks and a married man named Abraham Enloe, in whose western North Carolina home she worked as a servant in the early years of the Nineteenth Century.”  Given the well-documented links between an out-of-wedlock birth and a willingness to trample on the Constitution, this could very well change everything we think we know about the Union war effort.
  • The Eugenics of President Abraham Lincoln by James Caswell Coggins.  This enlightening volume explains how “the science of eugenics forever disproves the myth of the sixteenth President’s descent from the near imbecile Thomas Lincoln.”  Eugenics, in case you didn’t know, is the science of improving mankind’s genetic stock by encouraging selective breeding and by weeding out the less-desirable.  (Coincidentally, this book first appeared in 1941, when the German government stepped up their own endeavors in this fascinating field of study.)
  • Why Was Lincoln Murdered? by Otto Eisenschiml.  Eisenschiml “suggests that several top-level Government officials in Washington, particularly Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, may have played important roles in the crime and later covered up their involvement.”  This explains all those mysterious meetings between Stanton, the CIA, Cuban expatriates, and the Dallas mob.
  • The Invisible Empire: The Story of the Ku Klux Klan by Stanley F. Horn.  The rousing tale of how “the Klan quickly evolved into an institution of ‘Chivalry, Humanity, Mercy, and Patriotism’ and spread throughout the Southern States to counter the aggression against their people by unscrupulous Carpetbaggers and their vicious Union League cohorts.”

And finally, my personal favorite.

  • A Scriptural, Ecclesiastical, and Historical View of Slavery by John Henry Hopkins.  An 1864 classic which “proves conclusively that Abolitionism is at odds with, not only the entire history of mankind, but also two millennia of Christian theology.”  What Would Jesus Do?  Apparently nothing.  He’d make somebody else do it.

Operators are standing by!

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, History and Memory