Abraham Lincoln's Murderer
Bang! The sound of a pistol resonated throughout the Ford's Theater, startling some of the people in the audience. Smoke slowly danced up towards the ceiling from the president's box. A ghostly figure enveloped from the grey screen abruptly emerged like a demon. A shout of freedom echoed around him as he threw his hand up; a flash of silver appeared in his hand, as it rose downwards in an arc toward the man that had lunged at him as soon as he appeared. A brief sound of pain emerged from the man as blood gushed from his arm; the man, still camouflaged by the black powder quickly finished him off and leaped out of the box. He landed on the stage after getting tangled by the flags that decorated the box and thrust the arm holding the dagger dripping with blood as he proclaimed, "Sic seper tyrannis! The South is avenged!" He rushed towards the backstage to make his escape as an anguished cry screamed, "He has shot the president!" Welcome to the story of Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson.
Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson, published by the Scholastic Press in 2009, is a truly fascinating book about what exactly happened after Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth in Ford's Theater. Written for young adults, this book brings the reader back to the 1800s, showing the audience the chaos in the government that occurred after the president's death, how his death affected his family and friends as well as the manhunt for Booth and his accomplices. "On my tenth birthday, my grandmother gave me an unusual present: a framed engraving of the Deringer pistol John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, framed by a newspaper article published on the day after the assassination. The newspaper article described some aspects of the assassination, but was cut off before the end of the story. I knew I had to find out the rest of the story. This book is my way of doing that." said James L. Swanson, author of the story. He composed the book so that it revolved around three facts: the assassination of the sixteenth president, Booth's injured left leg, and Booth's death in the face of defeat. "Lincoln had not seen Booth coming. The bullet struck him in the head, on the lower left side, just below the ear…Lincoln never knew what happened to him. His head dropped forward, his body lost all muscle control and sagged against the rocking chair. The sound of the pistol shot hung in the box for several seconds." On page 49, the book describes the successful assassination attempt on Lincoln's life. Although it would take the president several days to die, Booth finally completed his goal: to take revenge for the defeat of the South in the Civil War. Booth thought he would finally show the world the tyrant Lincoln was and would be hailed as a hero in the South; however, his hopes were in vain. Lincoln's death caused people to see him as a martyr and hero; on the other hand, Booth, himself, was condemned in the most ruthless, cruel words. Another important factor was Booth being wounded in his haste to escape Ford's Theater. "He felt something wrong in his left leg, near the ankle, but there was nothing he could do about it now." Had he escaped unharmed, he would been able to travel further and possible never had been captured by the Union soldiers. It forced him to make frequent stops, make a stop at a doctors' home to have it treated, and hindered him in many other ways not listed here. After the killing Lincoln, the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, organized a manhunt for Booth which ended on April 26, 1865, the day Booth was shot when he was cornered in a tobacco farm in Virginia and refused to surrender. "Corbett poked the barrel of his revolver through the slit of the wall [of the farm], aimed at Booth, and fired. The soldiers heard one shot. Instantly, Booth dropped the carbine and crumpled to his knees." The nation-wide manhunt for Booth was finally over.
Composed of descriptive words, this book easily appeals to the readers' sense of smell. It describes how the character looks like, like on page 42, "The smoke from the gun, now tinted red from the gaslights, partly blocked his vision. Rathbone rose from his seat and stepped in the direction of the president. At that moment, he saw a wild-eyed man, his face ghostly against his black clothes, hair, and mustache." On some pages, the author quickly paints a scene using a concise sentence or two as on page 49, "Before him stood a tall, attractive, muscular man, well dressed in fine leather boots, black pants, jacket, and hat. He was holding a small package in his hands." It also describes the scene so well that you can imagine standing in the crowd of people watching what was going on. "Laura Keene knelt beside Lincoln, lifted his head, and rested it in her lap. Bloodstains and tiny bits of gray matter from Lincoln's brain oozed on to the cream-colored silk fabric, spreading and adding color to the frock's bright and festive red, yellow, green, and blue floral pattern."
To put it in a nutshell, Chasing Lincoln's Killer, written by James L. Swanson, is the story of actor John Wilkes Booth on the run after murdering President Abraham Lincoln in front of an audience in Ford's Theater. He goes on in history as the murder of the war hero, Lincoln, when he was fighting for his beliefs and for his home. Although Booth did not truly get what he was aiming for, besides the killing of Lincoln, he is still remembered to this day. He failed to fuel the Civil War and failed to revive and continue slavery. It shows that not only are the angels remembered, but the devil too.