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President of a precarious nation

Abraham Lincoln’s last days

Created date

January 22nd, 2013
Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most prominent figures of American history. We know him as “Honest Abe,” the man who abolished slavery and preserved the Union. We recognize his prominent nose and distinctive beard on copper pennies and five-dollar bills.

But who was Lincoln, really? Why does his story continue to appeal to us, even over 150 years after his death?

In Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever (Henry Holt & Co., 2011), authors Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard offer an insightful perspective by examining the last few weeks of Lincoln’s life. Written in the present tense, the book provides a front-row seat to the action and intrigue leading up to Lincoln’s death.

O’Reilly and Dugard capture the despair and exhaustion present in both the North and the South as the Civil War drew to a close. As Lincoln began his second term as president, support for the long and costly war effort was waning. He needed to achieve victory quickly, or risk separating the nation forever.

A nation divided

O’Reilly and Dugard skillfully convey the mounting discord preceding Lincoln’s assassination. As Lincoln arranges the Confederacy’s surrender, John Wilkes Booth, an actor-turned-activist, quietly conspires to end the president’s life.

As Lincoln proceeds with plans to pardon confederate soldiers and unite the nation once more, Booth and his comrades are not appeased. The mounting conflict reaches a breaking point, Lincoln is assassinated, and the newly united nation cries out for revenge.

In the subsequent manhunt, Union spy Lafayette C. Baker scours the country for Lincoln’s killer.

The building tension that O’Reilly and Dugard so carefully craft culminates in the exciting chase for Booth, and the second half of the book is more reminiscent of a thriller than a history textbook.

O’Reilly and Dugard’s unconventional approach to historical narrative does nothing to detract from Lincoln’s story. The page-turning action appeals to history buffs and fiction aficionados alike. With vivid detail and intricate storytelling, Killing Lincoln breathes life into one of history’s most remarkable figures.