Friday, April 1, 2011

Another book worth reading: "Bloody Crimes" by James Swanson

I am over halfway through James Swanson's "Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse" after having started it last night. It deals with the dual journey of Abraham Lincoln in death and Jefferson Davis's flight and subsequent arrest after the fall of Richmond; though the two men shared a lot of similarities, they never crossed paths at all. I cannot put it down; the Lincoln assassination is another obsession of mine, Mary Surratt in particular (I may post a blog I wrote for my sister's site a while ago later). A few years back, Swanson also wrote "Manhunt" about the 12-day pursuit of John Wilkes Booth after the assassination. I was doubly excited when I read a detailed account of the Washington Arsenal explosion in "Bloody Crimes" full of good quotes about the incident. It received mention because Lincoln attended the services for the girls killed at the arsenal - more of the many deaths that touched him throughout his life.
My only gripes: lack of proper listings of the newspaper accounts about this in either the footnotes or the bibliography (6 years of college writing makes one obsessive about these kinds of things) making it harder for me to track down these valuable sources. Also, I dislike Swanson's rather harsh treatment of Mary Todd Lincoln, to whom I am mostly sympathetic; mental illness was little understood at the time (and losing three of her four sons and having her husband shot in front of her only made it worse for her).
All this aside, this book is a page turner, to be sure. I highly recommend it for a rainy day read.
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