I've always really enjoyed American history, particularly from the era of post-Civil War through World War 1. I know that high school history books don't really dive into this era much outside of the industrial revolution, but a lot of cool events happened.
Yes, I know the sticker on the book says $1.50, but I actually got this book three years ago for 75 cents. Shout out to the AAUW Book Sale in State College. The folks that put on that event are first-class and it is all for a great cause. Anyways, I'm embarrassed it took me three years to get to reading this.
Just to preface, I didn't know a whole lot about John Wilkes Booth outside of the obvious facts that he was Abraham Lincoln's killer, he was an actor, had southern sympathy and spent time in my native Venango County speculating in oil. In fact, if you ride your bike along the Allegheny River from Franklin to Emlenton there is a very remote plaque and story about Mr. Booth. So what did I learn from this book? See below....
What Jumped Out to Me?
1. Do not, I mean absolutely do not skip over the epilogue in this book. What happens to many of the characters is just as good as the story itself.
2. Mr. Swanson obviously invested a TON of time in gathering information from this book. The fact that he gathered up all of the little bits of information and put the pieces together into a coherent story makes the book breeze by you in just a few days.
3. I had no idea about the history of Ford's Theatre after the assassination and the incredible effort to preserve the space when it could have rightfully been bulldozed.
4. I was surprised with how caught up Booth was in the newspaper reports and gossip about the assassination. In my mind, I thought he was trying to absolutely fly south as fast as he could with a broken leg. This put to bed this notion.
5. I didn't know a whole lot about the assassination attempts on Seward and Johnson. I just knew that they were failed, but this book really brought those two events to life.
6. The idea of justice was a fleeting one in that era. Certain major players in the story got off with relatively light sentences, while ones with accidental or unknowing roles got harsher sentences. There seemed to be no particular rhyme nor reason.
7. I did not know a whole ton about the secret southern Rebel sympathizer network. I feel we're taught in school that it was full states that felt one way or the other. In reality, it feels more like the American Revolution where it wasn't always evident where you stood.
About the Author
Andy Rupert is a Penn State (B.A. John Curley Center for Sports Journalism 08') and a Southern Miss (M.S. Sport Management 09'). He has spent his whole career working in sports and tourism digital marketing and metrics.