Emerson Peck tells us in the introduction that he was always fascinated by Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and felt that a book focusing solely on the event should be written. It covers the time from when Lincoln woke up on April 14th, 1865 till he drew his last breath early the following morning.
The book is short, but contains nearly everything the 16th President did that day. We move step by step thru his letter writings, cabinet meeting, and all other official business he did. The book is immaculately researched (the bibliography and index total about 50 pages) but is a tad on the dry side. Still one cannot help be moved by the relief and joy felt by Lincoln as the Civil War is at end and he can focus on bringing the country back together.
Throughout the book Lincoln makes vague premonitions of his own death, as if he expected to be assassinated. However, that did little to dampen his spirits. Even his wife said he had not been so happy in a long time. It’s very bittersweet to think Lincoln died on perhaps the happiest day of his life.
The book also details John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice’s assassination conspiracy. We see step by step how Booth managed to get inside the Presidential box at Ford’s Theater where the fatal shot was fired. The descriptions of eye witnesses of the reaction in the theater are especially vivid as pandemonium broke out.
The section dealing with the death watch is nearly heartbreaking as Lincoln was rushed across the street and watched over as he succumbed to his injury. It was stated by one of the physicians that the sort of wound that Lincoln suffered would kill most people within two hours. He was a fighter to the end lasting over eight, though he never regained consciousness. The exclamations of grief by Mary Todd and his son Robert put a lump in my throat as did the all night vigil held inside the house by the cabinet and associated dignitaries (not to mention the one held outside by city folk).
In addition to the lengthy end notes a lot of photographs and reproduced paintings help with the mental imagery of the events. Overall this is a very readable account of one of the great tragedies in American history.