Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Book Review: BLOODY CRIMES: THE CHASE FOR JEFFERSON DAVIS AND THE DEATH PAGEANT FOR LINCOLN'S CORPSE by James L. Swanson (William Morrow, 2010)
Swanson's sequel-of-sorts to the enjoyable MANHUNT intertwines two stories: Confederate President Jefferson Davis' flight from the doomed capital of Richmond and his eventual capture by Federal troops, and the organization and progress of the funeral ceremonies for Abraham Lincoln, climaxing with the legendary train journey that took Lincoln back to Springfield for burial. Of necessity, Davis gets the lion's share of the back of the book, as Swanson also tells the story of his imprisonment, release, and gradual semi-rehabilitation (at least in the South). In death, Davis even got a funeral journey to match Lincoln's own, though that trip is much less celebrated. The "Meanwhile..." problems inherent in switching back and forth between two narratives are a bit more acute here than in MANHUNT, in part because the stories really do have relatively little to connect them (apart from the North's brief "certainty" that the fleeing Davis must have been involved in Lincoln's assassination -- a theory that was quashed relatively quickly, though Davis lingered in stir for several years while the government tried to decide what to do with him). There is also a fair amount of repetition from MANHUNT early in the book regarding the circumstances of Lincoln's death. You don't have to read both books, but I found following up MANHUNT with BLOODY CRIMES to be a pretty seamless reading experience. Another excellent effort from Swanson.