One of my favorite hobbies and things to study and read is the Presidents of the United States. Near the top of my favorite Presidents is obviously Abraham Lincoln (I mean who in America doesn't like Lincoln?). Recently I was able to read the fascinating and historical account of the search and hunt for Lincoln's killer John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators in James L. Swanson's book Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer (P.S.).
Swanson offers a thorough account of this fascinating story full of detail. This is not boring history, but a riveting tail of how the worlds most notorious criminal of his day was captured. I find Booth to be an interesting man engulfed in his acting career who was constantly in performance even when running for his life. Booth was a man of the stage and was rarely out of character even to his last moments in life.
What is most interesting about the story for the hunt for Booth following the assassination of the President is how surprised he was that his goals were not fulfilled. Booth considered Lincoln to be a tyrant and believed that if he were to assassinate the tyrant and others in his administration, the war for Southern independence would continue and the South would win. But none of that took place. Instead, Booth read in the nations newspapers that Booth had become the villain and the most hated man while Lincoln was awarded sainthood in the eyes of the public even in the South.
But Swanson makes this interesting suggestion at the end of his tale. Perhaps Booth didn't completely loose everything after all. Ford's Theater, the site of the infamous assassination, was eventually turned into a tourist attraction and millions of Americans visit the site each year. What is interesting is that though the site is a place of remembrance of the last moments of Lincoln's life, the great President, the site has almost become a place more about Booth than Lincoln. Swanson points out that the tourist can trace the steps of Booth and see original memorabilia from Booth and his race against the federal manhunters. So though Booth didn't revive the South, his name does go on in memory as the actor had hoped it would.
This is a fascinating book and for any history or presidential buffs, I highly recommend it. And for those who don't like to read or don't have the time, watch the History Channel special on the chase for Booth. Its really good as well.