Chasing Lincoln’s Killer Preface-Chapter II Summary & Analysis

James L. Swanson

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer

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Chasing Lincoln’s Killer Preface-Chapter II Summary & Analysis

Preface Summary: From 1861 to 1865

The preface brings us up to speed with the subject of the story, explaining that the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, was a bloody conflict over the Southern states’ secession to preserve their right to perpetuate the institution of slavery. Swanson notes that the war cost over 600,000 lives before Confederate General Robert E. Lee formally surrendered to US General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. Despite the surrender, some armies not directly under Lee’s control continued to fight; moreover, discontented spies and sympathizers, concealed in the nation’s capital, still sought the opportunity to strike a blow for the Confederacy.

Prologue Summary

The prologue illustrates an eerie coincidence on March 4, 1865, the day of the presidential inauguration, which took place before the recently completed Capitol. The photographer, Alexander Gardner, took photos of the event, which captured not only President Lincoln and other prominent politicians, but also an array of spectators. Among the crowd, Lincoln’s eventual assassin, John Wilkes Booth, can distinctly be seen alone on a balcony. Lincoln’s inauguration speech that day was just 701 words, and touched on the importance of healing and reconciliation.

On April 3, 1865, Richmond, Virginia fell to the North, spelling effective victory. Swanson explains that just a few days later, John Wilkes Booth was found at a bar in New York City, making bold pronouncements about his desire to kill the president. He lamented not killing Lincoln at the inauguration. Booth soon returned to Washington, arriving only to learn of the fall of Richmond.

On April 10, Lincoln made an impromptu statement on Lee’s surrender to a crowd from a White House window. A free black dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley, remarked upon the ease with which a killer could take advantage of Lincoln’s exposure. Chillingly, it turns out that Booth was in that very crowd and, according to legend, told his compatriot, Lewis Powell, “That is the last speech he will ever give.

Chapter I Summary

The narrative begins the day after Washington celebrated the official end of the war. The chapter begins on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. Swanson…

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