Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln

William A. Tidwell, Author, James O. Hall, With, David Winfred Gaddy, With
William A. Tidwell, Author, James O. Hall, With, David Winfred Gaddy, With University Press of Mississippi $24.95 (510p) ISBN 978-0-87805-347-6
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
Was the assassination of Lincoln the result of a Confederate conspiracy? The authors (Tidwell and Gaddy are retired U.S. intelligence officers; Hall is a retired U.S. Department of Labor official) introduce sources that they say have never been consulted to reconstruct the covert operations of the Confederate Secret Service, including an elaborate plan to capture Lincoln in March 1865 that involved his eventual assassin John Wilkes Booth. Proposing that, contrary to the normative views of Civil War historians, the South was confident of its strength in 1864 and 1865, the authors speculate that the unexpected successes of Generals Grant and Sherman that forced Lee to surrender in April 1865 did not daunt Booth, who may have reasoned that ``all was not lost; there were still Confederate armies in the field. Some dramatic action might yet save the Confederacy, and he was the one to do it.'' Acting on his own initiative, the authors advance, Booth shot Lincoln, then escaped via the route that would have served in the abduction plot. The evidence is, as the authors admit, circumstantial, the argument highly conjectural, the writing frequently infelicitous (an agent ``went in to kill Vice-President Andrew Johnson but his courage was not sufficiently screwed up''). Nevertheless, Civil War and military history buffs will be intrigued by the documentation amassed in this hefty book. Illustrations not seen by PW. (September)
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!