MURDERING MR. LINCOLN: A New Detection of the 19th Century's Most Famous Crime

Charles Higham, Author . New Millennium $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-932407-40-2

It's the nature of conspiracy theories to drag in ever more suspects, and this study of Lincoln's assassination casts a wide net indeed. Higham (American Swastika ) implicates not only John Wilkes Booth's band of conspirators, but Confederate secret agents in Canada and Northern Democratic and Copperhead politicians and businessmen, including Union general George McClellan. Connecting them, Higham contends, was a network of semilicit wartime trade between North and South, facilitated by Lincoln and encompassing both his supporters and his enemies. Higham ties together a variety of Civil War figures and goings-on to suggest the hand of treacherous moneyed interests in Lincoln's murder, but he insinuates far more than he demonstrates. Much space is devoted to Confederate subversion operations and raids that had nothing to do with Lincoln's murder. Major claims—that Confederate agent George N. Sanders played a leading role in the assassination plot, or that assassination conspirators were motivated by considerations of Lincoln's "usefulness" to their own trading activities—are tantalizing, but not sufficiently substantiated. The McClellan-Booth link rests precariously on an anonymous report of a New York supper the famous general and the famous actor supposedly both attended. Scholars will be puzzled at Higham's interpretations—Copperhead congressman Clement L. Vallandigham is described as an "anarchist"—and stymied by his inadequate and sometimes garbled source notes. General readers will note that the text feels disorganized, a tangle of factoids. Conspiracy theorists and Civil War buffs may want to take a gander, but overall this book adds little to our understanding of the assassination. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
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