American Brutus by Michael W. Kauffman
John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies

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It is a tale as familiar as our history primers: A deranged actor, John Wilkes Booth, killed Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre, escaped on foot, and eluded capture for twelve days until he met his fiery end in a Virginia tobacco barn. In the national hysteria that followed, eight others were arrested and tried; four of those were executed, four imprisoned. Therein lie all the classic elements of a great thriller. But the untold tale is even more fascinating.

Now, in American Brutus, Michael W. Kauffman, one of the foremost Lincoln assassination authorities, takes familiar history to a deeper level, offering an unprecedented, authoritative account of the Lincoln murder conspiracy. Working from a staggering array of archival sources and new research, Kauffman sheds new light on the background and motives of John Wilkes Booth, the mechanics of his plot to topple the Union government, and the trials and fates of the conspirators.

Piece by piece, Kauffman explains and corrects common misperceptions and analyzes the political motivation behind Booth’s plan to unseat Lincoln, in whom the assassin saw a treacherous autocrat, “an American Caesar.” In preparing his study, Kauffman spared no effort getting at the truth: He even lived in Booth’s house, and re-created key parts of Booth’s escape. Thanks to Kauffman’s discoveries, readers will have a new understanding of this defining event in our nation’s history, and they will come to see how public sentiment about Booth at the time of the assassination and ever since has made an accurate account of his actions and motives next to impossible–until now.

In nearly 140 years there has been an overwhelming body of literature on the Lincoln assassination, much of it incomplete and oftentimes contradictory. In American Brutus, Kauffman finally makes sense of an incident whose causes and effects reverberate to this day. Provocative, absorbing, utterly cogent, at times controversial, this will become the definitive text on a watershed event in American history.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Michael W. Kauffman

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MICHAEL W. KAUFFMAN is a political historian and graduate of the University of Virginia who has studied the Lincoln assassination for more than thirty years. He has appeared on A&E, the History Channel, C-SPAN, and the Learning Channel, and was called to testify as an expert witness in the 1995 Booth exhumation hearings. He lives in southern Maryland.From the Hardcover edition.
Published December 18, 2007 by Random House. 544 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Kauffman turns up some interesting suspects and fellow travelers, and he complicates an already complex plot by unveiling the workings of a war profiteering ring that involved Confederate officials’ infiltrating a “cotton and tobacco trade that had been going on with the Lincoln administration’s ...

Aug 15 2004 | Read Full Review of American Brutus: John Wilkes ...

The New York Times

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To be sure, Mr. Kauffman gives full attention to the Booth family's history (including a joking threat by the patriarch, the actor Junius Brutus Booth, to kill his friend, President Andrew Jackson).

Nov 02 2004 | Read Full Review of American Brutus: John Wilkes ...

The New York Times

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Kauffman reminds us that Lincoln was routinely dismissed as ''a tyrant'' and ''a subverter of the Constitution.'' The New York Times wrote, ''No living man was ever charged with political crimes of such multiplicity and such enormity as Abraham Lincoln.'' To Booth, but to countless others as well...

Dec 19 2004 | Read Full Review of American Brutus: John Wilkes ...

Publishers Weekly

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Kauffman, an independent Lincoln assassination scholar, offers a beautifully written, exhaustive and well-reasoned reassessment of John Wilkes Booth and the murder of America's 16th president.

Jul 26 2004 | Read Full Review of American Brutus: John Wilkes ...

Bookmarks Magazine

… Kauffman does little to expand our understanding of Booth’s character and motivation, but he provides some glimpses …" Anthony Day New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars "Booth’s scheme, as this book intricately reconstructs it, involved a much more careful long-range calculation than has previous...

Jan 23 2008 | Read Full Review of American Brutus: John Wilkes ...


He shows remarkable restraint in unraveling what is essentially a detailed biography of John Wilkes Booth, never straying far from his sources but synthesizing evidence to develop new perspectives on Booth.

Jun 12 2006 | Read Full Review of American Brutus: John Wilkes ...

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