American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies

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Random House Publishing Group, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 508 pages
44 Reviews
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.

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Interesting but not a page turner. - Goodreads
Interesting, yet scholarly and well-researched. - Goodreads
Kauffman's research meticulously follows... - Goodreads

Review: American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies

User Review  - David Schwinghammer - Goodreads

AMERICAN BRUTUS starts with the assassination of Lincoln. Kauffman quotes just about everybody who was at Ford's theater when it happened: audience members, stage hands, actors etc. Then he moves to ... Read full review

Review: American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies

User Review  - Linda Appelbaum - Goodreads

This is a richly detailed and compelling book about John Wilkes Booth and his plan to first kidnap President Lincoln and then quickly changed to a plan to murder him when the war ended and kidnapping ... Read full review

About the author (2005)

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.

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