Lincoln’s Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America’s Greatest President
When John Wilkes Booth fired his derringer point-blank into President Abraham Lincoln’s head, he set in motion a series of dramatic consequences that would upend the lives of ordinary Washingtonians and Americans alike. In a split second, the story of a nation was changed. During the hours that followed, America’s future would hinge on what happened in a cramped back bedroom at Petersen’s Boardinghouse, directly across the street from Ford’s Theatre. There, a twenty-three-year-old surgeon—fresh out of medical school—struggled to keep the president alive while Mary Todd Lincoln moaned at her husband’s bedside.
In Lincoln’s Final Hours, author Kathryn Canavan takes a magnifying glass to the last moments of the president’s life and to the impact his assassination had on a country still reeling from a bloody civil war. With vivid, thoroughly researched prose and a reporter’s eye for detail, this fast-paced account not only furnishes a glimpse into John Wilkes Booth’s personal and political motivations but also illuminates the stories of ordinary people whose lives were changed forever by the assassination.
While countless works on the Lincoln assassination exist, Lincoln’s Final Hours moves beyond the well-known traditional accounts, offering readers a front-row seat to the drama and horror of Lincoln’s death by putting them in the shoes of the audience in Ford’s Theatre that dreadful evening. Through her careful narration of the twists of fate that placed the president in harm’s way, of the plotting conversations Booth had with his accomplices, and of the immediate aftermath of the assassination, Canavan illustrates how the experiences of a single night changed the course of history.
Kathryn Canavan is a former independent researcher and freelance writer for USA Today and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
While Lincoln’s assassination has been covered in numerous books and articles, Canavan offers a fresh look at the subject. Her use of sources goes well beyond that which most scholars have used, and she writes with a flair not often found in historical works. -- Edward Steers, Jr., author of Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
Canavan has done an impressive job of placing the reader in the city of Washington as it was just before, up to, and after the death of President Lincoln. Any student of the Lincoln assassination will find himself actually walking in the footsteps of the people who were there: those living in the city, those in the audience at Ford’s Theatre, and those gazing at the body of the dying president. A valuable addition to the body of published work about Lincoln and his death. -- Joan Chaconas, historian at the Surratt House Museum
Just when you thought there wasn’t anything new to say about Abe Lincoln’s assassination, along comes Ms. Canavan to reveal elements of the saga that will startle and enthrall even the most hard-core of Lincoln aficionados, including what must rank as the single most petty act by any one individual in the history of America—but I’ll save that for the book. -- Erik Larson, bestselling author of Devil in the White City, In the Garden of the Beasts, and Dead Wake
While there have been thousands of books written about Lincoln’s assassination, Lincoln’s Final Hours is a welcome addition to a crowded field. Faced paced, dramatic and exciting, the reader will be hard pressed to put it down. The author, with her exquisite writing, has insured this. -- Frank J. Williams, Founding Chair of The Lincoln Forum and President of the Ulysses S. Grant Association
A long time newspaper editor, reporter and reseracher, Canavan used her skills to thoroughly vet the people and the events she describes in her book. A superior bit of scholarship. Well worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of Lincolnia. -- Florida Times Union
[Canavan’s book] has given us a good reason to read once again about those dark days in American history. Her meticulous research about all the players in the days leading up to the assassination, and especially Lincoln’s final hours in the boarding house across the street from the theater, has resulted in facts and color that provide fascinating reading.
[H]er book contains details that even the Lincoln scholars would enjoy and learn from. -- News Journal
A longtime newspaper writer, editor and researcher, Canavan used her skills to thoroughly vet the people and the events she describes in her book. A superior bit of scholarship. Well worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of Lincolniana. -- Georgia Times-Union
While countless works on the Lincoln assassination exist, Lincoln’s Final Hours moves beyond the well-known traditional accounts, offering readers a front row seat to the drama and horror of Lincoln’s death by putting them in the shoes of the audience in Ford’s Theatre that dreadful evening. Through her careful narration of the twists of fate that placed the president in harm’s way, of the plotting conversations Booth had with his accomplices, and of the immediate aftermath of the assassination, Canavan illustrates how the experiences of a single night changed the course of American history. -- Lone Star Book Review
Nearly every page showcases her attention to detail and superb historical imagination that enable readers to experience almost vicariously these final scenes of Lincoln’s life. She delves into contemporary letters and interviews as well as numerous postassassination reminiscences that other scholars have ignored.
[A]nyone who enjoys gifted storytelling will find Lincoln’s Final Hours rewarding reading. -- Civil War News
Canavan has performed excellent research in winnowing out myriad human interest details on all of the characters involved, from Booth himself, to photographer Julius Ulke taking an eloquent image of the blood-soaked death bed just minutes after Lincoln’s body was removed. The result is a fastpaced, moving, yet authoritative account of the people caught up in the fallout of Booth’s mad act. It changed the lives of everyone involved, from those who
collected bits of bandage soaked with Lincoln’s blood to sell as souvenirs, to Secretary of State William Seward who lived the rest of his life with the terrifying memory of one of Booth’s accomplices stabbing repeatedly at his neck. -- History Book Club
[A] flair not often found in historical works.
Canavan presents a controlled narrative crafted from absorbing a prolific cache of research.
[A]n eerily clear chronology of the hours before and after the murder of President Abraham Lincoln. -- Steve Flairty -- Kentucky Monthly
Writing in brisk, crisp sentences and using short chapters, Kathryn Canavan tells the tale of the end of Lincoln's life in a refreshingly conversational style, one that
matches the matter-of-fact nature of her topic. Lincoln's Final Hours is a marvelous book filled with one memorable and astonishing fact and detail after another.
Canavan's writing is cinematic throughout, making it easy for the reader to visualize each and every scene, and she also beautifully captures the mood of the era. Lincoln's Final Hours has not only first-rate detailed research but a writing style perfectly matched to its subject matter.
Wonders await the reader of this terrific book. -- Civil War Book Review
Although this is her first book, journalist and freelance writer Canavan has managed to out do pretty much every author who has worked on the death of Lincoln.
This is an excellent read for anyone interested in the assassination. -- NYMAS Review
In what is her first book, journalist and freelance writer Canavan manages to outdo pretty much every author who has worked on the death of Lincoln, some of which have been rather impressive indeed.
This is an excellent read for anyone interested in the assassination. -- Strategy Page