The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
On the night of April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in what he envisioned part of a scheme to plunge the federal government into chaos and gain a reprieve for the struggling Confederacy. The plan failed. By April 26, Booth was killed resisting capture and eight of the nine conspirators eventually charged in Lincoln's murder were in custody. Their trial would become one of the most famous and most controversial in U.S. history.
New president Andrew Johnson's executive order on May 1 directed that persons charged with Lincoln's murder stand trial before a military tribunal. The trial lasted more than fifty days, and 366 witnesses gave testimony. Benn Pitman, a recognized expert in phonography, an early form of shorthand, was awarded the government contract to produce a transcription of each day's testimony. Pitman made these transcripts available to the prosecution and the defense, as well as to select members of the press.
Although three versions of the trial testimony were published, Pitman's edited collection was the most accessible. He skillfully winnowed the 4,300 pages of transcription into one volume, collated the testimony by defendant, indexed the testimony by name and date, and added summaries of the testimony.
In The Trial, assassination scholars guide readers through all 421 pages of testimony, illuminating Pitman's record. By drawing together the evidence that resulted in the conspirators' convictions, The Trial leaves no doubt as to the events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, making this book a fascinating account of the trial as well as an essential resource.
"A valuable work.... Even casual perusers will find passages that tell them something interesting about some of the Confederacy's more sinister schemes, as well as the political atmosphere of immediate postbellum America." -- Books and Culture
"Steers has edited an important book in Pitman's trial documents, making it generally available to modern readers." -- Civil War Book Review
"Qualifies as the single most important volume on the Lincoln assassination." -- Joseph Edward Garrera
"Brings together a special edition of the trial transcript and ninety pages of commentaries by modern authorities on testimony deemed important to both the prosecution and the defense." -- Journal of Illinois History
"An invaluable reference work and a book that anyone with a serious interest in the Lincoln conspiracy ought to own." -- Journal of Southern History
"The Lincoln scholar, and even those with a less consuming interest in the murder of the Savior of the Union, will find this book fascinating." -- Signal Flag
"Succeeds in gathering under one cover the essential and unvarnished details of that tragic and twisted affair, including the shadowy presence of the Confederate Secret Service." -- The Washington Times
"Now readers have easy access to a vital original source document." -- William Hanchett
"Edward Steers Jr., an accomplished historian who has written informative books on Lincoln's assassination, offers a fairly light hearted- but fully documented- look at some of the legends and myths that have bedeviled our understanding of the 16th president and his times." -- Bowling Green Daily News
"Steers is meticulous but never boring, and readers will be fascinated by the variety of tales told about Lincoln's life and death." -- Indiana Magazine of History
""Under the guidance of the experts -- Steers's line-up is truly expert -- readers will be able to distinguish between fact and fancy and come away with a far better understanding of Lincoln's assassination. Everyone with a general or scholarly interest in the assassination and the war will want to have this book." -- William Hanchett, author of The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies" --
""Brings significant value to the field of Lincoln studies. Edward Steers is the nation's leading authority on the Lincoln assassination. His activities as a lecturer and a scholar have developed an impressive network in the Lincoln historical community." -- Joseph Edward Garrera, President, Lincoln Group of New York" --
"Beginning with essays by Steers and other Lincoln scholars about Booth and the eight people arrested as part of the conspiracy, most of the book consists of testimony and legal arguments from the trial transcript. Far from a slipshod investigation, the case looks pretty strong against those accused, with witness testifying to their various meetings before the assassination. Fascinating stuff for history buffs. -- The Hancock News" -- Hancock News
"Reading about something is one thing, but reading the actual testimony - for instance, a witness's play-by-play of John Wilkes Booth's final moments - made the event real in a way I'd never experienced before. I had no idea that Ulysses S. Grant and General Hamilton (Alexander Hamilton's grandson) were among those who testified, or that so much energy was invested in tying the conspirators to ongoing intrigues wiht the Confederate Secret Service. In addition, the actual protocols and arguments are fascinating, taking you through the nuts and bolts of trying a case of such magnitude. The Trial is an invaluable resource and a world-altering reading experience. -- San Francisco Book Review" -- Glen Dallas, San Francisco Book Review
"" The Trial's major strength is that it has been assembled by Edward Steers Jr., unquestionably the world-class expert on Abraham Lincoln's assassination. He has enlisted first-class assistance from other experts, each of whom provides lucid and thoughtful input."" -- Civil War News
"A first rate book that gives all of the details about Lincoln's assassination and the conspirators' trial." -- The Lone Star Book Review
" The Trial is an invaluable resource and a world-altering reading experience." -- San Francisco Book Review