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Tell mother, tell mother, I died for my country… useless… useless… John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth shooting Lincoln before he lept on the stage shouting SIC SEMPER TYRANNUS

John Wilkes Booth shooting Lincoln before he leapt on the stage shouting SIC SEMPER TYRANNUS

My thoughts be bloody : the bitter rivalry between Edwin and John Wilkes Booth that led to an American tragedy New York : Free Press, 2010 Nora Titone Booth, John Wilkes, 1838-1865 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xii, 479 p., [16] p. of plates: ill.; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [445]-455) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

The scene of John Wilkes Booth shooting Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre is among the most vivid and indelible images in American history. The literal story of what happened on April 14, 1865, is familiar: Lincoln was killed by John Wilkes Booth, a lunatic enraged by the union victory and the prospect of black citizenship. Yet who Booth really was — besides a killer — is less well-known. The magnitude of his crime has obscured for generations a startling personal story that was integral to his motivation.

Edwin Booth the father

Junius Brutus Booth the father who would die of a glass of water

My Thoughts Be Bloody, a sweeping family saga, revives an extraordinary figure whose name has been missing, until now, from the story of President Lincoln’s death. Edwin Booth, John Wilkes’s older brother by four years, was in his day the biggest star of the American stage. He won his celebrity at the precocious age of nineteen, before the Civil War began, when John Wilkes was a schoolboy. Without an account of Edwin Booth, author Titone argues, the real story of Lincoln’s assassin has never been told. Using an array of private letters, diaries, and reminiscences of the Booth family, Titone has uncovered a hidden history that reveals the reasons why John Wilkes Booth became this country’s most notorious assassin.

Edwin Booth as Hamlet

Edwin Booth as Hamlet

These ambitious brothers, born to theatrical parents, enacted a tale of mutual jealousy and resentment worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy. From childhood, the stage-struck brothers were rivals for the approval of their father, legendary British actor Junius Brutus Booth. After his death, Edwin and John Wilkes were locked in a fierce contest to claim his legacy of fame. This strange family history and powerful sibling rivalry were the crucibles of John Wilkes’s character, exacerbating his political passions and driving him into a life of conspiracy.

Edwin Booth as Iago

Edwin Booth as Iago

To re-create the lost world of Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, this book takes readers on a panoramic tour of nineteenth-century America, from the streets of 1840s Baltimore to the gold fields of California, from the jungles of the Isthmus of Panama to the glittering mansions of Gilded Age New York. Edwin, ruthlessly competitive and gifted, did everything he could to lock his younger brother out of the theatrical game. As he came of age, John Wilkes found his plans for stardom thwarted by his older sibling’s meteoric rise. Their divergent paths — Edwin’s an upward race to riches and social prominence, and John’s a downward spiral into failure and obscurity — kept pace with the hardening of their opposite political views and their mutual dislike.

John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth

The details of the conspiracy to kill Lincoln have been well documented elsewhere. My Thoughts Be Bloody tells a new story, one that explains for the first time why Lincoln’s assassin decided to conspire against the president in the first place, and sets that decision in the context of a bitterly divided family — and nation. By the end of this riveting journey, readers will see Abraham Lincoln’s death less as the result of the war between the North and South and more as the climax of a dark struggle between two brothers who never wore the uniform of soldiers, except on stage.

Lincoln's assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, is goaded by a hideous Mephistophelian figure to shoot the unsuspecting President, who is visible in a theater box beyond. Booth stands erect, his left arm behind his back and a small pistol in his right hand. He stares straight ahead, seemingly mesmerized by Satan, who stands close behind him, pointing with one hand at the pistol and with the other at Lincoln. Rays of light issue from the demon's eyes, mouth, and ears. He wears a peacock feather on his head and is clad in a tassled medieval tunic.

Lincoln’s assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, is goaded by a hideous Mephistophelian figure to shoot the unsuspecting President, who is visible in a theater box beyond. Booth stands erect, his left arm behind his back and a small pistol in his right hand. He stares straight ahead, seemingly mesmerized by Satan, who stands close behind him, pointing with one hand at the pistol and with the other at Lincoln. Rays of light issue from the demon’s eyes, mouth, and ears. He wears a peacock feather on his head and is clad in a tassled medieval tunic.

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