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But those which soonest take their flight Are the most exquisite and strong,— Like angels’ visits, short and bright

Someone once said that Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln was the most unkind thing that had been done to him since John Wilkes Booth shot him. Much the same can be said of this book except that the victim here is Mary Surratt. Using the same circumstantial and flimsy evidence that the radical avengers of Lincoln depended upon in their star chamber tribunal she again convicts the woman and leaves her reputation dangling from the gibbet a century and a half later. Johnson, in one of his few sober moments, at least relented before the end of his presidency and allowed those hanged to be removed from the prison yard graves they had been consigned to and be given Christian burials – there is no such redeeming compensation here.

The assassin’s accomplice : Mary Surratt and the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln       Kate Clifford Larson Lincoln Abraham 1809-1865 Assassination Surratt Mary E. (Mary Eugenia) 1820-1865 New York : Basic Books, c 2008 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xix, 263 p. : ill., map ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In The Assassin’s Accomplice, historian Kate Clifford Larson tells the gripping story of Mary Surratt, a little-known suspected participant in the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln, and the first woman ever to be executed by the federal government of the United States. Surratt, a Confederate sympathizer, ran the boarding house in Washington where the conspirators – including her son, John Surratt – allegedly met to plan the assassination. When a military tribunal convicted her for her crimes and sentenced her to death, five of the nine commissioners petitioned President Andrew Johnson to show mercy on Surratt because of her sex and age. Unmoved, Johnson refused – Surratt, he said, “kept the nest that hatched the egg.”

Set against the backdrop of the Civil War, The Assassin’s Accomplice tells the gripping story of the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln through experience of its only female participant. Confederate sympathizer Mary Surratt ran a boarding house in Washington, and the depth of her complicity in the murder of President Lincoln has been debated since she was arrested on April 17, 1865. Calling upon long-lost interviews, confessions, and court testimony, historian Kate Clifford Larson magnificently captures how Surratt’s actions defied nineteenth-century norms of piety and allegiance. A riveting account of espionage and murder, The Assassin’s Accomplice offers a revealing examination of America’s most remembered assassination.


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