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Kathy Canavan's New Book!
01-22-2017, 05:54 PM
Post: #46
RE: Kathy Canavan's New Book!
I'm going to have to agree with Gene on the first quote. As much as Withers loved to embellish his accounts, I never found any substantiation in my research for that lurid account in Broadway Magazine.
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01-23-2017, 07:47 AM
Post: #47
RE: Kathy Canavan's New Book!
(01-22-2017 05:06 PM)Gene C Wrote:  Lots of interesting details and information, especially regarding the Peterson House, where Lincoln died. I found the information about the family, and other tenants of the house interesting. Lots of good photographs, and well documented with lots of footnotes.

Some of the details really caught my eye, and left me wondering if they really happened, or did the source that was referenced take some liberty with the facts. Such as....

p92-93. William Withers was laying unconscious backstage, bleeding and disheveled after his encounter with Booth. Detectives drag him out of the theater into Baptist alley. A mob gathers and as he drifting in and out of consciousness, he is almost hung, but the mayor of Washington recognizes him and intervenes (Broadway Magazine, May 1904)
p 111. Investigators find in Booth's motel room among other things, a letter from a women who pleaded for Booth to forget his plot (Louisville Daily Union Press, April 17 1865)
p112. She (Mary Lincoln) suddenly began tearing out her own hair out of her head by the hand full....They were all relieved when Bob Lincoln persuaded his mother to stop. (Styple, Generals in Bronze p.304)

I just wonder if these are accurate reports, or just records of an over embellishment made at the time?

Gene
Thanks for mentioning my book about Petersen House. I have the same reservations about some details that you do, so I really vetted every source I used in Lincoln's Final Hours.
I look at history differently than academic historians because my background is in news reporting. After working on newspapers since 1972, you learn about the worth of various sources. For instance, if you're covering a tornado, your first question should never be, "What happened?" It should be, "Where we you when the tornado hit?" That's because the people who are on the scene when you arrive might have arrived two minutes before you did. Often, they'll tell you a long story full of details and then you'll find out they weren't eyewitnesses at all. They heard the story from a victim who was just carried to the hospital. So, you have to become a good judge of sources quickly.
Some people have questioned Withers' accounts, because he really enjoyed recounting his part in the assassination, and he did, after all, give slices of his tuxedo to friends as souvenirs. The thing that rang true to me from this particular account in Broadway magazine was his physical perspective. He speaks about what he saw from the perspective of a person lying on his back in the alley, and you can tell that his view of what's going on is limited by the crowd's movements. At some points, he can see more than others, and he has to rely on his hearing. That kind of perspective is hard to make up. Some of his other accounts did not ring true to me, and I didn't use them.

I believe Maj. J.R. O'Beirne's account is accurate because he told it to sculptor James Kelly as they were shooting the breeze while Kelly sculpted his face years after the assassination. He didn't expect it would land in a book. He wasn't bragging about it -- it was just the thing that stuck with him for all those years. As an officer, he probably couldn't discuss such a graphic detail about the first lady in 1865.

Of the accounts listed above, I have the least confidence in the account from the Louisville paper, and that's only because I don't know the reputation of the reporter. Historians usually value early accounts, and it is one of the first accounts of the police investigation, but I know from covering police investigations that sometimes police sources aggrandize what happened and some reporters sensationalize news. It was a highly competitive environment, I'm sure, and Booth had a reputation as a womanizer, so the officer or the reporter could have been
aggrandizing the evidence. I used it because it was published in a well-respected newspaper of record, and because it shows what was filtering out from the investigation.
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01-23-2017, 12:34 PM
Post: #48
RE: Kathy Canavan's New Book!
Thanks, Kathy, for your explanations. I will mention that Bill Styple, author of Generals in Bronze, spoke many years ago at a Surratt conference. He was a good speaker and seemed to have researched his material very well.
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01-23-2017, 01:04 PM
Post: #49
RE: Kathy Canavan's New Book!
(01-23-2017 12:34 PM)L Verge Wrote:  Thanks, Kathy, for your explanations. I will mention that Bill Styple, author of Generals in Bronze, spoke many years ago at a Surratt conference. He was a good speaker and seemed to have researched his material very well.

Laurie, I met Bill at a Surratt conference where he was an attendee. His book is wonderful. It was a great idea to feature Kelly's notes. And a great idea, on the part of Kelly, to interview his sculpture subjects. Think of all the cool details that would have been lost forever if he hadn't. Thank goodness for him and people like James O. Hall. Kathy
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01-23-2017, 01:32 PM (This post was last modified: 01-23-2017 03:37 PM by STS Lincolnite.)
Post: #50
RE: Kathy Canavan's New Book!
(01-22-2017 05:06 PM)Gene C Wrote:  Lots of interesting details and information, especially regarding the Peterson House, where Lincoln died. I found the information about the family, and other tenants of the house interesting. Lots of good photographs, and well documented with lots of footnotes.

Some of the details really caught my eye, and left me wondering if they really happened, or did the source that was referenced take some liberty with the facts. Such as....

p92-93. William Withers was laying unconscious backstage, bleeding and disheveled after his encounter with Booth. Detectives drag him out of the theater into Baptist alley. A mob gathers and as he drifting in and out of consciousness, he is almost hung, but the mayor of Washington recognizes him and intervenes (Broadway Magazine, May 1904)
p 111. Investigators find in Booth's motel room among other things, a letter from a women who pleaded for Booth to forget his plot (Louisville Daily Union Press, April 17 1865)
p112. She (Mary Lincoln) suddenly began tearing out her own hair out of her head by the hand full....They were all relieved when Bob Lincoln persuaded his mother to stop. (Styple, Generals in Bronze p.304)

I just wonder if these are accurate reports, or just records of an over embellishment made at the time?

Gene here are my general thoughts on those accounts.

And Kathy, thanks for sharing your thought process. Very interesting!

Withers has always been a guy that seems hard to nail down for me. I will say that I find him generally unreliable as far as his accounts of what happened that night. Not because he liked to talk about being there, but because of what he did say. As Kathy said in her post, "Some of his other accounts did not ring true to me, and I didn't use them". That is why I find him unreliable. It seems like every time he did talk he had a different story - and the stories grew and grew as far as their drama. If he were reliable, it seems to me he would have told a consistent story. So for me, that means I can't ascribe much credibility to any account he gave, no matter where it was published, or what he said. Add to the fact, to my knowledge, their seems to be no one who corroborates information throughout many of his accounts - this one in question included. Especially when by what he reports with respect to this version of his story, lots of people were present. I find it hard to believe that if this version was true, no one else would have said anything about it.

As far as O'Beirne goes, I think he certainly believed what he told Kelly. I can't recall how far after the assassination that Kelly spoke with O'Beirne so can't say much now as to whether the extent of Mary's distraught actions may have grown in his mind over time. I find this the most credible of the three accounts you mentioned Gene. I didn't have a chance to hear Bill Styple talk at the Surratt conference but I do have several of his books. Like Laurie, I find him to be a good researcher. Also, like Kathy said, there does not seem to be any reason for O'Beirne to outright lie or for Kelly to embellish the account. If I remember correctly, all of these "interviews" done by Kelly lay undiscovered in a box (I think at the New York Historical Society) from the time of Kelly's death until they were discovered around 10-15 years ago by Styple.

The Louisville newspaper account just seems to be outright wrong. I have never seen in any of the now many "official" accounts about what was found in Booth's room (or Atzerdot's) that there was a letter from a woman begging him to halt his plot. Now that being said, I suppose it is possible Lucy Hale knew what was going on, wrote one and it was later destroyed to cover for her and her father, who knows. But I honestly don't think it's probable. I also don't really blame the Louisville paper for printing something that is most likely false. As Kathy mentioned there was lots of information pouring out at the time and lots of newspapers printed information that turned out to be false. In any event, based on lots of 19th century newspaper articles I've read, I'm certain the 1865 press was not as concerned with confirming the truth as we might hope for and expect today. Besides, I think it would have been hard to really critically examine all that material in a timely manner in the 19th century so ready to go to print quickly. I would say newspaper publishers want to sell newspapers and any information regarding the assassination, true or false, would have helped sell lots of newspapers and would have been published as soon as possible to satisfy a public hungry for any assassination related information.
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01-23-2017, 02:13 PM (This post was last modified: 01-23-2017 02:31 PM by Gene C.)
Post: #51
RE: Kathy Canavan's New Book!
Thank you all for the info.
That helped.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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10-17-2017, 01:52 PM
Post: #52
RE: Kathy Canavan's New Book!
(12-19-2016 05:10 PM)Joe Di Cola Wrote:  I agree with Jim--Blood on the Moon, American Brutus, and Manhunt are definitely the three in the pantheon of Lincoln assassination books. Prior to American Brutus, the only book I ever remember reading about Booth was Philip Van Doren Stern's 1939 The Man Who Killed Lincoln (which I still have in my collection). I also agree with Laurie's assessment of Kathy Canavan's book. I have almost finished it, and it does include a level of detail that is most interesting.

For those interested, the ebook version of Swanson's Manhunt is on sale right now at the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites for $1.99.

I have endured a great deal of ridicule without much malice; and have received a great deal of kindness, not quite free from ridicule. I am used to it. (Letter to James H. Hackett, November 2, 1863)
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