Monday, February 28, 2011

Swanson's Manhunt

By James L. Swanson: Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer Sixth (6th) EditionAttorney and Lincoln scholar James L. Swanson writes fascinating history in his book, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer. Swanson tells with cinematic detail the story of Lincoln, Booth, Stanton and the others.

Here are 25 interesting details regarding the Lincoln assassination:

    John Wilkes Booth
  1. Booth had originally planned to kidnap President Lincoln and convey him to the South. When that plan fell through, Booth changed his plans to murdering President Lincoln, Vice President Johnson and Secretary of State Seward.
  2. When Booth fled the stage, only one person from the audience attempted to follow him, leaping over the chairs of the orchestra and running on backstage.
  3. Laura Keene, for whose benefit Our American Cousin was being performed, made her way up to the box where Lincoln was lying and asked that she could cradle his head in her lap. Her dress with Lincoln's blood became an icon she displayed for years.
    Laura Keene in Our American Cousin
  5. The first doctor who reached Lincoln continually had to remove blood clots from the small head wound to relieve pressure on Lincoln’s brain.
  6. Lincoln was in a coma from 10:30 when he was shot till 7:22 the next morning.
    Dr. Samuel Mudd
  8. I mistakenly believed that Dr. Samuel Mudd was picked at random and an innocent victim. This was a myth perpetuated by the Mudd family. Wrong. He knew Booth and had actually met with him not long before the assassination. Booth had tried to enlist him in helping move Lincoln south in his original plan to kidnap the president.
  9. Booth tattooed “j.w.b” onto his hand when a boy.
  10. When he left to commit the assassination, Booth took with him five cartes de visites of girls he knew.
  11. Tad Lincoln learned his father had been shot when they stopped the play he was attending (Aladdin! Or His Wonderful Lamp) to announce that President Lincoln had been shot.
  12. The actors at Ford’s Theatre put on a private performance of Our American Cousin for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton who wanted to see if there were any clues as to what happened. It was decided that Booth knew the play and knew exactly where only one person would be on stage and get the biggest laugh.
    Davey Herold
  14. Booth and Davey Herold hid out in Maryland and Virginia, not more than 40 miles from where Lincoln was killed, for 12 days before the army finally located them at the Garret farm between Port Royal and Bowling Green, Virginia.
  15. While hiding out, Booth and Herald shot their horses and sank them in quicksand so they did not have to feed them or have them give them away.
  16. Booth and Herald were caught partially because the Garrett sons had locked them in the tobacco barn they were sleeping in.
  17. Although Booth was wanted returned alive so he could stand trial, a soldier, Boston Corbett who claimed Providence had told him to do it, shot Booth while he was in the barn which they had set on fire.
  18. The autopsy stated that Booth had been shot in the neck, very similarly to Lincoln, and was paralyzed for the three hours he survived. The report stressed that he would have suffered during that time.
    Mary Surratt
  20. On July 6, 1865, Mrs. Mary Surratt, who ran the boardinghouse where the conspirators met, was the first woman hanged for the crime of treason in America. She died beside Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt. Mrs. Surratt's son was never convicted of the crime.
    Lewis Powell
  22. Lewis Powell, who had attacked and almost killed Secretary of State Seward and two of his sons, went to his death with such a sense of stoicism that the hangman whispered in his ear, “I want you to die quick.”
    Henry Rathbone
  24. Clara Harris and Henry Reed Rathbone, the young couple who attended the play with the Lincolns, were married and had children. In 1883, Rathbone began acting oddly and using a knife and gun killed Clara. Their story is told in Henry and Clara, 1994.
  25. Boston Corbett slunk into anonymity until as an assistant doorman for the Kansas House of Representatives, he drew a gun and held everyone hostage. He was put in a mental institution in Topeka, but escaped in 1888, never to be found.
  26. The Garrett farm no longer exists.
  27. The public was told that Booth’s body had been buried at sea. It hadn’t. Stanton had had it conveyed to the Old Arsenel (a fort) where he and eventually three other conspirators were initially buried.
  28. Powell’s head had been removed and was eventually found and reburied in Florida in 1994 with military honors since he had served in the Civil War.
  29. Booth’s body was exhumed during President Grant’s administration. The body was buried in an unmarked grave in the Booth family plot in Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore.
  30. While Lincoln became a martyr for the Union cause, the author reports some South friends who have a family tradition of throwing a cotillion every 15 April to commemorate Lincoln’s assassination.
  31. The Ford’s Theatre was not allowed to remain a theatre. Eventually the government owned it and it became an office building. All that ended in 1893 when the second floor collapsed onto the office workers below killing 22 clerks and injuring many others. In the 1960s, the theatre was refurbished to look as it did in 1865 and became a national museum.

Ford's Theatre
 Note: While reading the book, I came across a National Geographic program which says that Lincoln may have had Mem2B Cancer syndrome and might well have died later from it.

The new movie, The Conspirator, deals with the story of Mrs. Surratt.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Moviegoer: Chris and Don: A Love Story

I waited to see my Netflix offering, Chris and Don: A Love Story, until I had finished reading Christopher Isherwood’s The Sixties: Diaries 1960-1969 (ed. Katherine Bucknell). The film documents the love story of Isherwood and his companion Don Bachardy, from their meeting on a beach in California to Isherwood’s death in 1986. Isherwood, best known as the author of The Berlin Stories (which became I am a Camera and then Cabaret) and A Single Man, was more than 30 years older than Bachardy. Having read of that period through Isherwood’s prose, it was fascinating to see the two men through their home movies, interacting with many leading authors and actors of the 50s and 60s, juxtaposed with the 76-year-old portrait artist Bachardy, living and working in the environment he shared with Isherwood for over three decades.

But one moment stands out, a moment which I found incredibly memorable. Artist Bachardy shows a series of drawings he did during the last few months of the writer’s life. Then he holds up a series of pictures he drew after Isherwood’s death. Mouth agape, eyes open staring into the void, Isherwood's body shows the ravages of age and illness, but watching Bachady gaze on his departed companion said much to me of the capturing and holding of love in its final moments.

I don't think I will forget the moment.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Moviegoer: Catfish

I had heard about "Catfish" when it came out, but it disappeared from the area before I got to see it. Well, I rented it on Netflix and want to make sure everyone on Facebook sees it.

The setup for the film (a documentary) is photographer Niv meets Megan and her family on Facebook. Gradually he becomes drawn deeper and deeper into a relationship while his friends decide to document their growing friendship. Eventually he decides to visit them and begins an incredible journey.

One critic says, "This is the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never directed."

I don't want to tell you more except that after seeing this film, I began to think differently about my Facebook experience and life in general.

SEE THIS FILM ... [and when you do, write and tell me about the experience].