The Darkest Dawn: Lincoln, Booth, and the Great American Tragedy

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Indiana University Press, Feb 16, 2005 - History - 374 pages
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The story of the Lincoln assassination and its aftermath, captured with you-are-there immediacy.
It was one of the most tragic events in American history: The famous president, beloved by many, reviled by some, murdered while viewing a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington. The frantic search for the perpetrators. The nation in mourning. The solemn funeral train. The conspirators brought to justice.
Coming just days after the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln has become etched in the national consciousness like few other events. The president who had steered the nation through its bloodiest crisis was cut down before the end, just as it appeared that the bloodshed was over. The story has been told many times, but rarely with the immediacy of The Darkest Dawn. Thomas Goodrich brings to his narrative the care of the historian and the flair of the fiction writer. The result is a gripping account, filled with detail and as fresh as today’s news.
“Among the hundreds of books published about the assassination of our 16th president, this is an exceptional volume.” —Frank J. Williams, founding Chair of The Lincoln Forum

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Selected pages


The Wrath of God and Man
The Curse of Cain
The Midweek Sabbath
Oh Abraham Lincoln
The Fox and the Hounds
Blade of Fate
The Bad Hand
The Hate of Hate

The Clown and the Sphinx
One Bold Man
A Night to Remember
Terror on Lafayette Park
The Last Bullet
Murder in the Streets
A Spirit So Horrible
The Darkest Dawn
Hemp and Hell
This Sobbing Day
Black Easter
A Double Disaster
In Dungeons Dreadful
The Heart of Israel
Dust To Dust
Old Scores
The Living Dead
The Most Dreadful Fate
Beads on a String
The Haunted Stage

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Page 5 - Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.
Page 47 - Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. 'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one...
Page 5 - At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest...
Page 5 - Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. - "The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself ; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to alL With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to...
Page 92 - ... feeble persons fall and are trampled on — many cries of agony are heard — the broad stage suddenly fills to suffocation with a dense and motley crowd, like some horrible carnival — the audience rush generally upon it, at least the strong men do — the actors and actresses are...
Page 61 - This man's appearance, his pedigree, his coarse low jokes and anecdotes, his vulgar similes, and his frivolity, are a disgrace to the seat he holds. Other brains rule the country. He is made the tool of the North, to crush out, or try to crush out slavery, by robbery, rapine, slaughter and bought armies.
Page 47 - I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. It was light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the...
Page 33 - None need expect he would take any part in hanging or killing these men, even the worst of them. Frighten them out of the country, let down the bars, scare them off, said he, throwing up his hands as if scaring sheep.
Page 49 - we have had a hard time of it, since we came to Washington. But the war is over, and with God's blessing we may hope for four years of peace and happiness here in Washington ; and then we will go back to Illinois and pass the rest of our lives in quiet.
Page 48 - I long ago made up my mind that if anybody wants to kill me, he will do it. If I wore a shirt of mail, and kept myself surrounded by a body-guard, it would be all the same. There are a thousand ways of getting at a man if it is desired that he should be killed. Besides, in this case, it seems to me the man who would come after me would be just as objectionable to my enemies — if I have any.

About the author (2005)

Thomas Goodrich is author of Black Flag (IUP, 1995) and The Day Dixie Died: Southern Occupation, 1865–1866 (with Debra Goodrich). He lives in Topeka, Kansas.

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