Friday, July 29, 2016

Booknotes: John Surratt

New Arrival:
John Surratt: Rebel, Lincoln Conspirator, Fugitive
by Frederick Hatch (McFarland, 2016).

Of course, anyone who's read anything at all about the Lincoln assassination has heard of John Surratt. Surratt "was a courier for the Confederate Secret Service and the only one of John Wilkes Booth's co-conspirators in the Lincoln assassination plot to escape hanging by the U.S. government. Fleeing vengeful authorities in the wake of the assassination, Surratt traveled through three continents and served in the Papal Zouaves before being arrested in Egypt. His 1867 trial was a sensation, ending in a hung jury. Upon his release, he sought a quiet life away from the spotlight but privately suffered the consequences of his acts." John Surratt author Frederick Hatch is the editor and publisher of The Journal of the Lincoln Assassination (which oddly doesn't seem to have a website) and this new biography promises to be "(t)he most complete study of Surratt's life to date." At this point, if you are going to write about a major figure in the assassination literature you should have something new to say, and according to the description, "this book addresses many unanswered questions and considers theories that have received little attention." What those might be (and perhaps how Hatch himself would have voted had he been an 1867 trial juror) you'll have to read the book to find out.

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