Lincoln Plots

Balsinger, Dave, and Charles E. Sellier, Jr. The Lincoln Conspiracy. Los Angeles: Schick Sunn Classic Books, 1977.

Brennan, John C. "General Bradley T. Johnson's Plan to Abduct President Lincoln." Chronicles of St. Mary's 22 (Nov.-Dec. 1974): 413-424. [Petersen]

Bryan, George S. The Great American Myth. New York: Carrick & Evans, 1940. [Petersen]

Campbell, Helen J. Confederate Courier. New York: St. Martin's 1964.

Petersen: "Booth conspiracy and trial of John Surratt."

Carter, Samuel, III. The Riddle of Dr. Mudd. New York: Putnam's 1974. [Petersen]

Hanchett, William. "Lincoln's Murder: The Simple Conspiracy Theory." Civil War Times Illustrated 30 (Nov.-Dec. 1991): 28-35, 70-71.

Kauffman, Michael W. American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspirators. New York: Random House, 2005.

To Fox, Civil War Times (, this work "offers a new but reasonable interpretation of the events surrounding the incident at Ford’s Theatre.... Kauffman assesses his subject as a manipulator, not a stooge for others.... Novices to the assassination need not fear tediousness or overkill on technical details, however. American Brutus is an engrossing, minute-by-minute account of events surrounding" the assassination of President Lincoln.

Sears, Stephen W.

1. "The Dahlgren Papers Revisited." America's Civil War. []

The author argues convincingly that the so-called Dahlgren Papers are authentic. He concludes: "The ultimate irony in this sordid tale of villainy and retribution is that ... the legacy spawned out of the utter failure of the[] effort [of Judson Kilpatrick, Ulric Dahlgren, and their probable patron Edwin Stanton] may have included the death of their own president."

2. "Raid on Richmond." MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History 11, no. 1 (Autumn 1998): 88-96.

The author recounts the background surrounding and the actions in Col. Ulric Dahlgren's abortive raid against Richmond in February-March 1964. Sears speculates that the effort essentially broke "the rules for what in that day passed for civilized warfare," and motivated Confederate planners to move on with plans to kidnap Lincoln -- plans with which John Wilkes Booth was associated.

Swanson, James L. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. New York: Harper, 2006.

According to Harter, Periscope (Summer 2006), the author does not answer the questions surrounding possible Confederate Secret Service (CSS) involvement in the assassination plot. However, he "does document meetings between CSS representatives and members of the Lincoln conspiracy, particularly [John Wilkes] Booth and Mary Surratt." This book "is an excellent addition to the credible body of research on the Lincoln assassination."

Tidwell, William A. April '65: Confederate Covert Action in the American Civil War. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1995.

Clark comment: Tidwell is a retired brigidier general, who served with John Bakeless in the Military Intelligence Division (G-2) of the War Department General Staff during World War II. (p. viii) He also served with the CIA for 23 years. (Dustjacket) The author argues that this work presents "additional information and show[s] how it supports and enlarges on the explanation of the assassination of Lincoln" presented in Come Retribution. (p. 13). Gen. Tidwell died on 16 June 1999 at the age of 81. His obituary appears in the Washington Post, 17 Jun. 1999, B5.

Hanchett, WIR 14.1, says that Tidwell is the first to write about the Confederacy's secret service "in a scholarly and comprehensive fashion.... [He] demonstrates that ... Confederate officials in Canada recruited [John Wilkes] Booth to take over a plan that had been under consideration in the army and in Richmond for several months.... This original and scholarly book ... breaks away from the romanticism that has characterized writing about the Confederacy and hints at how much work is yet to done in the area of Civil War history."

According to AIJ 16.1, this book is "outstanding ... and highly recommended." Kruh, Cryptologia 20.1, says that "Tidwell presents probably the most thorough description of the Confederate Secret Service to date. He also traces the development of Confederate doctrine for the conduct of irregular warfare and the role of Jefferson Davis in approving clandestine operations." For Darron, NIPQ 20.3, "[t]his book is not an easy read. It can be described as drinking from a firehose!" Nevertheless, it "is worth the effort it takes to read it."

Tidwell, William, with James O. Hall and David W. Gaddy. Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1988.

Clark comment: The authors' combine an immense amount of detailed research with a strong penchant for associational inference. However, inference remains inference, even when seemingly unconnected dots are linked together to form a hazy picture. The level of minor detail included here is necessary for the work of drawing inferences, but the details are at times numbing in their effect on the reader. The authors' argument is that the plot to assassinate Lincoln was not simply the work of a madman able to draw a handful of others into his madness but rather was the result of a grand conspiracy -- a Confederate covert action -- that reached all the way to Jefferson Davis. Of particular importance to this argument is the authors' circumstantial reconstruction of a "security force" assembled and maintained along the route that a party would have traveled after kidnapping Lincoln, and which seemingly was used in part by John Wilkes Booth as he tried to escape after his act. Was Lincoln's assassination the culmination of a covert action to kidnap him but one that went sour as the Confederacy fell apart, leaving Booth and his action team without direction and on their own? If that is the truth, then it likely that the authors' have traced the outlines of the proposed action as well as it is going to be done.

Writing in his later work, April '65 (p. 7), Tidwell argues that Come Retribution "presented evidence, much of it circumstantial, that permitted a reconstruction of the probable course of a Confederate operation to take Abraham Lincoln hostage." Gaddy, IJI&C 3.4, says that the book "presents Jefferson Davis as the first American president to have the capability to control covert action, to be able to coordinate it with conventional military strategy and to be placed in a position that made its employment not only attractive but essential."

The respected debunker of Civil War intelligence myths, Edwin C. Fishel, IJI&C 3.3, suggests that the book offers an "explanation of the assassination [that is] more logical and more believable than any other." The assassination is presented as the "culminating act of a history of unconventional warfare waged by the Confederate secret service." The authors' case is entirely circumstantial, but the book is based on an "impressive depth and range of ... research." However, some "weakly supported inflationary tactics are obvious to the casual reader."

Severin, writing in the conspiracy-oriented Back Channels, Winter 1993, finds that Come Retribution shows a "complex and close relationship between Booth and the Confederate Secret Service." The book is the product of "painstaking and voluminous research.... [This] will be the book on the covert role of the Confederate States of America in the Lincoln assassination for years to come."

On the other side, Neely, AHR 95.3, suggests that the book "returns to the long-discarded theory that Booth's plot to capture President Lincoln ... may have been part of an elaborate clandestine apparatus that reported to ... President Davis." In their efforts to link the Confederate high command to Booth's plot, the authors "stack[] doubtful inference on perilous surmise.... But speculation does not lead to certainty nor, in this case, come near the truth." Neely does accept, however, that Come Retribution "is competently written, has nice maps, and contains some little-known information on marginal Confederate characters."

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