The First Assassin
John J. Miller
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"…living history from a master storyteller …"
A clearly envisioned time of history.
When Abraham Lincoln passed through Baltimore on a train ride to Washington, D. C. for his inauguration, he did so at night, thwarting the assassins that lay in wait for him and earning the title of coward from those who opposed his presidency. Assassins lay in wait all around him, and still Lincoln conducted business as he had when he was a senator—in the open and without support.
The country was still rebuilding after the devastation of the War of 1812 and the southern states seceded in greater numbers as Lincoln was sworn in as president. The military establishment under Lt. General Winfield Scott kept a close eye on Lincoln during his inauguration and through the turbulent days that followed as the Union crumbled. Colonel Charles P. Rook, the head of the Army detail under General Scott, who had decided during Lincoln inauguration that this was a man for whom he would take a bullet, kept watch on the city never realizing that he would be all that stood between President Lincoln and anarchy.
In Charleston, South Carolina, retired Colonel Langston Bennett watched Fort Sumter from his mansion from the first shot fired until the fort fell. As he watched, he and his heir Tucker Hughes plotted the death of Abraham Lincoln, sending a highly recommended and very expensive assassin to do the job. His faithful slave, Lucius, sure in the hope that Lincoln would free his children and grandchildren, listens and watches and waits for his chance to help the beleaguered president and save him from harm. Will his granddaughter Portia be in time with the evidence?
Into the turbulent first days after Abraham Lincoln’s assumption of the presidency of a divided Union, John J. Miller sets The First Assassin. Dividing the book between the southern and northern characters and delving into the subtle and not so subtle emotions surrounding the secession and abolitionist sentiments, Miller offers a behind-the-scenes view.
Miller’s keen eye for detail and complex characters move within time and space to recreate this seminal point in history. The depth of his research is evident in the skillful blend of fact, characterization and intrigue. There are no information dumps, just the intricate dance of life and times that provides a clear window onto the past.
I was especially fascinated by the sentiments and motivations of the characters and how they all sprang to life fully realized. This is living history from a master storyteller who knows how to weave an excellent and memorable yarn.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell