"They Have Killed Papa Dead!"
The Road to Ford's Theatre, Abraham Lincoln's Murder, and the Rage for Vengeance
By Anthony Pitch
Steerforth, Hardcover, 9781586421588, 512pp.
Publication Date: December 30, 2008
List Price: $29.95*
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The assassination of Abraham Lincoln is a central drama of the American experience. Its impact is felt to this day, and the basic story is known to all. Anthony Pitch’s thrilling account of the Lincoln conspiracy and its aftermath transcends the mere facts of that awful night during which dashing actor John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in the head and would-be assassin Lewis Payne butchered Secretary of State William Seward in the bed of his own home. “They Have Killed Papa Dead!” transports the reader to one of the most breathtaking moments in history, and reveals much that is new about the stories, passions, and times of those who shaped this great tragedy.
Virtually every word of Anthony Pitch’s account is based on primary source material: new quotes from previously unpublished diaries, letters and journals – authentic contemporary voices writing with freshness and clarity as eyewitnesses or intimate participants – new images, a new vision and understanding of one of America’s defining moments. With an unwavering fidelity to historical accuracy, Pitch provides new confirmation of threats against the president-elect’s life as he traveled to Washington by train for his first inauguration, and a vivid personal account of John Wilkes Booth being physically restrained from approaching Lincoln at his second inauguration. Perhaps most chillingly, new details come to light about conditions in the special prison where the civilian conspirators accused of participating in the Lincoln assassination endured tortuous conditions in extreme isolation and deprivation, hooded and shackled, before and even during their military trial. Pitch masterfully synthesizes the findings of his prodigious research into a tight, gripping narrative that adds important new insights to our national story.
Anthony S. Pitch is the author of a number of books including The Burning of Washington: The British Invasion of 1814, a selection of the History Book Club and winner of the Arline Custer Memorial Prize and Maryland Historical Society’s annual book award. He has been featured on outlets ranging from NPR to The History Channel to C-Span to Fox News and is a highly sought-after public speaker. A former journalist in England, Africa, and Israel, Pitch has been a broadcast editor for the Associated Press and a senior writer for US News and World Report’s Books division. He lives in a Washington, DC, suburb.
"Lincoln's assassination was the first such tragedy in the nation's history and added a dark tinge to a country just turning a corner after a frightful war. Anthony S. Pitch's "They Have Killed Papa Dead!" is a special book that will surely serve as a benchmark in the vast Lincoln-related lore. . . . Pitch's book is riveting because of exquisitely detailed research, a fast-paced narrative that is evocative in depicting the personalities and places central to understanding Booth's original plan to kidnap the president. . . The reader is kept so close to the details of the events described as to feel more like a close observer than an armchair reader 145 years later. . . . Pitch's masterful and highly readable account is a significant addition to the vast Lincoln record and a fascinating introduction for the lay reader to the complexities of this searing chapter in American history."
— H-Net Reviews
"Pitch has come up with the best title of the year, taken from Tad Lincoln's piteous cries upon learning of his father's assassination by John Wilkes Booth. This is an intense, vivid and moving portrayal of a family (and a country) brutally deprived of its leader." — Chicago Tribune
"Until recently, the most riveting and best researched account of Booth's murderous crime . . . was Manhunt, by James L. Swanson. But even stronger in terms of its exhaustive scholarship, dramatic and compelling language and insightful analysis of the politics, the social settings and the sights, sounds and even smells of the relevant locales is 'They Have Killed Papa Dead!' . . . Author Anthony S. Pitch is a former broadcast editor for the Associated Press, and he brings a journalist's urgent rhythms and eye for small but revealing observations, along with the serious and extensively annotated scholarship of a great historian. This winning combination is evidenced right in the title, which comes from the heartbreaking lament of Lincoln's young son Tad upon learning his father was shot. . . . Pitch has given us if not the definitive story of the assassination and the events before and after, than the one that readers should turn to first." — Chicago Sun-Times
"Pitch looks through a wide-angle lens at the assassination in his emotionally wrenching new account...Pitch worked on the book for nine years, and his dedication shows in its pitch-perfect level of detail. Quotes from diaries of the time, some of them apparently never published before, portray the nation’s post-assassination grief in high relief... In perhaps the most revealing parts of the book, Pitch explores the deplorable treatment of the alleged conspirators, their circus trial, and the remarkable escape of conspirator John Surratt, who hid at the Vatican.
Other recent books have covered some of the same ground. But “They Have Killed Papa Dead!” provides an excellent overview, bringing thoughtful analysis to one of the most sensational events in American history."
— The Christian Science Monitor
"Nineteenth-century Washington teemed with boarding houses, brothels, bars that served 'liquid opiates' — and with Confederate sympathizers. Drawing on primary sources from the Library of Congress and the National Archives, Papa delves into the fevered world of John Wilkes Booth. Possessing the looks of a matinee idol, Lincoln's assassin exerted a Charles Manson-like grip on his co-conspirators. Papa races along through the manhunt, the trials, the executions. A treat for the Lincoln fanatic." — USA Today
"A meticulously researched narrative of the Lincoln assassination, from the conspiracy and murder through the ensuing manhunt and trial. . . . Pitch turns the tragedy into a great American true-crime story." — Entertainment Weekly
"Pitch's energetic narrative will be highly popular." — Booklist
"No reader will come away unmoved, even at this distance, by anguish about [Lincoln's assassination]. . . . a real page-turner about real history." — Publishers Weekly
"To the well-worn record, Anthony Pitch contributes several riveting new discoveries he gleaned from scouring private letters and newspaper reports... Pitch is a patient storyteller, and the well-developed characters, brought to life through diaries, letters and other primary sources, heighten the drama and poignancy.
A study of burning focus and intimate depth."
— Kirkus Reviews
“Aches with sadness and pulses with page-turning excitement . . . a perfect storm of a book.”
– Harold Holzer, co-chair, U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and winner of a Lincoln Prize
“So well written and researched that it will add greatly to our knowledge of Lincolniana.”
– Dr. Wayne Temple, Deputy Director of the Illinois State Archives and author of many books on Lincoln
“There are, Lord knows, one jillion books on Lincoln, but this is a happy and welcome addition and deserves a celebration all its own.”
– Christopher Buckley
“What, another book on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln? What more can be said about the regicide of our greatest President? Actually, Anthony Pitch's beautifully written narrative stands on its own as a splendid contribution to the subject. It is told by an author who has an intimate knowledge of all the sites related to the assassination and the trials that followed.”
– Frank J. Williams, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and founding Chair of The Lincoln Forum