“They Have Killed Papa Dead!”: The Road to Ford’s Theatre, Abraham Lincoln’s Murder, and the Rage for Vengeance

Written by Anthony S. Pitch
Review by John R. Vallely

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln by the noted actor John Wilkes Booth served as an appropriately murderous conclusion to the most savage and divisive war in American history. Journalist Anthony Pitch is the latest of a large and diverse group of authors to write about the events at Ford’s Theatre. Pitch is also one of the best. He does a masterful job in placing the reader in the chaotic developments of the final days of the Civil War. The group of conspirators led by Booth, a firm Confederate supporter who nonetheless spent the war in the United States pursuing his acting career rather than joining the Confederate Army, plays a central and critical role in the tale. The author places Booth and his fellow conspirators lurking in the background as he outlines the political and social life in the wartime American capital. A substantial number of figures are introduced, and the writer shows himself to be an accomplished artisan as he allows Booth, Lincoln, Mary Surratt, Lewis Payne, Edwin Stanton, William Seward, and numerous others to play their roles in the tragic tale. Many will find the discussion of the conspirators’ trial and executions especially captivating, as this part of the assassination remains the least known to most readers.