The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history -- the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness.
At the very center of this story is John Wilkes Booth, America's notorious villain. A Confederate sympathizer and a member of a celebrated acting family, Booth threw away his fame and wealth for a chance to avenge the South's defeat. For almost two weeks, he confounded the manhunters, slipping away from their every move and denying them the justice they sought.
Based on rare archival materials, obscure trial transcripts, and Lincoln's own blood relics, Manhunt is a fully documented work, but it is also a fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. A gripping hour-by-hour account told through the eyes of the hunted and the hunters, this is history as you've never read it before.
The Greatest Manhunt in American History
For 12 days after his brazen assassination of Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth was at large, and in Manhunt, historian James L. Swanson tells the vivid, fully documented tale of his escape and the wild, massive pursuit. Get a taste of the daily drama from this timeline of the desperate search.
|April 14, 1865 ||Around noon, Booth learns that Lincoln is coming to Ford's Theatre that night. He has eight hours to prepare his plan.|
10:15 pm: Booth shoots the president, leaps to the stage, and escapes on a waiting horse.
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton orders the manhunt to begin.
|April 15 ||About 4:00 am: Booth seeks treatment for a broken leg at Dr. Samuel Mudd's farm near Beantown, Maryland. Cavalry patrol heads south toward Mudd farm. |
Confederate operative Thomas Jones hides Booth in a remote pine thicket for five days, frustrating the manhunters.
|April 19 ||Tens of thousands watch the procession to the U.S. Capitol, where President Lincoln lies in state. Wild rumors and stories of false sightings of Booth spread. || |
|April 20 ||Stanton offers a $100,000 reward for the assassins, and threatens death to any citizen who helps them. |
After hiding Booth in Maryland, Jones puts him in a rowboat on the Potomac River, bound for Virginia. More than a thousand manhunters are still searching in Maryland. In the dark, Booth rows the wrong way and first ends up back in Maryland.
|April 20-24 ||Booth lands in the northern neck of Virginia, and Confederate agents and sympathizers guide him to Port Conway, Virginia. |
|April 24 ||Booth befriends three Confederate soldiers who help him cross the Rappahannock River to Port Royal and then guide him further southwest to the Garrett farm. |
Union troops in Washington receive a report of a Booth sighting. They board a U.S. Navy tug and steam south, right past Booth's hideout at the Garrett farm.
|April 25 ||The 16th New York Calvary, realizing their error, turns around and surrounds the Garrett farm after midnight that night. || |
|April 26 ||When Booth refuses to surrender, troops set the barn on fire, and Boston Corbett shoots the assassin. Booth dies a few hours later, at sunrise. |
|April 26-27 ||Booth's body is brought back to Washington, where it is autopsied, photographed, and buried in a secret grave. || |