Lincoln's Last Days: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever

Lincoln's Last Days: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever


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Lincoln's Last Days is a gripping account of one of the most dramatic nights in American history—of how one gunshot changed the country forever. Adapted from Bill O'Reilly's bestselling historical thriller, Killing Lincoln, this book will have young readers—and grown-ups too—hooked on history.

In the spring of 1865, President Abraham Lincoln travels through Washington, D.C., after finally winning America's bloody Civil War. In the midst of celebrations, Lincoln is assassinated at Ford's Theatre by a famous actor named John Wilkes Booth. What follows is a thrilling chase, ending with a fiery shoot-out and swift justice for the perpetrators.

With an unforgettable cast of characters, page-turning action, vivid detail, and art on every spread, Lincoln's Last Days is history that reads like a thriller. This is a very special book, irresistible on its own or as a compelling companion to Killing Lincoln.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805096750
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: 08/21/2012
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 338,057
Product dimensions: 7.38(w) x 9.14(h) x 1.01(d)
Lexile: 1020L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 15 Years

About the Author

Bill O'Reilly's success in broadcasting and publishing is unmatched. The iconic anchor of The O'Reilly Factor led the program to the status of the highest rated cable news broadcast in the nation for sixteen consecutive years. His website is followed by millions all over the world.

In addition, he has authored an astonishing 12 number one ranked non-fiction books including the historical "Killing" series. Mr. O'Reilly currently has 17 million books in print.

Bill O'Reilly has been a broadcaster for 42 years. He has been awarded three Emmy's and a number of other journalism accolades. He was a national correspondent for CBS News and ABC News as well as a reporter-anchor for WCBS-TV in New York City among other high profile jobs.

Mr. O'Reilly received two other Emmy nominations for the movies "Killing Kennedy" and "Killing Jesus."

He holds a history degree from Marist College, a masters degree in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University, and another masters degree from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Bill O'Reilly lives on Long Island where he was raised. His philanthropic enterprises have raised tens of millions for people in need and wounded American veterans.

Dwight Jon Zimmerman has adapted books for young readers by distinguished authors such as Dee Brown and James McPherson. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt




Petersburg, Virginia


THERE IS NO NORTH VERSUS SOUTH in Petersburg now. Only Grant versus Lee—and Grant has the upper hand. Like many of the generals on both sides, Lee and Grant served together in the Mexican War. Now, in the Civil War, these former comrades-in-arms are enemies.

Lee is fifty-eight years old, a tall, rugged Virginian with a silver beard and formal air. Grant is forty-two and Lee’s exact opposite: dark-haired and sloppy in dress, a small, introspective man who has a fondness for cigars and a close relationship with horses. When Grant was a baby, his mother’s friends were shocked to see that Hannah Grant allowed her son to crawl between their horses’ feet!

Like Lee, Grant possesses a genius for warfare—indeed, he is capable of little else. When the Civil War began, he was a washed-up, barely employed West Point graduate and veteran of the Mexican War who had been forced out of military service, done in by lonely western outposts and an inability to hold his liquor. It was only through luck and connections that Grant secured a commission in an Illinois regiment. At the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in Tennessee in February 1862, Grant and his army delivered the first major victories to the Union. And Grant kept on winning. As the war continued, Lincoln gave him more and more responsibility. Now Grant is general in chief—the commander of all the Union armies from Virginia down to New Orleans.

A Currier & Ives lithograph of the Battle of Petersburg.

At Petersburg, the Confederate lines are arranged in a jagged horseshoe, facing south—thirty-seven miles of trenches and fortifications in all. The outer edges of the horseshoe are two miles from the city center, under the commands of Confederate A. P. Hill on the right and John B. Gordon on the left.

*   *   *

The day before, at the decisive Battle of Five Forks, Union General Phil Sheridan and 45,000 men had captured a pivotal crossing, cutting off the main road to North Carolina.

It was long after dark when word of the great victory reached Grant. Without pausing, Grant pushed his advantage. He ordered another attack. He hoped this would be the blow to crush Lee and his army once and for all. His soldiers would attack just before dawn, but he ordered the artillery fire to begin immediately.

*   *   *

The Union attack is divided into two waves. Major General Horatio Wright, leading the 24,000 men in his Sixth Corps, charges first and shatters the right side of Lee’s line. Wright’s attack is so well choreographed that many of his soldiers are literally miles in front of the main Union force. As Wright’s men reorganize to prepare for the next stage of attack, the rest of the Union army strikes.

Lieutenant General A. P. Hill, Confederate States of America.

Meanwhile, Lee and his assistants, the generals James “Pete” Longstreet and A. P. Hill, gaze out at Wright’s army from the front porch of Lee’s Confederate headquarters, the Turnbull house. The three of them stand there as the sun rises high enough to confirm their worst fears: every soldier they can see wears blue.

A horrified A. P. Hill realizes that his army is being crushed, and he jumps on his horse to try to stop the disaster in the making. He is shot and killed by Union soldiers.

Lee faces the sobering fact that Union soldiers are just a few short steps from controlling the main road he plans to use for his retreat. He will be cut off if the bluecoats in the pasture continue their advance.

Fortune, however, is smiling on the Confederates. Those Union soldiers have no idea that Lee himself is right in front of them. If they did, they would attack without ceasing, because any soldier who captured Lee would become a legend.

The Union scouts can clearly see the small artillery battery outside Lee’s headquarters, and they assume that it is part of a much larger rebel force hiding out of sight. Rather than rush forward, the scouts hesitate.

Lieutenant General James “Pete” Longstreet.

Seizing the moment, Lee escapes north across the Appomattox River and then turns west. His goal is the Richmond and Danville Railroad Line at Amelia Court House, where he has arranged to store food and supplies. He issues orders to the commanders of his corps to follow. At one point, Lee pauses to write a letter to Confederate president Jefferson Davis, saying that his army is in retreat and can no longer defend Richmond. Davis and the Confederate government must abandon the city or risk capture.

The final chase has begun.


Copyright © 2012 by Bill O’Reilly

Table of Contents

A Note to Readers ix

Key Players xii

Prologue xvi

Part 1 The Beginning of the End of the War 1

Part 2 The Conspiracy to Assassinate 59

Part 3 Lincoln's Last Day 93

Part 4 Chasing the Assassins 185

Afterword 240

Lincoln's World

A Walk Through Washington, D.C., in the 1860s 256

Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Their Children 260

The Aging of Abraham Lincoln 265

Did You Know?

Twenty Important and Interesting Facts About the Civil War 266

Transportation During the Civil War 273

Flags of the Civil War 275

Weapons of the Civil War 277

Medicine During the Civil War 280

Abraham Lincoln Time Line 283

John Wilkes Booth Time Line 289

Washington, D.C.

Finding Lincoln in the Nation's Capital Today 291

Military Terms 297

Bibliography 300

Recommended Reading 302

Recommended Websites 304

Recommended Viewing 306

Index 307

Reading Group Guide

In the spring of 1865, President Abraham Lincoln returns to Washington, D.C., after a brief tour of the defeated Confederacy, marking the end of America's bloody Civil War. Then on April 14, Lincoln is assassinated at Ford's Theatre by a famous actor named John Wilkes Booth. What follows is a thrilling chase, ending with a fiery shoot-out and swift justice for the perpetrators. With an unforgettable cast of characters, pageturning action, vivid detail, and art on every spread, Lincoln's Last Days is history that reads like a thriller. Lincoln's Last Days is a lavishly illustrated middle-grade edition of Bill O'Reilly‘s nonfiction bestseller Killing Lincoln.

Part One: The Beginning of the End of the War (pages 1–58)

1. Explain why the Battle of Petersburg was a turning point in the war.

2. State why Ulysses S. Grant was Lincoln's favorite general.

3. Interpret the reason the Confederate army laid waste to Richmond, Virginia. Why was the first

American flag flown there after its capture symbolic of the future?

4. Classify the treatment that the Union army and President Lincoln faced from both its black and white citizens.

5. Analyze why Robert E. Lee and his troops lost hope at Amelia Court House. What decisions did

Lee make?

6. List all of Lee's challenges in Virginia, then rank them, in your opinion, from most important to least.

As a class debate the results.

7. Explain why High Bridge was so important to both North and South strategies for success.

8. Diagram Colonel Francis Washburn's strategy when faced with a battle where he was clearly outnumbered by calvary and foot soldiers. Why did his bold plan fail?

9. Choose a winner in the battle to secure the town of Marshall's Crossroads. Defend your choice with proof from the text.

10. Justify Lee's decision to utter the most despicable word to a military leader: surrender.

11. Interpret Grant's generous terms he offered Lee and his Confederate troops while at Appomattox

Court House. Do you think these terms were already negotiated with Lincoln or not? Why?

12. List ten of the most important facts every American ought to know about this important part of our history. Discuss and refine your choices with a partner.

Part Two: The Conspiracy to Assassinate (pages 59–91)

1. Describe the mood in Washington, D.C., after news of Lee's surrender has been reported.

2. Characterize the relationship and connection that John Wilkes Booth had to Jefferson Davis. Compare his original intentions with his new plan.

3. Determine why the content of Lincoln's speech so inflamed Booth and his comrades.

4. Discuss the three different elements that convinced Lincoln he would die in office. How did he decide to live with that fear?

5. Outline Booth's expanded plan. What purpose did it serve? Who was brought into the plot? Why?

6. Argue whether you think Lincoln or Grant was more beloved to the residents of Washington, D.C.

What about at the national level?

7. For general discussion: What evidence and sources does the author use to substantiate his claims in the text? Which sources are best to use for historical research such as this one? How do you evaluate the authenticity of a source?

Part Three: Lincoln's Last Days (pages 93–184)

1. Describe Lincoln's last morning. What does this reveal about his character?

2. Propose a list of reasons Lincoln decided to attend the theater on the fateful night of April 14. How could one decision have changed history?

3. Why were people at Ford's Theatre excited that the Lincolns would be in attendance? Who else was happy with the news?

4. How was Lincoln's last cabinet meeting a good example of his leadership skills and style?

5. List the steps Booth took to set his plan into action. How and why did he attempt revenge on John Matthews?

6. Evaluate the role security played in the president's assassination. In what ways was this an area of weakness?

7. Explain why Lewis Powell was the only member of the conspiracy who was actually qualified to pull off his part of the plan. What did he do? How did his part turn out?

8. In detail, what was Booth's elaborate plan? What Latin words did he use to mark his dramatic exit? Did he have any misgivings about his goal?

9. How was Booth able to gain easy access in the theater and ultimately the president? Why was this allowed?

10. Summarize Powell's vicious attack on Secretary of State Seward and his family. What part of the plan succeeded, if any? What failed? Why?

11. Examine George Atzerodt's actions the night of the assassination. Defend whether you think he was still as complicit or as guilty as the other members of the conspiracy.

12. Did everything go exactly as Booth planned in the theater? What complications did he face with his evil plan?

13. At the drawbridge, mentioned on page 160, why did sentry Silas Cobb allow the riders to cross the bridge though he stated, "But I don't know I ought to"? Have you ever regretted doing something that you felt was wrong but did it anyway?

14. Also on page 160 the authors note that "When the war started in 1861, a curfew was established around the capital and strictly enforced." Discuss with students why this was done and its significance. You may also want to relate and discuss how and why this was done in other wars including World War II.

15. How did young Dr. Charles Leale attempt to save Lincoln? Did any of these techniques seem absurd or familiar in any way?

16. What did the famous actress, Laura Keene, do in the theater once she heard Lincoln was shot? Why? What might have been her motives? What were the repercussions?

17. Defend the choices the doctor and Lincoln's closest associates made about his care and removal from Ford's Theatre. What guided their decisions? Why was it ironic Lincoln died in the particular room that he did?

18. Do you think all the people who entered Lincoln's room and stood vigil at his passing could predict the significance of the event at the time? In your opinion, what would have been the worst part? How was Mrs.Lincoln treated during this episode? Why?

Part Four: Chasing the Assassins (pages 185–239)

1. Reconstruct the steps the investigators took to gather evidence in the case of Lincoln's assassination and Seward's attempted murder. What locations did they focus on? Who did they believe were the key players? Were they correct on all counts?

2. Why did Dr. Samuel Mudd provide medical attention to Booth? What ailed him? How could it have spoiled all his plans? Do you think Mudd was as guilty as Booth and the others? Should he have faced the same consequences or not? Why?

3. Discuss Lafayette Baker's connection to the investigation. How much credit should have been given to him? Why? Who deserved the most credit? Why?

4. In your opinion, who was guiltier of collusion: Dr. Mudd (and his wife) or Thomas Jones? Why? Who else helped the fugitives?

5. Explain why Booth was disappointed by the accounts of the tragedy in the newspaper. How did he hope to counteract those reports?

6. Trace the steps that led to Lewis Powell being taken into custody. How was coincidence a key to the authorities bringing him to justice? Who else did it implicate?

7. Debate whether communication was a barrier to the investigation or not. What technology was used to aid it? What hindered communication?

8. Describe the plan Dr. Mudd intended to follow based on his answers to investigators' questions. Why did the plan fail?

9. George Atzerodt's part was nearly undetected. What mistakes lead to his capture?

10. Describe the funeral rites for President Lincoln. Where is his final resting place? Why? How was his journey there symbolic?

11. Why did detective Lafayette Baker believe John Wilkes Booth's only hope to escape was through Kentucky? What is a hunch? When should you follow one?

12. Summarize the steps that Lieutenant Luther Baker and Colonel Everton Conger took to bring Booth to justice. Why were they sent to Virginia? What motivated these two soldiers?

13. Describe the events as they unfolded at the Garrett Farm. How were Booth and David Herold captured?

14. Evaluate what the sentences given to the conspirators involved. Did each one deserve the death penalty? Who did many people think should have been pardoned or at least spared the death penalty? Do you agree?

Afterword (pages 240–255)

How do the authors present the facts concerning Booth's body? Why are there still theories about its location? How do the authors dismiss theories that Booth not only survived but escaped? What choices must historians make about conflicting facts?

Summarize the legacies of each of the major players in Lincoln's assassination in a single sentence, including his own family. Which one surprised you the most? Who do you think suffered the most from his loss? Include the section on Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Their Children (pages 260–263).

Lincoln's World (pages 256-265)

A Walk Through W ashington, D.C., in the 1860s (pages 256–259)

Compare and contrast the Washington, D.C., of the 1860s to today's national capital, using both the description in this section, and the maps on pages 257 and 292. Would you want to live during the momentous time in America's history described in the book or not? Would you like to live there or visit now? Which sites would you most like to see in D.C.?

Did You Know? (pages 266–282)

Twenty Important and Interesting Facts About the Civil W ar (pages 266–272)

Review this section in small groups and discuss the following questions: Which of these facts did you find most interesting? Why? How do you think the author authenticated these facts? What sources do you think he used?

Which fact would you want to explore in more detail? Where would you go to look for more information regarding this topic? Would it be a primary or a secondary source?

Have a debate about this section of the book. Which facts are easiest to substantiate? When are facts considered the truth and not just a theory? Which of these facts would you consider true? Which could still be debated? In their groups, allow students only a half hour in the library to try to substantiate or authenticate one of the facts. Discuss the reliability of their sources.

Transportation During the Civil W ar (pages 273–274)

How would your life, including your hobbies and friendships, be different without the technology and transportation options you've come to depend upon?

Flags of the Civil W ar (pages 275–276)

Why are flags important? Why did the Confederate flag go through so many different designs? Were you surprised to learn that the Stars and Bars was never the official flag of the South but only a battle flag?

Weapons of the Civil W ar (pages 277–279)

How did the technology of warfare change during the Civil War? How did it work in the favor of the North?

Medicine During the Civil War (pages 280–282)

How was the practice of medicine during the Civil War closer to medical care in the Middle Ages than to care today?

What implications did this have for soldiers? Would it have made a difference to Lincoln himself?

Time Lines (pages 283–290)

Have students compare the time lines of Lincoln and Booth. What interesting facts do they notice? Discuss how time lines help readers understand more about a topic. What did they learn from this section that was not covered in the rest of the book?

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Lincoln's Last Days: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 71 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The "ONE STAR" ratings are ridiculous! This book is very enjoyable for children and young teens, as well as adults. It is a excellent pairing for the Killing Lincoln that has been on the NYT Bestseller List for weeks and weeks. These "raters" are obviously Bill O "Haters" so DON'T, under any circumstances take their word for the "ONE STAR" rating...YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I think a lot of teachers should use this book to get students excited about reading about history. Love the authors. I like their straight forward way of telling you things about historical figures, without making them boring. I was also surprised that their own political views didn't color their writings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok.... so, I am 11 and I never knew that John Wilkes Booth actually had other people in on the assasination. I also didn't know that they attacked Secretary of State Stanton in his bed to topple the American government. After I read this book, I researched on the assasination to be sure of the facts even though Mr. O'Reilly does his research. I am a kid, but I like politics. I may not aggree with some of you, but this is a wonderful history book!! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book takes you on a amazing ride through Linolns last days until his death. Absolutely a book that any historian or lincoln fan shoul read.
PatCA More than 1 year ago
You can tell from the start that this will be an interesting factual easy read. There is no political agenda here. Just the story of history in the making. We read this book in anticipation of our trip to Wash DC and Ford theater/ Gettysburg. We knew the facts before we went, and it made it so interesting. I think high school students would really enjoy this read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you love history and want to learn more or if your school dosent teach you enough of it than this book is for you.
Gimpynomore More than 1 year ago
Contains a lot of behind the scenes about the assination of Linclon and the happenings afterward.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very interesting book.I cant wait to see what happens next!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was amazed as to how the book gave blow by blow precise details and a time line of Lincoln's last days. I also appreciated the drawings very much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My teacher said that this is a really good book, she was right. Wich is why I bought this book in the first place. I just know young readrs like me like this book as well as I do, so i hope they get a good education.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this a good book !!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am defintly going to get this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good book so far!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is sad but i still like it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that this was a amazing book. I really never found something confusing or incorect. I would highly recomend this book to anybody including adults or just someone who likes history. It is frendly to kids because it has pictuers and photographs. It also includes what happend after the assasanation. Over all, it deserves 3000000 stars!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you dont want your kid to read this then dont let him. And i doubt ur actually "lady obama" . If u r, dont call urself that cuz it makes u sound like the wife of a lord. Obama is quite far from that. U know what, u shiuld tell him how communism isnt for america.... he seems to be putting us on that track. Btw... great book! Sorry for my rant but its true;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a really good book!:D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your a dumbowumbofatabat
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It taught me alot about lincon and how he died very good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really good, I mean GREAT! I loved this book soooooooooooooo much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My grandsons loved this book. It was interesting and enjoyable to read. I would highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and i know that others would like it too!!