Bloody Times by James L. Swanson

January 10th, 2012 by Brian Leave a reply »

Bloody Times: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Manhunt for Jefferson Davis by James L. Swanson is the YA adaptation of Bloody Crimes. I really enjoyed it because I’m constantly on the lookout for nonfiction that’s engaging.

You may be familiar with the concept of Bloody Times: President Lincoln is assassinated and the country stages a funeral procession from D.C. to Illinois. At the same time, Confederate President Jefferson Davis tries to keep the Civil War going despite General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

The details are great and help to dispel some myths, like what Davis was wearing when he was captured. The myth is that he tried to sneak away in women’s clothes. In reality, he woke up one morning, saw Union soldiers outside of his tent, and put on an overcoat and a shawl to keep warm for his journey. The shawl was the same type that many men wore, yet newspapers printed mocking photos to discredit Davis. Circus owner P.T. Barnum wanted the shawl and overcoat for one of his shows, but when Edwin Stanton, secretary of war, saw that it wasn’t women’s clothing, he held onto it and the myth was born. Swanson’s attention to detail challenges what many people have accepted as fact.

Even though most readers know that Lincoln will die, Swanson still builds up the emotion leading up to and after the event. He also does a skillful job of intertwining the rival presidents’ lives. Also, no one will soon forget the descriptions of how the embalmers kept Lincoln presentable in the hot summer months.

It’s history at its best. Students who have checked it out enjoyed it. I’m going to booktalk it in time for President’s Day and I predict it to be a popular checkout.


Leave a Reply