The musings of a feminist pop culture fanatic

EW Description: “The Manhunt author further explores the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination with this astoundingly researched new book.”

I’ve been in the process of reading this book for about two months now. This is by no means something that reads very quickly. It is an extremely interesting book, but it is sometimes a little bit dry. There are parts that are definitely page-turners and then there are parts that just drag on for pages.

There is no doubt that Swanson is an extremely talented researcher and writer. His passion for the Civil War and particularly the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination are clear in every page. The parts about Lincoln’s funeral and the process of getting the former president to his final resting place are probably the most interesting part. They really dragged him all over the country before he finally got buried. They had to have some sort of ceremony for him in every major city in the Northeast and the journey took a little over two weeks.

The full title of the book is “Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse.” The death pageant part is far more interesting because I feel like Swanson is probably more passionate about it. However, there’s really only so much one can say about it. For a 400-page book, I feel like a lot of stuff could have been omitted. However, Swanson can definitely not be accused of not being thorough enough. We know every detail of Lincoln’s funeral at the White House. How many guests, who was in charge of the planning, how they fit everyone into the East Room (bleachers because they couldn’t fit enough individual chairs in the East Room). We know the details of the funeral procession in each city. We know how big each hearse was. We know how many people showed up to mourn the president. We know who was traveling on the train with the president’s body. We know which city had the most extravagant procession (New York, of course). We know all about the battle over where Lincoln’s body would be buried. The Lincoln stuff is very extensive and for the most part, very interesting.

I feel like the parts about Jefferson Davis are what weigh down the book. Maybe it’s because I do not know a whole lot about Confederate history, nor do I really care to learn about it, but I just did not find it that interesting. Swanson did debunk the myth that Davis escaped wearing ladies’ clothing (it was just loose-fitting, it wasn’t a dress and bonnet). I did enjoy reading about the actual capture of Davis and how he was tried by the federal government. That part was extremely interesting. It was all the details leading up to it. I didn’t need to know how many days Davis spent in each city or read excerpts from letters between him and his wife or know how he was received in each city or know how every conversation between him and Robert E. Lee went. There were entire parts that I just wanted to skip, but I soldiered through to the very end.

If you are a big US history buff and love knowing every detail about things, you would probably greatly enjoy this book. It’s just that I was only interested in about 1/3 of the book. However, that third was pretty riveting.


Comments on: "#4 Bloody Crimes, by James L. Swanson (10/8)" (1)

  1. You say Swanson “debunked” the theory that Davis wore a dress?

    Oh really? Well that’s strange, because Swanson didn’t even go near the obvious and unimpeachable testimony that Davis was dressed as a woman. Varina Davis own letter says Davis was dressed as a woman.

    Did you get that from Swanson? No, of course not. He quotes Varina’s letter, but not the part that matters.

    Varine herself — in her own handwriting — in a letter avialable even today, online, writes that she told the Union troops to leave Davis alone “It’s my mother”.

    ITS MY MOTHER. That is what Varina says she yelled out. It’s not what I say she yelled out. It’s not what some soldier said she yelled out. It’s not what some reporter said she yelled out.

    It is what Varina Davis wrote, in her own letter, to the Blairs. “ITS MY MOTHER”.

    Let that sink in — “ITS MY MOTHER”.

    That is just the start of it. Varina Davis letter was very rushed, she was frantic, trying to get help from the Blairs, and if possible, explain away the capture of Davis in a dress.

    She spends much of her letter describing the dressing gowns — she calls it “a dressing gown”. But she goes on to say, well, so what if he HAD wore a woman’s attire, he did it because he so loved the South.

    Did Swanson tell you that? No?

    Varine goes further. She claims that SHE PLEADED with Davis to put “it” on. Do you plead with someone to put on their own clothes?? No.

    Do you plead with someone to put on something, which they put on by accident (as some have said it was her coat, that he put on by accident) No.

    Do you plead with someone to put on a dress? Yes. Do you call out “its my mother” when someone tries to stop a person in a dress? Yes.

    SO Swanson didn’t tell you that Varina called out “Its my mother” And Swanson didnt tell you she claimed she “pleaded with him” to put it on, did he?

    But you decide he debunked what?

    And there is more. Davis own aide, who was present, said very clearly that Davis wore a dress. He said it was not a frilly full shirt dress, but it was a woman’s dress.

    Did Swanson mention that?

    Did Swanson mention that every Union soldier present, for the rest of their lives, said very emphatically that Davis was wearing a dress.

    Not only that, they all claimed that when they told Davis to take the dress off — he and his wife went into a nearby tent to change. Davis emerged in his own clothes, and Mrs Davis emerged in the dress Davis just took off.

    That’s right, she wore the dress he just took off. They presumed she did it so they could not take the dress.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

    The real story of Davis in a dress should not be the dress — it’s no shame to wear a dress, Davis was running for his life.

    But the untold story was that Davis was fleeing from his wife and child — leaving them behind. Davis was running in front of his wife and children, some distance in front.

    When a Union soldier rode toward Davis to stop him, Varina called out “leave her alone, its MY MOTHER”. Davis would not speak, despite the soldier demanding, in very coarse language, for him / her to identify herself.

    On that point, the soldiers report is very much in tune with Varina’s own letter.

    Did Swanson mention that?

    At that moment, when the Union soldier was screaming for identification – that is precisely when Varina called out “ITS MY MOTHER”.

    Swanson did not debunk anything — he ran from this.

    He quotes other parts of her letter, so he knows the letter. Do you think he left the parts I mentioned, by accident?

    Do you think if he could “debunk” these things, he would have?

    He could not debunk any of it. Its very clear, in fact, it’s overhwelming that Davis wore a dress. Short of having a video camera there, it’s very reasonable to assume, he wore a D R E S S .

    He leaves out a lot more. Varina also wrote that, in effect, well so what, if he did dress up in full female attire — let me get her own quote —

    Varina Davis: ” Had he assumed an elaborate female attire as a sacrifice to save a country, the heart of which trusted in him, it had been well”

    She tells of this elaborate diguise, but denies its a dress. She calls out “Its my mother”. Davis own aide’s statement is very clear — Davis wore a dress.

    The soldiers who caught Davis — honorable brave men — insisted he wore a dress for the rest of thier lives.

    How does Swanson “debunk” this? YOu think he debunked it!

    He didn’t even MENTION the facts I just told you. In fact, he “debunks” it by quoting Jeff Davis!!

    Varina Davis and his own aide show very clearly that Davis was in a dress.

    Swanson didn’t mention any of that – not one word of it – precisely because he can’t debunk any of it.

    Why would Swanson waste his time trying to pretend Davis was not in a dress?

    Political correctness. Even now, 150 years later, no one wants to trash Davis, and telling the truth about him is trashing him. Swanson could not be candid and say — YEP, it was a dress. He would be persona non grata in publishing.

    Clint Johnson wrote the book “Pursuit” about the Davis capture. He claimed Sec of War Stanton planted the dress story on Davis, that Stanton sent out telegraphs to all the soldiers looking for Davis, to lay this dress story on him, and TO PLANT A DRESS!!

    There were about 30,000 soldiers looking for Davis. Thousands of officers. For Staton to get word to all those officers, and have them all carry a Dress, a dress the size of Davis, is absurd nonsense.

    No one was sure Davis was with his wife, in fact, Davis was not with his wife until a day or two before.

    I spoke with Johnson by email, and he finally admitted the conspiracy theory was nonsense. HE even admitted that Davis did wear a dress — but blamed it on his wife- she made him do it!

    Two days later, Johnson recanted, said he changed his mind.

    Funny stuff.

    Davis wore a dress. You can bank on it.

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