Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln


Winner of the 2001 The Lincoln Group of New York's Award of Achievement A History Book Club Selection The assassination of Abraham Lincoln is usually told as a tale of a lone deranged actor who struck from a twisted lust for revenge. This is not only too simple an explanation; Blood on the Moon reveals that it is completely wrong. John Wilkes Booth was neither mad nor alone in his act of murder. He received the help of many, not the least of whom was Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd, the Charles County physician who has been portrayed as the innocent victim of a vengeful government. Booth was also aided by the Confederate leadership in Richmond. As he made his plans to strike at Lincoln, Booth was in contact with key members of the Confederate underground, and after the assassination these same forces used all of their resources to attempt his escape. Noted Lincoln authority Edward Steers Jr. introduces the cast of characters in this ill-fated drama, he explores why they were so willing to help pull the trigger, and corrects the many misconceptions surrounding this defining moment that changed American history. After completing an acclaimed career as a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health, Edward Steers Jr. has turned his research skills to the Lincoln assassination. He is the author of several books about the president, including The Trial. He lives in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.


In 1997 the Surratt Society, in Clinton, Maryland, published the Abraham Lincoln Assassination Bibliography by Blaine V. Houmes. The bibliography was the first of its kind devoted exclusively to Lincoln’s assassination. Listed are approximately 3,000 entries representing 2,900 journal, magazine, newspaper, and newsletter articles and 100 monographs. This number represents roughly 20 percent of the general bibliography (16,000 entries) devoted to Abraham Lincoln. The majority of the 3,000 “assassination” entries are the product of nonacademic or avocational historians who drew most of their material from secondary sources and anecdotal reminiscences that are questionable or can be shown to be incorrect. Many of the assassination books that have included primary sources have relied heavily on secondary sources in their interpretation of the events associated with Lincoln’s death.

In Blood on the Moon I have relied principally on primary sources and sought independent corroboration of the recollections of those persons who figured prominently in the story. The principal primary sources that form the core of documents concerned with Lincoln’s assassination are found in Record Group (RG) 153, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, and Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, located in the National Archives Record Administration (NARA). These records are published as microfilm copies (M-599 and M-619 respectively) and are available from the National Archives as well as several libraries and research facilities throughout the country.

The principal file, M-599, is known as Investigation and Trial Papers Relating to the Assassination of President Lincoln or the “Lincoln Assassination Suspects” (LAS) file. These papers contain a wide range of materials gathered mostly between April 15 and July 3, 1865. The records consist of pretrial interrogations, letters offering information, and the verbatim transcript of the trial proceedings taken down by court reporters skilled in the use of phonography, a form of shorthand writing.

Colonel Henry L. Burnett was called from his post as judge advocate of the Northern Department (Cincinnati, Ohio) and assigned to the office of Joseph Holt, chief of the Bureau of Military Justice. Burnett and his staff gathered evidence from a variety of sources that was used in both the pretrial investigation and the subsequent court trial (court martial case file MM 2251) of those charged with Lincoln’s assassination. The combined records, published as microcopy M-599, appear on sixteen microfilm reels numbered 1 through 16.

Record Group 94 contains the records that deal with the claims for . . .

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