Cover: Stealing Lincoln’s Body, from Harvard University PressCover: Stealing Lincoln’s Body in PAPERBACK

Stealing Lincoln’s Body

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Product Details


$21.00 • £16.95 • €19.00

ISBN 9780674030398

Publication Date: 02/28/2009


288 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

26 halftones

Belknap Press


[A] spirited narrative… Craughwell brings off the entire enterprise by making readers feel, hear and smell the atmosphere of the fetid Chicago taverns where the crooks hatched their demonic plot—not to mention the creepy interior of the shoddy Lincoln tomb, crumbling all around the family corpses as an aging guard of honor struggles both to conceal Lincoln’s body in the dank cellar and to rescue the cheaply made temple for posterity… Summoning the raw spirit of crime novels and horror stories, as well as the forensic detail of a coroner’s inquest, Thomas J. Craughwell has turned the eerie final chapter of the Lincoln story into a guilty pleasure.—Harold Holzer, The Washington Post Book World

There is no end of fascinating context and detail in this engrossing, often zany, yet poignant tale.—Michael Kammen, The Chicago Tribune

The plot that gives Stealing Lincoln’s Body its title, hatched by a crew of hapless Irish publicans and counterfeiters in Chicago, unfolds with equal doses of Martin Scorsese and the Three Stooges, the fecklessness of the robbers nearly trumped by that of the cops, on election night 1876, more than a decade after the President’s assassination… It is a marvelous look into Gilded Age America and the wellsprings of many of our modern vexations. Immigrant and urban culture, robber barons and financial hoodlums, the bread-and-circuses numbing of the electorate, political scandal and presidential intrigues, the war between the ridiculous and the sublime that seems to infect our nations are all subtexts to this readable book.—Thomas Lynch, The Times

By turns macabre and gruesome, dumbfounding and farcical, the extraordinary true story of the Chicago gang who attempted to kidnap Lincoln’s corpse is a fascinating episode in 19th-century crime. Craughwell constructs a sweeping picture of the characters from every walk of life who were embroiled in this bizarre ‘horrible history.’—Richard Hand, Times Higher Education

This is a terrific read.—Owen Richardson, The Age

Thomas J. Craughwell has given us a richly detailed, highly entertaining, and broad slice of our history.—John Corry, The American Spectator

Thomas Craughwell’s Stealing Lincoln’s Body abounds with information about the amazingly goof-ball plot and about such things as the transformation of the Secret Service into being the presidential body guard.Front Page Online

Stealing Lincoln’s Body tracks an unlikely series of events, reminiscent of a silent, black-and-white, cops-and-robbers movie, with passion and erudition.—John McBratney, The Irish Times

Craughwell brings together counterfeiters, lawyers, corpse-stealers, Lincoln’s Guard of Honor, and Abraham Lincoln himself in this intriguing novel that brings to light a little-known historical incident.—Kathy Ward, The Juneau Empire

Thomas J. Craughwell has rescued this bizarre episode from the dustbin of history… It does more than simply retell a forgotten story; it sheds new light on the incident, thanks to the long-neglected original handwritten reports of Patrick Tyrrell, the Secret Service agent who handled the case… Thomas Craughwell tells the story in a work that is sometimes morbid and creepy, but never less than fascinating.—Eric Fettmann, The New York Post

Stealing Lincoln’s Body is worth reading for its account of the president’s funeral cortege alone… [A] quirky, diverting book.—Philip Hoare, The Sunday Telegraph

Stealing Lincoln’s Body is a fascinating thriller, and it provides a macabre footnote to American history, but the real strength lies in the way the context—the dynamic but turbulent society of America in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War—is so skillfully described.—A.W. Purdue, The Times Higher Education Supplement

A fascinating [tale] that is well told.—James Srodes, The Washington Times

Propelled by its true-crime format, Craughwell’s history of Lincoln’s several reburials and their strange-but-true details is irresistible.—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

Craughwell provides an intriguing glimpse at a macabre but interesting footnote to the story of Abraham Lincoln: the tale of how, on election night of 1876, several Chicago counterfeiters attempted to abduct and hold for ransom the 16th president’s corpse… In telling this story, Craughwell also provides something of a biography of Lincoln’s cadaver, chronicling its long voyage to final rest… Craughwell offers an entertaining account of one of the stranger incidents in American history.Publishers Weekly

Thomas Craughwell has written a definitive and fascinating book about the hapless gang of counterfeiters who attempted to snatch Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom. This is history writing at its best.—Wayne C. Temple, author of Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic to Prophet

While the field of Lincoln studies appears to have been exhaustively mined, Thomas Craughwell has found a gold nugget in the bizarre story of Stealing Lincoln’s Body. In a well-researched and beautifully written book, he takes readers through the intriguing Irish underworld of counterfeiting that led to the plot to hold Lincoln’s body for ransom.—Edward Steers, Jr., author of Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

With charm and authority, Thomas Craughwell offers an illuminating portrait of nineteenth-century America as he writes of the origins of the Secret Service, counterfeiting in America, the rambunctious growth of Chicago, and the assassination of the beloved president. At the heart of this book is the attempt to steal Old Abe’s bones, a surprising story of ludicrous crooks, determined government agents, and loyal guardians devoted to the memory of their native son.—R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., founder and editor-in-chief of The American Spectator

Thomas Craughwell offers the first full-length account of the aborted attempt to steal the body of the nation’s icon. Ian Fleming could not have done better than this fast-paced, well-written thriller. The story demonstrates yet again how good intelligence and police work can be so effective in preventing a national catastrophe.—Frank J. Williams, Chief Justice, Rhode Island Supreme Court, and chairman of The Lincoln Forum

Awards & Accolades

  • An Top 100 Book of the Year
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