The Trial: The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators
" With commentary by Terry Alford, Burrus Carnahan, Joan L. Chaconis, Percy Martin, Betty Ownsbey, Edward Steers Jr., Thomas R. Turner, and Laurie Verge On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. By April 26, eight of the ten people eventually charged as accomplices in Lincoln’s murder were in custody. Booth was killed resisting capture and John Surratt was in Canada, his whereabouts unknown to Federal authorities. In the days that followed, President Johnson issued an Executive Order directing that the persons charged with Lincoln’s murder stand trial before a military tribunal. During the fifty-day trial, over three hundred and sixty witnesses gave testimony. Benn Pitman, a recognized expert in the art of phonography (an early form of shorthand), was awarded a government contract to produce a true and accurate transcription of the testimony. Working with four assistants, Pitman produced transcripts that served the general public through daily releases to select members of the press as well as to the prosecution and the defense. Pitman was given the right to publish the transcriptions for public sale, and he skillfully winnowed the 4,300 pages of transcription into a single 421-page volume. Copies of the original 1865 edition, as well as subsequent reprints, are exceedingly rare. Here for the first time, leading experts in the field lend their insight in a series of commentaries that complement Pitman’s published transcript—included here in its entirety—exposing various perjuries, explaining testimony that has escaped scholarly attention, and clarifying the events surrounding the assassination as never before.
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