A reviewer for the official National Park Service bookstore at Ford’s Theatre has recommended that Bill O’Reilly’s bestselling new book about the Lincoln assassination not be sold at the historic site “because of the lack of documentation and the factual errors within the publication.”
Rae Emerson, deputy superintendent at Ford’s Theatre, which is a national historic site under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, has penned a scathing appraisal of O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever.” In Emerson’s official review, which I’ve pasted below, she spends four pages correcting passages from O’Reilly’s book before recommending that it not be offered for sale at Ford’s Theatre because it is not up to quality standards.
For example, “Killing Lincoln” makes multiple references to the Oval Office; in fact, Emerson points out, the office was not built until 1909.
At one point O’Reilly writes of generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, “The two warriors will never meet again.” In fact, according to the review, Grant and Lee met for a second time in 1865 to discuss prisoners of war.
The book says that Ford’s Theatre “burned to the ground in 1863.” In fact, the fire was in 1862, according to the review.
One dissenting take came from University of New Hampshire history professor Ellen Fitzpatrick, who questioned the book’s sourcing in a Washington Post review.
‘Killing Lincoln’ also resurrects an old canard debunked long ago by serious historians: that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was involved in the plot to kill Lincoln, in the hope that he might ascend to the presidency. There is no credible evidence to support such an assertion, nor do O’Reilly and Dugard provide any. (In fact, ‘Killing Lincoln’ offers no direct citations for any of its assertions. In a three-page summary under the heading ‘Notes,’ the authors assure readers that they have consulted “hundreds” of sources; they list the secondary sources they have relied on.)
Read the full National Park Service review that lists some of the errors at the Salon link above.
Another article from Salon:
[I]n a leading Civil War magazine, a second expert has flunked O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln,” calling it “somewhere between an authoritative account and strange fiction.”
The review (which is not online) appears in the November issue of North & South, the official magazine of the Civil War Society.
“The narrative contains numerous errors of people, place, and events,” writes reviewer Edward Steers Jr., author of more than five books on the Lincoln assassination. He goes on to list about 10 errors of fact in “Killing Lincoln,” which O’Reilly co-authored with Martin Dugard and which has been atop bestseller lists for weeks.
A farm where John Wilkes Booth hid after the killing was not 500 acres, as O’Reilly says. It was 217 acres, according to the review.
O’Reilly refers to John Ford’s chief carpenter as John J. Clifford. In fact, according to the review, his name was Gifford.
“Lewis Powell, the man assigned to kill secretary of state William Seward, did not speak with ‘an Alabama drawl.’ He was from Florida,” the review notes.
Steers adds that one entire passage of the book about co-conspirator Mary Surratt is flat-out untrue:
The authors write that she was forced to wear a padded hood when not on trial, and that she was imprisoned in a cell aboard the monitor Montauk, which was “barely habitable.” She suffered from “claustrophobia and disfigurement caused by the hood,” and was “barely tended to by her captors.” “Sick and trapped in this filthy cell, Mary Surratt took on a haunted, bloated appearance.” None of this is true. Mary Surratt was never shackled or hooded at any time. She was never imprisoned aboard the Montauk, but taken to the Carroll Annex of the Old Capitol Prison before being transferred to the women’s section of the Federal Penitentiary at the Washington’s Arsenal.