The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot To Kill America’s 16th President—and Why It Failed

Flatiron: Macmillan. May 2020. 448p. ISBN 9781250317476. $29.99. HIST
Coauthors Meltzer and Mensch (The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington) turn their historical sleuthing skills to uncover the plot by Baltimore pro-secessionists to murder president-elect Abraham Lincoln while he passed through Baltimore on his way to his inauguration in 1861. Relying largely on the field notes and recollections of private detective Allen Pinkerton and his agents, the authors follow the trail of intrigue, disguises, deceptions, and countermoves whereby Pinkerton and company worked their way into the plotters’ circle to foil the murder plot. The account moves back and forth between the investigation and Lincoln’s journey, from his home in Illinois to his inauguration in Washington, DC, but the book’s real appeal is in its descriptions of the methods and meaning of the Pinkertons’ work.
VERDICT While the authors offer no new information or interpretation of Lincoln’s preinaugural journey, which is better related in Ted Widmer’s Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington, the instructive accounting of the mentality, movements, and means of Pinkerton and his agents makes for a revealing look inside the world of secessionist fanaticism.
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