Chasing Lincoln’s Killer


James L. Swanson

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Themes and Colors
News, Information, and Misinformation Theme Icon
Planning, Conspiracy, and the Unexpected Theme Icon
The Theatrical and The Real Theme Icon
Survival vs Principles Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

News, Information, and Misinformation

Lincoln’s assassination occurred at a time of flux and uncertainty. The Civil War was a close one, and by early April 1865, it seemed possible either that Union victory was at hand or that the Confederacy was secretly planning a march on Washington. Everyone had a deep desire for the latest news, but accepted interpretations of how events might develop were few and far between. There was a sense that anything could happen. With…

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Planning, Conspiracy, and the Unexpected

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer describes a successful conspiracy to kill the president, but it also shows that important historical events are often the result of unpredictable circumstances and luck. For example, John Wilkes Booth could have harmed Lincoln on two other occasions. During the President’s inauguration speech, if Booth had taken the opportunity presented to him by chance, he easily could have shot the president from the crowd. And a year earlier, Booth planned with a…

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The Theatrical and The Real

John Wilkes Booth was one of the most famous actors of his day, known for his attractiveness and charm. Swanson emphasizes that Booth’s inflated view of himself led him to overestimate his ability to survive during his escape and the help he could count on convincing others to provide him.

The confidence Booth gained from his successful performances on the stage led him to believe that he could use the force of his personality to…

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Survival vs Principles

Lincoln’s assassination occurred during the last month of the four-year American Civil War (1861-1865), in which 600,000 people died. It was an extremely violent time. People across the country had fought to uphold the principles of the North or South, but often had to fight for their lives as a result, either on the battlefield or to recover from sickness or injury. There had also been enormous economic devastation, which made gaining money or…

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