The Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy Trial and Its Legacy


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About the Book

The eight people charged with conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln were tried by a military commission under military law. The author contends that this was illegal, since the civilian legal system was fully functioning. The many ways in which the defendants’ rights were violated are described, as are the ways in which the trial testimony was either not accurate or not legally obtained. The trial is also compared with other incidents in which the U.S. military was used in police and judicial functions, with questionable results. The book is a warning against unchecked power by the executive branch of the government.

About the Author(s)

Frederick Hatch is the editor and publisher of The Journal of the Lincoln Assassination and has written for American History, Lincoln Herald, Sea Classics, and Surratt Courier. He lives in Maryland.

Bibliographic Details

Frederick Hatch

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 244
Bibliographic Info: 34 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9498-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1699-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Introduction 4
1. The Crime 9
2. Judges, Jury and Accused 29
3. Military Justice 43
4. Prosecution 55
5. Defense 66
6. Witness or Defendant? 83
7. Verdict 101
8. Justice? 121
9. History’s Long Shadow 145
Summation 171
Afterword 173
Appendix I. Opinion of the Attorney General Regarding Suspension  of the Writ of Habeas Corpus by Edward Bates 177
Appendix II. The Constitution of the United States of America,  Analysis and Interpretation 182
Appendix III. Opinion of the Constitutional Power of the Military  to Try and Execute the Assassins of the President by Attorney General James Speed 190
Appendix IV. Digest of Opinions of the Judge Advocate General of  the Army edited by Major W. Winthrop, USA 206
Appendix V. Instructions for the Government of Armies of the  United States in the Field by Francis Lieber 210
Chapter Notes 213
Bibliography 222
Index 229

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “The details and consequences are expertly laid out in this book by Mr. Hatch, making the reader stop and consider how far a government can go at times of national crises.”—Laurie Verge, Director, Surratt House Museum, Clinton, Maryland
  • “Fred Hatch pulls no punches in presenting the trial of the Lincoln Assassination conspiracy. He presents his arguments forcefully, and carries them forward to contemporary issues, such as dealing with military commissions for the trial of terrorists.”—Arthur T. Downey, Georgetown University
  • “Frederic Hatch knows more about the assassination than most. This is why his latest book is a wonderful and useful companion to the ever growing literature about this game changing event.”—Frank J. Williams, retired Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court