How a Nation Grieves:

Press Accounts of the Death of Lincoln,

the Hunt for Booth,

and America in Mourning

with a foreword by

U.S. Representative Joe Courtney


It was

the most traumatic experience

in American history.

Every one of Abraham Lincoln's 1,503 days of presidency saw America tearing itself apart. Peace seemed imminent only as his second term began. Lee and Grant sat down together at the farm house where the nation's worst war had begun. A week later, Lincoln was shot dead. The last thing he heard was people laughing,

North and South alike reeled with shock. Of 618,000 battleground deaths, this seemed the most senseless. The war was over. A cause had lost; a principle had won. America would go on, but not with the man who'd won its right to do so.

America's newspapers, all but a few, wept with editorial reflection as they grappled with the meaning of it all - the power of a single leader, the power of a single, simple hunk of lead. The standard language of journalism could contain neither the emotion of the nation nor the mystery of fate. The rhetoric of opinion and report assumed the elegance of poetry.

The nation was a mass funeral. As the train bearing Lincoln and his deceased son Willy wended north and west, every town decked every visible building with the drapes of woe. People lined the tracks and gathered at crossings, hats off, heads bowed, eyes bleary with sadness.

History by definition looks backward. It is, unavoidably, interpretation through the filter of modern times. But newspapers, by definition, reflect the perspective of the moment. Though journalists may try to report facts in a standard, professional voice, they inevitably reveal emotion, values, and an immediacy unadulterated by time.

How a Nation Grieves is unique among the 16,000 books about Abraham Lincoln. It does not offer historical interpretation or the perspective of hindsight. It simply presents the country as it was and as it saw itself at the time. It isn’t the diagnosis of shock. It’s the shock itself.

It also presents a different kind of journalism. Words had to convey images that were still unavailable to photography and television. Newspapers were the only source of public information. Those newspapers — the ones that survived the next 150 years — are still the way we can  witness what happened to Abraham Lincoln and the nation he saved.

How a Nation Grieves is currently available only in paperback. 477 pages, with photographs and index.

list price: $ 23.95

Amazon price: $20.00

price here: $15.95

S&H: $2.99

Download an Excerptlincoln_files/LincolnExcerpt.pdf
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