BLOODY TIMES recounts the intertwining stories of the two most prominent figures of the Civil War: President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The action starts with the northern Union states on the brink of victory over the southern Confederate states. After years of bloodshed and tragedy, the Civil War finally ended, and Lincoln's heavy burden to reunite the country would be lifted. Lincoln's greatest victory would be short-lived, however, as he was assassinated only two weeks after the south surrendered.
Before the assassination, Davis found his world crumbling. After General Robert E. Lee sent notice that his armies had surrendered, Davis decided to gather the south's resources in an attempt to continue the fight. He was loyal to the southern cause and wouldn't fade quietly into the background. When word reached Davis that Lincoln had been murdered, and from the urging of his family, Davis decided to flee further into the south. Little did he know that he was being implicated in Lincoln's assassination.
Thus began two different journeys of two different men. One was honored at each stop with large crowds, flowers and dirges. The other was blacklisted by the people he sought to represent. An elaborate funeral procession spanning numerous states went off without a hitch for Lincoln. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out at each stop to honor their fallen president and created elaborate staging areas to view his body. By the time Lincoln arrived in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, his coffin had traveled 1,645 miles over 13 days and experienced no setbacks.
Davis, on the other hand, experienced setback after setback as he slowly traveled south. In some instances, people would not welcome the once celebrated president into their homes. He ended up penniless as he spent or gave his money away, never once borrowing from the huge treasury following him by train. Members of his cabinet ended up deserting him to return home to their families. The only consolation Davis received came towards the end of the manhunt when he was reunited with his wife and children in what would be his last night of freedom.
BLOODY TIMES is careful to tell history for what it was. Davis had no connection to Lincoln's murder and eventually would be exonerated of being involved in the mysterious conspiracy. In fact, Davis later became a popular speaker and celebrated hero to the people of the south despite losing to the Union. Even as Lincoln is now celebrated as a timeless hero in the history of the United States, Davis should not be forgotten.
This special adaptation for young people from James L. Swanson is full of rare pictures, newspaper clippings and eyewitness reports. Key vocabulary unique to the Civil War era is bolded and later defined in a special glossary. Swanson also provides information on further reading to all who are interested in the extended story as BLOODY TIMES mainly focuses on the funeral procession and manhunt of Lincoln and Davis, respectively. History buffs will enjoy this fine addition to the already celebrated chronicles of our nation's past.
Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on December 28, 2010