Author: Thomas A. Bogar

Publisher: Regnery History

ISBN: 978-1-62157-083-7

The title of Thomas Bogar’s newest book, Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination, has the ring of obscurity, but the author’s painstaking research and reconstruction bring to light the events and the lives of those who were present at the theater when the president was shot. These are stories that have seldom been given much consideration in a narrative format, but they deserve to be told, as they recall the fates of those who were unwittingly swept into the affair—or, as the various accounts might suggest, some whose culpability can still be questioned.

The book keeps a tight focus on the Ford’s Theater contingent—the owners, the actors, and the workers who were staging Our American Cousin --and how these forty-six people were affected by the shooting. Some of the stories are necessarily briefer than others, presumably because of what’s available in archives, but Bogar makes a terrific effort in searching out even the crumbs of follow-up stories. If there are gaps, he at least affords a closing report of each life.

In an age where there was no sophisticated technology, the accounts of witnesses and bystanders, even those taken immediately following the assassination, are fraught with holes, making accuracy questionable. But some of the stories are better juxtaposed now, viewed from a distance with the passage of time, so that the individual pieces can be put together. Thus we learn details about John Wilkes Booth’s whereabouts and conversations in the hours prior to the evening’s performance. His movements and associations caused at least one of the stagehands, Ned Spangler, to be tried for some role in the plot, as Spangler had been engaged to assist with Booth’s horse, and had been overheard in conversation with the assassin. Spangler escaped the hangman’s noose at trial, but was sent to prison, later pardoned, and eulogized upon his death in 1875 as a kindly and respected man.

Others, especially the actors themselves, while not accused or tried, did not fare as well in their professional careers. The shadow of their roles in the ill-fated production wasn’t easily shaken.

An undertaking such as this surely meant a considerable amount of research, and Dr. Bogar’s extensive notes and wide-ranging bibliography attest to that. The documents and experts he consulted seem to comprise every conceivable facet of historic accounts. The book is also thoroughly indexed, making the contents easily accessible. It will be a welcome addition to the libraries of those who want a different perspective on the tragic events of April 14, 1865.

Follow Here To Purchase Backstage at the Lincoln Assassination: The Untold Story of the Actors and Stagehands at Ford’s Theatre