Mourning Lincoln

Published by Yale University Press

The news of Abraham Lincoln’s death on April 15, 1865, just days after Confederate surrender, astounded the war-weary nation. Massive crowds turned out for services and ceremonies. Countless expressions of grief and dismay were printed in newspapers and preached in sermons. Public responses to the assassination have been well chronicled, but this book is the first to delve into the personal and intimate responses of everyday people—Northerners and Southerners, soldiers and civilians, black people and white, men and women, rich and poor. Through deep and thoughtful exploration of diaries, letters, and other personal writings penned during the spring and summer of 1865, Martha Hodes captures the full range of reactions to the president’s assassination—far more diverse than public expressions would suggest—telling a story of shock, glee, sorrow, anger, blame, and fear. Hodes brings to life a key moment of national uncertainty and confusion, when competing visions of the country’s future proved irreconcilable and hopes for racial justice in the aftermath of the Civil War slipped from the nation’s grasp.


National Book Award —longlist finalist for nonfiction (1 of 10)

Best Books of the Year, nonfiction (1 of 10) —Wall Street Journal

“a stunning and enlightening work” —2016 Lincoln Prize jury

“gorgeously written, creative structured, and deeply researched” —2016 Avery O. Craven Award jury, Organization of American Historians

a “lyrical and important new study . . . deeply disturbing . . .” —Jill Lepore, SUNDAY NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (front page)

“a stunning piece of research, based on an extraordinary range of materials often overlooked by traditional historians” —Michael Burlingame, WALL STREET JOURNAL

An “elegant and nuanced study” —CHICAGO TRIBUNE


“From anger to glee, historian Martha Hodes’s new book uncovers Americans’ real reactions to the president’s assassination.” —BOSTON GLOBE interview

An “intimate, bracing account” that “unearths a valuable story, one that shouldn’t be missed among the glut of Lincoln anniversary books” —WASHINGTON POST

This Week’s Must-Read Books —NEW YORK POST, April 11, 2015

“. . . engrossing reading. With meticulous scholarship, Hodes presents a plethora of people’s intimate reactions to the assassination of Lincoln. . . . From reactions by Mary Todd Lincoln to the fiery racist Copperheads, Hodes shows the uneven responses of a nation certainly not ‘united in grief.’ A layered, nuanced work.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS

“The depth of research and brilliant writing make this an important addition to studies of the Civil War and Lincoln. Highly recommended.” —LIBRARY JOURNAL

“As historian Martha Hodes shows in her fine study, Mourning Lincoln, the nation’s response to the death of the president was an altogether more complex, subjective phenomenon.” —NEWSDAY

“You have to applaud any writer of a book about Abraham Lincoln. Especially a writer who takes a new detailed slant on such well known and often contradictory and controversial history. . . . Martha Hodes has had a great idea and in her new book, “Mourning Lincoln,” from Yale University Press has added to this epic American moment . . . This is a book full of things you think you know–and the opposite. . . . The author has discovered much that is new and unknown. Lincoln specialists must be out of their minds with glee.” —LIZ SMITH, New York Social Diary

“a penetrating look at how a nation mourns the loss of a revered leader” —HISTORY BOOK CLUB

“fresh and surprising,” “a powerful story,” “an entirely unique approach to an iconic moment in U.S. history.” —REVIEWS IN AMERICAN HISTORY

“convincing and compelling . . . Mourning Lincoln is richly detailed and exquisitely written. . . . It is so rich, so comprehensive, in fact, that I wonder if it leaves anything for future scholars to do in examining the meaning of Lincoln’s death for Americans.” —JOURNAL OF AMERICAN HISTORY

“No scholar can fail to profit from Hodes’s prodigious research and her efforts to describe Lincoln’s death from the viewpoint of ordinary men and women of his time. . . . Better than anyone. . . Hodes has enriched our knowledge of the well-trod story of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and mourning rites.” —AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW

A “riveting account,” a “vivid close reading,” and “a fascinating book.” —JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY

A “moving and important book. . . . The book’s strong structure, paired with gripping evidence and the smooth rhythm of her writing, keeps the reader centered. … a highly relatable story told in crisp prose. . . . fresh and significant,” “haunting and timely.” —AFRICAN AMERICAN REVIEW

“important . . . exceedingly skillful . . . contributes significantly to understanding this awful event .” —CIVIL WAR BOOK REVIEW

“effectively transports readers back to those tumultuous days . . . . a first-rate contribution to the literature on the Civil War era and the Lincoln assassination . . . . deeply researched, beautifully written . . . illuminating and engrossing: a true pleasure to read” —JOURNAL OF THE CIVIL WAR ERA

“No brief review can do justice to the depth of thought in this volume. . . . a triumph of research and analysis, a multilayered story told with sharp insight and deep humanity. . . . enriches our understanding of one of the most salient moments in American history.” —CIVIL WAR HISTORY

magnificent….deeply researched and beautifully rendered . . . . one of the best books on the assassination ever published and one of the finest works ever written about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.. . . stirring prose” —JOURNAL OF THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN ASSOCIATION

“a fascinating new book . . . revealing an incredible, and sometimes shocking, array of responses to Lincoln’s murder” —LEAVENWORTH (KANSAS) TIMES

“a compelling account of the intensely personal and inherently political ways in which Americans coped with Lincoln’s demise. . . . a major contribution to the political and cultural history of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and historical memory” —JOURNAL OF MILITARY HISTORY

“Impressively researched, passionately written, and methodologically innovative, this poignant volume is one of those rare efforts that will reward lay readers and scholars alike.” —NORTH CAROLINA HISTORICAL REVIEW

“Hodes’s research is breathtaking in both scope and depth. . . . Historians should be grateful to Martha Hodes.” —PENNSYLVANIA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY

“provides fresh insight into a familiar episode. … a complex yet accessible portrait of the social, political, and emotional condition of the United States in 1865.” —SOCIETY OF CIVIL WAR HISTORIANS NEWSLETTER

“admirably researched . . . superb . . . a dazzling array of responses . . .” —JOHN MATTESON, AMERICA: THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REVIEW

“a riveting new book. . . . Hodes conveys all of her points in compelling prose” —COMMON-PLACE: JOURNAL OF EARLY AMERICAN LIFE

Truly one of the best ‘Lincoln Books’ that I have had the pleasure of reading . . . . A smartly researched, intelligently written book.” —READFUL THINGS BLOG

Listed in “Reading the Best Biographies of All Time” —THEBESTBIOGRAPHIES.COM

“This book is a timely reminder that wars rarely end on the battlefield. Through the lens of Lincoln’s death, Martha Hodes vividly portrays a scarred and bitter nation that has laid down its arms yet embarked on a conflict that endures 150 years after Appomattox.” —TONY HORWITZ, author of Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

“Beautiful and terrible, Hodes’s marvelously written story of the assassination fills the mind, heart and soul. People never forgot the event; this book is a page-turner that makes it all unforgettable again as it also explains how one shocking death illuminated so many others.” —DAVID W. BLIGHT, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

“Drawing on a remarkable range of diaries, letters, and other contemporary documents, Martha Hodes offers a compelling and moving account of how Americans, black and white, North and South, responded to Lincoln’s assassination. The result is a portrait of a deeply divided country and a foreshadowing of the violent battles to come over reunion and Reconstruction.” —ERIC FONER, author of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery

“There are many books on the Lincoln assassination and the public response to it. But Martha Hodes’s work is the first to focus in great detail on the responses of ordinary individuals, Northern and Southern, white and black, soldiers and civilians, women and men, in their diaries and personal correspondence, and to blend such response into the larger story of public events. The amount of research is simply staggering. This is a highly original, lucidly written, book.” —JAMES M. MCPHERSON, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

“Mourning Lincoln is an original and important book that traces various reactions to Lincoln’s assassination. Through extensive research, Martha Hodes has discovered voices that are both moving and surprising. The result is an illuminating work that allows us for the first time to understand fully the meaning of Lincoln’s death at the time.” —LOUIS P. MASUR, author of Lincoln’s Hundred Days

“In Mourning Lincoln, Martha Hodes’ ingenious approach and graceful execution succeed in deepening our knowledge of a calamity that will never fully end.” —THOMAS MALLON, author of Henry and Clara