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  • The Travels, Arrest, and Trial of John H. Surratt
  • Rory T. Conley
Isacsson, Alfred . The Travels, Arrest, and Trial of John H. Surratt. (Middletown, New York: Vestigium Press. 2003. Pp. vi, 40. Paperback.)

As a one-time associate of John Wilkes Booth and the son of Mary Surratt, John H. Surratt's involvement in the various plots against Lincoln made him a person of interest to government investigators and historians. Originally delivered as an address to the Surratt Society, Isacsson's brief work follows the journeys of Surratt from the moment he first learned of Lincoln's assassination, until November, 1868, when the government's legal proceedings against him were dropped. Isacsson shows that Surratt was aided in his escape from federal authorities by certain Roman Catholic clerics in Canada and Europe. However, in asserting that there was a "clerical connection" involved in aiding Surratt, a former seminarian, Isacsson seems to be trying to prove too much from the admittedly meager documentary trail he had to work with. It would seem that the few priests who helped Surratt did so out of belief in his innocence rather than out of some unproven involvement in the Confederate cause. Indeed, after the hanging of Surratt's mother in the summer of 1865, he probably could have found sympathizers wherever newspapers were read. An interesting essay, Isaccson's work would be of greater interest to the general reader if he had filled in some of the details of the story which evidently were well known to his original audience at the Surratt Society.

Rory T. Conley
Archdiocese of Washington


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