Over the next two weeks, two resources related to the Lincoln assassination are scheduled to be released, adding to the titles in that now thriving Lincoln subindustry. Unlike many of those books, however, these are being released by large university presses.
Releasing March 15
The Lincoln Assassination Conspirators: Their Confinement and Execution, as Recorded in the Letterbook of John Frederick Hartranft edited by Edward Steers, Jr. and Harold Holzer (Louisiana State University Press, 2009, hardcover, 200 pages)
Ed Steers is currently the foremost expert on Lincoln's assassination, and not coincidentally, he is the author of the best recent book on Lincoln's assassination, Blood on the Moon (2001). However, he is not a big name Lincoln scholar, so he is paired with the much better known Holzer, who has edited a previous volume on the assassination among his many Lincoln books. Between them, they should capably edit this volume.
This book marks the first time the detailed notebook of Hartranft, the military commander of the jail where the eight conspirators were jailed in 1865, have been published. By all accounts, Hartranft kept meticulous records of the weeks these eight were jailed under his oversight. Previous writers have quoted from Hartranft, whose letterbook is in the collection of the National Archives.
Here Holzer and Steers offer context and comment around Hartranft's records. The cynical part of me wonders if Steers carries the majority of the load given his expertise in this material, but there is little reason to believe that Holzer is just a marquee name put on the project to improve sales. Together, they have plenty of insight and knowledge to flesh out the meaning of Hartranft's notebook.
This is not a book for all Lincoln students. Even within the particular world of the Lincoln assassination, this book will probably mostly focus on the experiences of the conspirators between their arrest and sentencing, meaning that there is less about the assassination itself. But for people with collections on the assassination, it will be a significant addition.