Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The Day Lincoln Was Shot covers a brief, but very critical, period—only twenty-four hours and twenty-two minutes—in American history. Jim Bishop calls his work “a book about a day, a place and a murder—and about a wide variety of men and women.” In his introduction, he explains how the book resulted from more than twenty years of intensive research and the assemblage of a monumental amount of evidence.

The book provides a detailed reconstruction of what Lincoln and members of his official family, as well as John Wilkes Booth and his several lackluster followers, did between the hours when Lincoln began his last day on earth and when he drew his last breath. In telling the actions of the important characters in this drama, Bishop includes information about what they ate, drank, wore, read, said, and thought during these hours.

The work chronicles the events preceding the unfolding drama in a matter-of-fact way. Bishop begins his account by pointing out that this day in 1865 was, in fact, many things: Good Friday, the last full day of Lent, and the first day on which the Civil War would be referred to in the past tense. He then proceeds to put into some type of logical order the paths taken by Booth and his followers, as well as the occurrences in the hours of that day in the lives of Lincoln, his immediate family, and several members of his cabinet. Although the account is straightforward and the conclusion is well known, the...

(The entire section is 447 words.)