John Surratt:
The Lincoln Assassin Who Got Away

Bennett & Hastings Publishing, 2015

By Michael Schein ’76 

John Surratt

It is difficult to consider the epochal moment of the Lincoln assassination without conjuring to mind the infamous image of renegade Southern loyalist, thespian, and triggerman John Wilkes Booth. 

Nearly lost to the vagaries of history, however, is the beguiling and improbable parallel story of John Surratt, a Rebel spy and co-conspirator of Booth’s in the plot against Lincoln.

This account delivers in gripping detail the trail of bread crumbs linking Surratt to the assassination plot, tracking the fugitive as he eludes federal troops and bounty hunters across three continents, and finally through the bungled trial which ended in Surratt’s release.

A meticulously cited piece of archival sleuthing, and a potent indictment of a man overlooked, this work demonstrates that even if Surratt managed to outsmart the U.S. legal system, he will not so readily evade the scrutiny of the keen historian.

A former professor of legal history, Michael has also written the acclaimed historical novels Just Deceits and Bones Beneath Our Feet. Find out more at

—Sam Smith ’13