Kauffman, Michael W.
KAUFFMAN, Michael W.
PERSONAL: Male. Education: Graduated from University of Virginia.
ADDRESSES: Home—MD. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Writer and historian.
(Editor) Samuel Bland, Memoirs of a Lincoln Conspirator, Heritage Books (Bowie, MD), 1995.
SIDELIGHTS: Michael W. Kauffman is an historian who specializes in the topic of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln's assassination. "He has been studying Lincoln generally and the assassination specifically for thirty years, and he appears to know the subject better than anyone else now alive," wrote Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post Book World. For his historical studies, Kauffman developed a special database system, explaining it to Yardley this way: "The event-based system I devised was far different from the statistical models used by most historians, and it may actually be unique in the way it applies technology to the study of historical developments. Most important, it works. It brought to the fore new relationships among the plotters, unnoticed patterns in Booth's behavior, and a fresh significance to events I once considered unimportant."
Based on his years of study and computerized data system, Kauffman wrote American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies. In the book, Kauffman provides new insights into just how organized and well financed the plot was, as well as how Booth and his co-conspirators remained undetected during planning despite increased security in the government. Central to Kauffman's book, however, is the character of Booth himself, a man whose relatively successful life and agreeable personality seemed counter to his later infamy. In the end, as Kauffman writes in his introduction to the book, the author concludes that Booth "was a manipulator, not a pawn." Kauffman analyzes numerous factors that he believes account for Booth's apparent duplicity, from his relationship with his father to living in a politically divided part of Maryland that had been placed under martial law. Using a computer-generated timeline of the plotting and assassination, the author follows Booth and his group as they succeed in their plot to kill President Lincoln but ultimately fail in achieving their political goals.
David Talbot, writing for Salon.com, called American Brutus "illuminating," noting the author "offers a vivid, chronological account of this epic political conspiracy." In a review in the San Francisco Chronicle, Paul McLeary wrote that "Kauffman shows that as with any historical drama, there is much more here than simple guilt and innocence." McLeary also noted, "Kauffman's often minute-by-minute account of the night of April 16 and its confused aftermath is a wonder of modern scholarship." Writing on the Civil War News Web site, Jason Emerson called the book "a gift to all Lincoln/assassination/Civil War enthusiasts and researchers." The reviewer went on to comment, "American Brutus is superior to anything yet written on the assassination in its scope, content and sheer audacity." Randall M. Miller, writing in Library Journal, noted that Kauffman "brings together a mass of evidence on the murder conspiracy and its aftermath to provide the fullest and best day-by-day reconstruction of that fateful April time."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kauffman, Michael W., American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
Booklist, September 15, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of American Brutus, p. 183.
Books & Culture, November-December, 2004, Allen C. Guelzo, review of American Brutus, p. 22.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2004, review of American Brutus, p. 789.
Library Journal, September 1, 2004, Randall M. Miller, review of American Brutus, p. 169.
Newsweek, December 13, 2004, David Gates, review of American Brutus, p. 69.
Publishers Weekly, July 26, 2004, review of American Brutus, p. 44.
San Francisco Chronicle, January 2, 2005, Paul McLeary, review of American Brutus, p. E4.
Washington Post Book World, November 14, 2004, Jonathan Yardley, review of American Brutus, p. 2.
Civil War News Web site, http://www.civilwarnews.com/ (May 30, 2005), Jason Emerson, review of American Brutus.
Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/ (November 19, 2004), David Talbot, review of American Brutus.