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On the night that John Wilkes Booth killed President Abraham Lincoln, 20-year-old Lewis Powell burst into the house of William Seward and attempted to assassinate the Secretary of State. Under the alias Lewis Paine, he was convicted and hanged three months later along with three other Lincoln conspirators. A former Confederate soldier, Powell's role in the Lincoln conspiracy has been the subject of a great deal of debate. Was Powell simply a Southern sympathizer who participated in an organized plot to kidnap Lincoln and exchange him for Confederate prisoners of war? Or was he recruited from Mosby's Rangers for special duty directed at the president and his cabinet? Through research on his life and military activities, these questions and others are answered.
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Betty J. Ownsbey is an independent historian and researcher. She lives in Mechanicsville, Virginia.From Booklist:
Lewis Paine (born Lewis Thornton Powell) ensured his "15 minutes of immortality" when he clumsily and unsuccessfully attacked Secretary of State William Seward as part of the wider Lincoln conspiracy. Paine has often been dismissed as a near-feebleminded dupe who was sucked into the conspiracy because of his childish belief in the Southern cause and his worship of John Wilkes Booth, but Ownsbey shows him to have been reasonably intelligent; numerous acquaintances described him as attractive and charming. Paine was the son of a Florida minister and had an uneventful, even "normal," childhood. His devotion to the Southern cause seems to have grown out of deeply held political beliefs, and his stoicism and dignity during and after his trial won the admiration of some Union officials. Yet, Paine remains somewhat of an enigma, since there are huge gaps in his life (such as his actions after he left active military service in 1863), and here Ownsbey can only speculate. As a historical character, Paine doesn't jump off the page, perhaps because he lacked the flash, verve, and mania of other notable assassins, but Ownsbey has added to assassination lore with a solid piece of research. Jay Freeman
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