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Death of an Assassin: The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee

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From the depths of German and American archives comes a story one soldier never wanted told. The first volunteer killed defending Robert E. Lee’s position in battle was really a German assassin. After fleeing to the United States to escape prosecution for murder, the assassin enlisted in a German company of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Mexican-American War and died d From the depths of German and American archives comes a story one soldier never wanted told. The first volunteer killed defending Robert E. Lee’s position in battle was really a German assassin. After fleeing to the United States to escape prosecution for murder, the assassin enlisted in a German company of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Mexican-American War and died defending Lee’s battery at the Siege of Veracruz in 1847. Lee wrote a letter home, praising this unnamed fallen volunteer defender. Military records identify him, but none of the Americans knew about his past life of crime. Before fighting with the Americans, Lee’s defender had assassinated Johann Heinrich Rieber, mayor of Bönnigheim, Germany, in 1835. Rieber’s assassination became 19th-century Germany’s coldest case ever solved by a non–law enforcement professional and the only 19th-century German murder ever solved in the United States. Thirty-seven years later, another suspect in the assassination who had also fled to America found evidence in Washington, D.C., that would clear his own name, and he forwarded it to Germany. The German prosecutor Ernst von Hochstetter corroborated the story and closed the case file in 1872, naming Lee’s defender as Rieber’s murderer. Relying primarily on German sources, Death of an Assassin tracks the never-before-told story of this German company of Pennsylvania volunteers. It follows both Lee’s and the assassin’s lives until their dramatic encounter in Veracruz and picks up again with the surprising case resolution decades later. This case also reveals that forensic ballistics―firearm identification through comparison of the striations on a projectile with the rifling in the barrel―is much older than previously thought. History credits Alexandre Laccasagne for inventing forensic ballistics in 1888. But more than 50 years earlier, Eduard Hammer, the magistrate who investigated the Rieber assassination in 1835, used the same technique to eliminate a forester’s rifle as the murder weapon. A firearms technician with state police of Baden-Württemberg tested Hammer’s technique in 2015 and confirmed its efficacy, cementing the argument that Hammer, not Laccasagne, should be considered the father of forensic ballistics. The roles the volunteer soldier/assassin and Robert E. Lee played at the Siege of Veracruz are part of American history, and the record-breaking, 19th-century cold case is part of German history. For the first time, Death of an Assassinbrings the two stories together.


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From the depths of German and American archives comes a story one soldier never wanted told. The first volunteer killed defending Robert E. Lee’s position in battle was really a German assassin. After fleeing to the United States to escape prosecution for murder, the assassin enlisted in a German company of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Mexican-American War and died d From the depths of German and American archives comes a story one soldier never wanted told. The first volunteer killed defending Robert E. Lee’s position in battle was really a German assassin. After fleeing to the United States to escape prosecution for murder, the assassin enlisted in a German company of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Mexican-American War and died defending Lee’s battery at the Siege of Veracruz in 1847. Lee wrote a letter home, praising this unnamed fallen volunteer defender. Military records identify him, but none of the Americans knew about his past life of crime. Before fighting with the Americans, Lee’s defender had assassinated Johann Heinrich Rieber, mayor of Bönnigheim, Germany, in 1835. Rieber’s assassination became 19th-century Germany’s coldest case ever solved by a non–law enforcement professional and the only 19th-century German murder ever solved in the United States. Thirty-seven years later, another suspect in the assassination who had also fled to America found evidence in Washington, D.C., that would clear his own name, and he forwarded it to Germany. The German prosecutor Ernst von Hochstetter corroborated the story and closed the case file in 1872, naming Lee’s defender as Rieber’s murderer. Relying primarily on German sources, Death of an Assassin tracks the never-before-told story of this German company of Pennsylvania volunteers. It follows both Lee’s and the assassin’s lives until their dramatic encounter in Veracruz and picks up again with the surprising case resolution decades later. This case also reveals that forensic ballistics―firearm identification through comparison of the striations on a projectile with the rifling in the barrel―is much older than previously thought. History credits Alexandre Laccasagne for inventing forensic ballistics in 1888. But more than 50 years earlier, Eduard Hammer, the magistrate who investigated the Rieber assassination in 1835, used the same technique to eliminate a forester’s rifle as the murder weapon. A firearms technician with state police of Baden-Württemberg tested Hammer’s technique in 2015 and confirmed its efficacy, cementing the argument that Hammer, not Laccasagne, should be considered the father of forensic ballistics. The roles the volunteer soldier/assassin and Robert E. Lee played at the Siege of Veracruz are part of American history, and the record-breaking, 19th-century cold case is part of German history. For the first time, Death of an Assassinbrings the two stories together.

30 review for Death of an Assassin: The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steven Maginnis

    A forgotten murder mystery in a small Germanic kingdom and a forgotten war between the U.S. and Mexico intersect to help bring one of the most accomplished military men in American history to prominence. That's the intriguing tale behind Ann Marie Ackermann's "Death of an Assassin," a short but gripping book mixing true crime with history. Ackermann writes about how a beloved mayor in a small town of what is now the German state of Baden-Württemberg was shot to death in 1835 in the dead of night. A forgotten murder mystery in a small Germanic kingdom and a forgotten war between the U.S. and Mexico intersect to help bring one of the most accomplished military men in American history to prominence. That's the intriguing tale behind Ann Marie Ackermann's "Death of an Assassin," a short but gripping book mixing true crime with history. Ackermann writes about how a beloved mayor in a small town of what is now the German state of Baden-Württemberg was shot to death in 1835 in the dead of night. Eduard Hammer is the intrepid police magistrate assigned to the case. He gathers clues along the way of his investigation, extensively interviewing people who heard the shots and were near the location of the shooting at the time it took place. As this is happening, young Army officer Robert E. Lee struggles to balance his military career with the demands of his family. The murderer is on the loose and makes his way to America; as several residents of this small German town remain under suspicion of the yet-unsolved crime, Lee achieves successes in peacetime, such as his direction of the Army Corps of Engineers to open the river harbor in St. Louis. When war is declared against Mexico, Lee sees his chance to prove himself in battle . . . and so does the German murderer, now residing in Philadelphia's German-immigrant community. The murderer will serve in the U.S. Army and defend - and die defending - Lee's division at the siege of the Mexican city of Veracruz. "Death of an Assassin" brilliantly weaves two diametrically opposed tales with astonishing detail. Magistrate Hammer's investigation reads like a well-paced mystery novel, with dialogue taken from a nineteenth-century scribe's transcription of the interrogations along with minute descriptions of clues and ground-breaking forensic tests. Obscure moments in American history are seen through the eyes of a murder-immigrant directly and indirectly involved in them, and the reader learns a good deal about how America developed in the 1830s and 1840s. The siege of Veracruz is vividly brought to life, as is the heroism of the soldiers and sailors who fought there. In a letter home, Lee's poignant account of a man who died under heavy fire presents him as a multi-dimensional individual of honor and humanity. Little did Lee know that the man he eulogized was the man who shot a public official back in Germany. Ackermann brings everything full circle by showing how one of the longest cold cases in German history was solved by chance in 1872 - long after Lee's death, the end of the Civil War, and the unification of Germany - and how the assassin was proven to be the same man Lee praised in his correspondence. Without the verification of historical record, Ackermann's book could easily be fiction. The realization that it's all true is one of the many surprises and twists in a book that entertains as well as educates.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven King

    Bönnigheim is a sleepy little village in the Stuttgart district of Germany that is home to about 7500 people. In the modern era, travelers are wooed to visit by its idyllic landscapes, historical buildings, and its penchant for wine, as this village has been a site of viticulture for its entire documented history. On a fateful night in October 1835, perhaps after having indulged in some of this notable wine, Mayor Johann Heinrich Rieber was murdered by a rifleman who hid among the shadows. After Bönnigheim is a sleepy little village in the Stuttgart district of Germany that is home to about 7500 people. In the modern era, travelers are wooed to visit by its idyllic landscapes, historical buildings, and its penchant for wine, as this village has been a site of viticulture for its entire documented history. On a fateful night in October 1835, perhaps after having indulged in some of this notable wine, Mayor Johann Heinrich Rieber was murdered by a rifleman who hid among the shadows. After gunning down the village’s mayor, the unknown rifleman dashed out of the village and was seemingly lost to history. Into this inauspicious murder mystery, Ann Marie Ackermann, has produced a worthy tome that seeks to identify this killer. Those who enjoy true crime nonfiction or are intrigued by HLN’s Forensic Files®, will find the plot development hard to put down. Ackerman toggles between telling the story of the inability of the local district investigating magistrate, Eduard Hammer, to crack the case and the alleged flight of the assassin to the United States. Ackermann is commended for weaving this story with suitable conversation and intrigue to keep the plot moving and not bore the reader in the process. When one considers how little detectives had to work with in the 1800’s – you realize criminal investigation was a much different world before CSI crime labs and DNA evidence. The plain narrative of the investigation is augmented by a discussion of common criminal investigative technique. Sadly, Hammer would never figure out this whodunit and would die not having solved the case. The author believes that the assassin fled to the United States, and after a series of failed career attempts, found himself serving under Robert E. Lee. While history buffs remember that General Lee served gallantly by commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War, perhaps many will not realize the softer side of Lee that Ackermann has unearthed. In his first experience under hostile fire, Lee penned a letter about a soldier who was killed at San Juan de Ulúa that could provide a clue as to the killer’s identity. In 1872, Frederick Rupp, a comb maker who had been driven out of Bönnigheim years earlier, wrote an interesting letter to its current mayor. After what he contends was “delicate research” he announced who he believed was the murderer responsible for the grisly death in 1835. The village acknowledged the letter and believed that the matter was closed, even offering Rupp a reward for providing the information. Ackermann wrote this book to clarify for Rupp’s descendants that neither the story, nor the reward offered by Bönnigheim, is a hoax. Remarkably written with ample historical narrative, history lovers and those with a penchant for crime narrative will find this one quite satisfying.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Louis

    THIS REVIEW PROVIDED IN EXCHANGE FOR A FREE ADVANCE COPY Americans pride themselves on living in the land of second chances. Immigrants can come to the U.S. and escape all kinds of adverse conditions. Can a new American atone for a murder? Ann Marie Ackermann's book tells the story of of a 19th-century German emigre, a murderer who fled for America. At first settling into a sedate profession (a baker), he later enlisted in an all-German unit of Pennsylvania volunteers. Serving in the Mexican-Amer THIS REVIEW PROVIDED IN EXCHANGE FOR A FREE ADVANCE COPY Americans pride themselves on living in the land of second chances. Immigrants can come to the U.S. and escape all kinds of adverse conditions. Can a new American atone for a murder? Ann Marie Ackermann's book tells the story of of a 19th-century German emigre, a murderer who fled for America. At first settling into a sedate profession (a baker), he later enlisted in an all-German unit of Pennsylvania volunteers. Serving in the Mexican-American War, he exhibited heroism under fire. This immigrant was killed at the Battle of Veracruz. His bravery impressed a regular Army officer, Robert E. Lee. The future Confederate Army commander wrote to his son, praising the volunteer for his bravery. Lee did not know the name of the volunteer. Ackermann makes the choice (to be respected here) of not giving us his name for several pages, thus increasing the sense of mystery of this unique work of history. This book ties together a historical mystery and what was then cutting-edge methods of criminal detection. The local magistrate investigating the murder in the 1830s, develops the technique of forensic ballistics (generally thought to have been invented in the 1880s) to eliminate a gun as the weapon used. Not settling for being only CSI: 1830s, the book also looks at German immigration to America (prospective emigres had to get permission to leave Germany first, which the subject of this book avoided doing) and the immigrant composition of the 19th-century U.S. Army. We are given a complete view of the places of times that influenced the murderer-turned-hero. Death of an Assassin is a volume in Kent State University Press's True Crime History series. The book tells a fascinating history story well, which makes it more than just another true crime book. Most importantly, it is effective in detailing just how American immigrants could make new lives in this country.

  4. 4 out of 5

    The Cozy Review

    Death of an Assassin by Ann Marie Ackerman is a well plotted and researched book of crime, war, and intrigue. The pages are filled with historical facts as well as reenactments of events as they are thought to have occurred. The solving of one of the oldest cold cases in history and the link to the USA’s past is fascinating. Follow along as Ann Ackermann takes you through history and a crime that went unsolved for over 40 years, leading directly to one of America's most famous Generals of all tim Death of an Assassin by Ann Marie Ackerman is a well plotted and researched book of crime, war, and intrigue. The pages are filled with historical facts as well as reenactments of events as they are thought to have occurred. The solving of one of the oldest cold cases in history and the link to the USA’s past is fascinating. Follow along as Ann Ackermann takes you through history and a crime that went unsolved for over 40 years, leading directly to one of America's most famous Generals of all time. -- Genre: Non-Fiction/Historical/True Crime Publisher: The Kent State University Press Publishing date: September 1, 2017 This is the story of the murder of Mayor Johann Heinrich Rieber in the Kingdom of Wurttemberg, Bonnigheim, now known as Southwest Germany. As well as the man who murdered him, Gottlob Rueb. Rueb played a role in US history while protecting Robert E. Lee during the Mexican-American War. Lee wrote to numerous colleagues and household members regarding a deceased soldier that he admired for his strength while enduring considerable pain. It is not known whether Robert E. Lee ever learned Rueb’s name. Evidence suggests that Lee had no personal contact with Rueb, and most likely never knew Rueb was a murderer. Much of the investigation into the murder of Rieber can be attributed to the birth of ballistics forensic. This case may well have served as the jumping off point in today’s modern forensic studies and is a look into the world of crime and investigation as it was hundreds of years ago. In 1872, after stringing together all of the evidence and documentation of the day Frederick Rupp concluded that Mr. Rueb was the killer. Mr. Rupp, who was once a suspect in the murder wrote a letter to Bonnigheim’s city council stating that he believed Rueb to be the murderer of Mayor Rieber. Unfortunately, Mr. Rueb deceased by then could not be punished for the crime. The cold case of who killed Mayor Rieber was solved thanks to Mr. Rupp. Those who were wrongly accused, including Mr. Rupp were vindicated. Death of an Assassin is an interesting read, the pages filled with historical value. It is well written as well as entertaining. Ms. Ackermann has crafted an easy to follow story that will leave the reader wanting more. The insights into the mind and life of Robert E. Lee are captivating and give the reader a new take on what Lee felt and thought during his first real battle. History comes alive through this story and sends the reader on a trip back through time. This book is highly recommended to all of those who enjoy crime, and a historical who-done-it. Death of an Assassin takes readers on a trip into a world no one alive today remembers.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Barnes

    Death of an Assassin is a very interesting and outstanding book. Ann Marie Ackermann has discovered and presented a small bit of history that shows how each of us can affect another person for both good or bad. Through a lot of research, the author shows how one man changed the life and future of a village and its people as well as the lives and people of a nation on the other side of the world. The information on the forensic ballistics was very interesting. We sometimes think our ancestors wer Death of an Assassin is a very interesting and outstanding book. Ann Marie Ackermann has discovered and presented a small bit of history that shows how each of us can affect another person for both good or bad. Through a lot of research, the author shows how one man changed the life and future of a village and its people as well as the lives and people of a nation on the other side of the world. The information on the forensic ballistics was very interesting. We sometimes think our ancestors were not too smart because they did not know things like we do, but I believe that is an error in our understanding of the past. This book is well written and was a joy to read. I wanted to jump forward and find out who the assassin was, but Ms. Ackermann presented him at the right time to keep the story flowing. I was happy to learn how immigration worked in the 1830's. I did not know that some countries required you to give up your citizenship before you arrived in the United States. So, if I understand it correctly, during the voyage all the immigrants were "stateless". This book was full of very interesting information that I did not know. To me it is a sign of an outstanding book if I learn from it. I recommend this book for all who are interested in learning how anyone can touch another and possibly change the world.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Dandashi

    History Told With a Flair The author shares her extensive research and expressive telling of this true crime which led to the convergence of many events in the moment the assassin, himself, was killed. How did the murderer of a mayor in Germany come to be part of a group of men commanded to protect Robert E. Lee at the Seige of Veracruz in the Mexican American War? Ackermann’s methodical and interesting scene description pulls the reader into the crime -- from the act of murder in the town of Bӧnni History Told With a Flair The author shares her extensive research and expressive telling of this true crime which led to the convergence of many events in the moment the assassin, himself, was killed. How did the murderer of a mayor in Germany come to be part of a group of men commanded to protect Robert E. Lee at the Seige of Veracruz in the Mexican American War? Ackermann’s methodical and interesting scene description pulls the reader into the crime -- from the act of murder in the town of Bӧnnigheim to the death of the assassin, himself. She painstakingly shares the investigative process available in 1835 which the investigative magistrate, Eduard Hammer, uses to try to find the assassin. Each event is footnoted with a supporting fact document Ackermann uses to pull her telling into a cohesive and complete one. Many old photos are included in the book, providing additional understanding of the circumstances. Her compelling style of writing, along with the steady, coherently described stream of events make the read move quickly. Her chapter transitions primed me for the next chapter. She seemed to anticipate my questions, for she answered every single one. I hadn’t expected to have the record of events so well-preserved. Investigator Hammer pursued the crime ruthlessly, even using a new means, which history records discovered some 50 years later, to figure out what type of gun had been used by the assassin, hoping this would give him a lead. I found it interesting in those days, if the case had not been solved in a two-week time, the crime isn’t usually solved. I really liked the fact this particular work had a wider focus of historical events more than the assassination of a mayor in Wurttemberg in 1835 and then the assassin’s own death in defending Robert E. Lee. Frankly, Ackermann well describes the existing events and coincidences (or were they?) in bringing us to the final questions. Did he actually die a hero? Is it possible people can change that much? Robert E. Lee’s life was most interesting to me since the recent statue removals in the southern U.S., his being one of them. I found out he was very important to the U.S. working and managing a very successful project through the Corps of Engineers to reopen the Mississippi River as the silt was narrowing the channel and steamers could no longer travel the river. He was also very instrumental in the Mexican-American War, his first opportunity to experience combat. Is it possible we look at history with too narrow a vision? The story is a testament to how important NOT having the means for education is. It is a factor in the development of good citizens. It also plainly exposes how one’s reputation (however one comes by it) can damage a man’s chances for success. The assassin and Robert E. Lee weren’t much different in their need for career growth. The means of getting there are vastly different. A very worthwhile read and one every history buff would enjoy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Crime is ever-present; you might say it’s a side-effect of humanity, an expression of the tortured soul. Most often we categorize criminals, characterize them based on behavior and beliefs, and generally store them away on the dusty shelves of history alongside others of their kind without too much after-thought. Like the names of infamous diseases, the killers echo in the minds of generations as a sort of warning. With each new crime, there comes not only a chance to educate the masses on safet Crime is ever-present; you might say it’s a side-effect of humanity, an expression of the tortured soul. Most often we categorize criminals, characterize them based on behavior and beliefs, and generally store them away on the dusty shelves of history alongside others of their kind without too much after-thought. Like the names of infamous diseases, the killers echo in the minds of generations as a sort of warning. With each new crime, there comes not only a chance to educate the masses on safety, but a desire to understand and elucidate just what makes some of us break—to the point of harming our fellow man. The argument is, after all, if we can understand the precursors, future innocents might be saved. So, what does a killer look and act like? These are the types of questions that must have confronted Ann Marie Ackermann as she began to study the death of one Mayor Johann Heinrich Rieber. Shot multiple times from behind, Herr Rieber succumbed to his wounds within hours; however, it would take quite longer to identify his killer. In a time before current forensics and investigating abilities, resources were few—and solved cases even fewer. Travel backwards in time and history to the small village of Bönningheim, Germany, where Magistrate Eduard Hamner is responsible for tracking down the mayor’s killer. His efforts begin with interviewing witnesses, much as is protocol these days. From homemade bullets to striking resemblances in rifling marks, Hamner revolutionizes forensic ballistics long before history mentions such a subject. While he does stumble upon some promising leads, it will be only after his death that the truth comes to light. This gripping tale of crime, mystery, war, fate, and intrigue will keep you up late. You’ll strain your eyes to read as fast as you can to find out the killer’s name, but when you do, the suspense does not end there. Ackermann deftly influences the reader’s curiosity to follow not only the search for Mayor Rieber’s killer—but to find out exactly how fate leveled the scales. This spy tale spans continents. Even the likes of Robert E. Lee cannot escape the reaches of this crime. I highly recommend Ann Marie Ackermann’s Death of an Assassin. Mayor Rieber’s tale is explained in great detail, with consideration for pacing and contextualization. While Ackermann does give away who the assassin is in the later part of the book, the revelation does not render the latter half inconsequential. Whether you’re a lover of history or not, this book allows you to step back in time to experience the difficulty involved in solving this murder case and the unique twists of fate that brought one German into contact with a popular American, forever changing our combined history. This fantastic work pieces together all the right elements to render a stunning tale. Ann Marie Ackermann has truly done her research and presents this incredible story in an unforgettable way. Check out Death of an Assassin and see if you can’t deduce the killer yourself!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Johanna

    The year is 1835. In the Kingdom of Württemberg, in the small town of Bönnigheim, a murder has just been committed. The town’s beloved mayor has been gunned down in cold blood- a senseless crime with no apparent motive- and the elusive murderer manages to slip away, seemingly without trace. Despite the best efforts of a remarkably ingenious investigator, the case would remain unsolved for decades. On the other side of the Atlantic, a storm is brewing between the Mexican government and American se The year is 1835. In the Kingdom of Württemberg, in the small town of Bönnigheim, a murder has just been committed. The town’s beloved mayor has been gunned down in cold blood- a senseless crime with no apparent motive- and the elusive murderer manages to slip away, seemingly without trace. Despite the best efforts of a remarkably ingenious investigator, the case would remain unsolved for decades. On the other side of the Atlantic, a storm is brewing between the Mexican government and American settlers, eventually erupting into the Texas Revolution. As America is drawn into war with Mexico, troops are amassed to besiege Veracruz in what would become the first large-scale amphibious assault conducted by United States military forces, and the largest in history until D-Day. In writing of the battle, Robert E Lee makes a curiously poignant entry in his journal regarding the heroic death of a German-American soldier, remarking “I doubt whether all Mexico is worth to us the life of that man”. Little could he have known that the man to whom he ascribed such praise was actually an assassin. Death Of An Assassin documents the astonishing story of a German cold case mystery that took 37 years -and a fresh piece of evidence from America- to solve. In the book, Ackermann interleaves both the fascinating histories of Robert E. Lee and the rather unsung German-American soldiers who fought in the Battle of Veracruz during the Mexican-American war, as well as the thrilling race-against-the-clock investigation conducted by a little-known German magistrate who utilized investigative methods, including forensic ballistics, which were surprisingly ahead of his time. Full of twists, turns, and striking insight into this tumultuous time in history, this is a gripping read that you will absolutely not want to put down! I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Check out this review on my blog, EpicBookQuest.com

  9. 4 out of 5

    Angela Buckley

    It is rare to come across a brand-new historical crime case, as many have been written about many times before, so ‘Death of An Assassin’ is a real treat for true crime lovers. This fascinating account begins in the German town of Bönnigheim, in 1835 and follows the twists and turns of a real-life murder investigation across two continents to the battlefields of the American Civil War. It is a remarkable tale, which links the killer of a small town mayor to one of the most famous generals in Ame It is rare to come across a brand-new historical crime case, as many have been written about many times before, so ‘Death of An Assassin’ is a real treat for true crime lovers. This fascinating account begins in the German town of Bönnigheim, in 1835 and follows the twists and turns of a real-life murder investigation across two continents to the battlefields of the American Civil War. It is a remarkable tale, which links the killer of a small town mayor to one of the most famous generals in American history, Robert E. Lee. Through meticulous research, Ann Marie Ackermann has pieced together this unusual case. Her narrative is gripping throughout with evocative descriptions, detailed background information and engaging characters. In addition, ‘Death of An Assassin’ encompasses a wide range of themes, such as American-Mexican history and early forensic ballistics, all skilfully woven into an intriguing murder mystery. It is a compelling read and I would highly recommend it. Disclosure: I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Rynecki

    It's wonderful to have finally read Ann Marie Ackermann's book. I followed her author journey on social media for quite some time before the publication of DEATH OF AN ASSASSIN, and am delighted to now know the story she worked so hard to bring to readers. Ackermann weaves together many seemingly disconnected parts of history to tell the story of a long-forgotten tale of murder and its eventual solution. In doing so, she takes her reader on a highly informative and detailed look at everything fro It's wonderful to have finally read Ann Marie Ackermann's book. I followed her author journey on social media for quite some time before the publication of DEATH OF AN ASSASSIN, and am delighted to now know the story she worked so hard to bring to readers. Ackermann weaves together many seemingly disconnected parts of history to tell the story of a long-forgotten tale of murder and its eventual solution. In doing so, she takes her reader on a highly informative and detailed look at everything from forensic ballistics, German immigrant enlistment in the U.S. Army, and the amphibious landing for the battle of Veracruz. Many stories simply get lost in the shuffle of time and history. Ackermann has not only rescued this story, she's deftly drawn her readers into the web of her own historical research and discoveries.

  11. 4 out of 5

    S

    I had never heard about this true crime cases till I come upon  Ann Marie Ackermann most excellent book. The story begins in the German town of Bonnigheim in the year 1835 where the town is left shocked by the assassination of its most respected citizen it's mayor. The reader follows the twists and turns of the muder investigation as a killer is searched for.  Eventually the investigation leads to the other side of the world and to one of Americans most respected Civil War heroes General Robert E I had never heard about this true crime cases till I come upon  Ann Marie Ackermann most excellent book. The story begins in the German town of Bonnigheim in the year 1835 where the town is left shocked by the assassination of its most respected citizen it's mayor. The reader follows the twists and turns of the muder investigation as a killer is searched for.  Eventually the investigation leads to the other side of the world and to one of Americans most respected Civil War heroes General Robert E Lee. The author has produced an excellent well researched study of the case and I would highly recommend this to other readers .

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    For the second time in a year, I’ve had book encounters with 19th century European assassins who eventually fled to the United States and began new lives under different names. The first was Sergei Degaev, who assassinated the chief of Tsar Nicholas's security organization in 1883. Sixteen years later he would become a popular professor at the University of South Dakota. Most recently I was introduced to a man who assassinated the mayor of Bönnigheim, Germany, in 1835. His potentially greater im For the second time in a year, I’ve had book encounters with 19th century European assassins who eventually fled to the United States and began new lives under different names. The first was Sergei Degaev, who assassinated the chief of Tsar Nicholas's security organization in 1883. Sixteen years later he would become a popular professor at the University of South Dakota. Most recently I was introduced to a man who assassinated the mayor of Bönnigheim, Germany, in 1835. His potentially greater impact on U.S. history is explored in Death of an Assassin: The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee . Author Ann Marie Ackerman unravels a real life mystery. Not only is this an engaging piece of history, the former prosecutor uses an appendix to present the compelling evidence and reasoning behind her identification of a 19th century German murderer. Ackerman also makes a strong case that the initial investigation may have seen the first use of forensic ballistics as a law enforcement tool. Death of an Assassin begins on the night of October 21, 1835, when the mayor of Bönnigheim, Germany, was shot just a few steps from his front door. The mayor did not see his assailant and died about 30 hours later. Using the original investigative file, Ackerman details the investigation, providing a rare look inside the techniques and legal standards of the time. Despite a thorough investigation and examination of several potential suspects, the case was essentially closed without resolution in 1837. At some point, the actual assassin emigrated to the U.S. illegally. (Ackerman doesn't identify him until approximately halfway through the book so his name isn't used here.) In January 1840, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, then a force of only 7,000 men. At the time of the assassination, Robert E. Lee was 28, a lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. That same month, the Texas Revolution against Mexican rule began, eventually leading to the Mexican-American War a decade later. And, Ackerman maintains, that would bring Lee and the German assassin together during the siege of Veracruz in March 1847, Lee’s first battle experience. In April 1847, Lee would write his 15-year-old son about his experiences. He described a soldier in a company protecting him and the battery he commanded during the bombardment of Veracruz. The soldier’s thigh was shattered by a Mexican cannonball and he lay in agony most of the day. When finally being borne off in a litter, he was killed by an incoming shell. “I doubt whether all Mexico is worth to us the life of that man,” Lee wrote. (It seems somewhat ironic that an account of Lee's military activities more than a decade before the Civil War is released when the nation is debating Confederate statues.) Currently living in Germany, Ackerman’s experience as a prosecutor in America shows through. Poor military record-keeping at the time forces her to say the assassin “probably” was the soldier mentioned in Lee’s letter. Yet she musters and builds a strong case for naming him. Although there are a few instances of repetition and the actual events surrounding the man's death are muddied by time, Death of an Assassin is a cogent work. In 1872, the assassin was identified, ironically, by a Bönnigheim resident who emigrated to the U.S. in 1836 after unfounded rumor said he killed the mayor. In a letter to authorities, he relayed that a friend told him that shortly after arriving in the U.S., the assassin admitted to killing the mayor for rejecting his application to be a game warden. While they were aware the killer died in combat in Mexico, it took Ackerman to make the connection to American history. (Originally posted at A Progressive on the Prairie.)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Skye Iwanski

    “Anyone can trim a quill to a sharp point and dip it into an inkwell. It is what happens afterwards that separates the poet from the scribe, the composer from the minstrel, and the preacher from his flock.” And this "afterwards" distinction is what separates Ackermann from other writers. Death of an Assassin is a true crime story with the premise of an assassination in the Kingdom of Wurttemburg, Germany, and how this assassination is connected to an unnamed soldier mentioned poignantly in one o “Anyone can trim a quill to a sharp point and dip it into an inkwell. It is what happens afterwards that separates the poet from the scribe, the composer from the minstrel, and the preacher from his flock.” And this "afterwards" distinction is what separates Ackermann from other writers. Death of an Assassin is a true crime story with the premise of an assassination in the Kingdom of Wurttemburg, Germany, and how this assassination is connected to an unnamed soldier mentioned poignantly in one of Robert E. Lee's famous letters mailed to his eldest son after the Siege of Veracruz. A story relevant to German and American history that is vastly unknown, Death of an Assassin chronologically tells of a man who committed a murder in Germany and died defending Robert E. Lee and how exactly these circumstances came to be. It contributes a previously unknown connection in history to the literary world, as well as proves that forensic ballistics is an older form of investigation than previously believed. The astounding amount of research that went into this book, completed by a very qualified person, Ackermann (a former attorney with focuses on criminal and medical law who lives in the town where the assassination occurred and is a member of their historical society), and a team of researchers is evident not only in the writing, but also in the thorough end notes and bibliography, allowing readers to see just how much time and effort were put forth into this book. “When Mayor Johann Heinrich Rueber left the Waldhorn Inn in Bonnigheim on October 21, 1835, he didn’t notice a man cradling a rifle and stalking him in the shadows.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Arnold

    I have always been a fan of murder mysteries, and this book is no different. The mystery is masterfully told, with details revealed at just the right moments, and the forensics in the book were fascinating. As others have said, I particularly liked learning about the forensic ballistics that were used at the time. However, the murder mystery and forensics weren't the only reasons I enjoyed this book. I found that this is more than just a true crime murder mystery. Ackermann provides a unique per I have always been a fan of murder mysteries, and this book is no different. The mystery is masterfully told, with details revealed at just the right moments, and the forensics in the book were fascinating. As others have said, I particularly liked learning about the forensic ballistics that were used at the time. However, the murder mystery and forensics weren't the only reasons I enjoyed this book. I found that this is more than just a true crime murder mystery. Ackermann provides a unique perspective on history by delving into the mind of Robert E. Lee, and honestly, that was one of my favorite things about the book. Ackermann's vivid descriptions and effective writing backed by solid evidence made history come alive to me. I would definitely recommend this book to history lovers and those who love a good mystery. Even if you don't normally read nonfiction, give this book a chance. You just might enjoy it. I sure did.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cathryn

    Ann Marie Ackerman, a former attorney who focused on criminal and medical law, applies her skills to unravel a historical mystery: who exactly was the first volunteer killed defending Robert E. Lee's position at the Siege of Veracruz in 1847? From deep research into historical records located in both Germany and the United States to using modern ballistics, Ackerman answered the question and then some. "Death of an Assassin" is a compelling story told in conversational prose. It's a true crime s Ann Marie Ackerman, a former attorney who focused on criminal and medical law, applies her skills to unravel a historical mystery: who exactly was the first volunteer killed defending Robert E. Lee's position at the Siege of Veracruz in 1847? From deep research into historical records located in both Germany and the United States to using modern ballistics, Ackerman answered the question and then some. "Death of an Assassin" is a compelling story told in conversational prose. It's a true crime story that has it all - adventure and heroism, murder and redemption topped off with a dollop of international intrigue.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Swensonbooks

    Solving a cold case is hard enough, but across two continents and two centuries? That's real detective work. Ann Marie Ackermann has written a compelling narrative of a complicated case that was ground-breaking for several reasons. It now seems as though Germany was the first to use forensic ballistics and not France as had earlier been assumed. The tip that came in 1872 came from a man who had immigrated to America and the reward was never paid to him. According to the author's recent newslette Solving a cold case is hard enough, but across two continents and two centuries? That's real detective work. Ann Marie Ackermann has written a compelling narrative of a complicated case that was ground-breaking for several reasons. It now seems as though Germany was the first to use forensic ballistics and not France as had earlier been assumed. The tip that came in 1872 came from a man who had immigrated to America and the reward was never paid to him. According to the author's recent newsletter, the descendants of this man have now been found. Another mystery solved.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Not particularly scintillating writing, but the story is interesting, involving as it does a murder in Wurttemberg (now part of Germany) in 1835 that was solved some 30 years later by an emigre living in Washington DC. Side note: the murderer's death during the Mexican War was witnessed by Robert E. Lee, he of later Civil War notoriety.

  18. 5 out of 5

    dale

    This is great story about Bönnigheim history in a town where I lived. The author is an American living there. Guinness world records for longest wait for wait for reward to be given out

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robin Butler

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  21. 4 out of 5

    Books Forward

  22. 5 out of 5

    Devon

  23. 5 out of 5

    Su

  24. 5 out of 5

    saykopath

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joyce Bouchard

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

  27. 5 out of 5

    Military Writers Society of America (MWSA)

    MWSA Review Death of an Assassin is a well-researched history of a murder that occurred in Germany in 1835 that remained a cold case for 37 years.  The author intertwines the German crime scene with highlights of Robert E. Lee's early years and brings players from both continents together in Lee's first battle experience.  The book includes extensive appendices, chapter notes, Bibliography, and an Index. Review by Nancy Kauffman (April 2018)

  28. 4 out of 5

    RLM

    Added because of this column in the Washington Post. Added because of this column in the Washington Post.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  30. 5 out of 5

    Janet Croon

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