“The Good, The Bad and The Irish: Tales from the Civil War Era” is the title of a lively and informative presentation to be given by Thomas J. Craughwell on his two most recent books The Greatest Brigade: How the Irish Brigade Cleared the Way to Victory in the American Civil War and Stealing Lincoln’s Body Tuesday, May 8th at the Silas Bronson Library at 6:30 p.m.
    Craughwell notes that by shouting their Gaelic battle cry, the men of the Irish Brigade charged across the bloodiest battles of the Civil War and into the realm of legend. The band of heroes covered the Yankee retreat at Bull Run, drove the Confederates from the Sunken Road at Antietam and made charge after charge of Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg. Their gallantry won them the admiration of the high command of both the North and South, earned them seven Medals of Honor and, after the war, helped the Irish assimilate into mainstream America.
    In a live narrative, Craughwell also relates that on the night of the 1876 presidential election, a gang of Chicago counterfeiters attempted to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom. Craughwell returns to this bizarre and largely forgotten event with the first book to place it in historical context. In Stealing Lincoln’s Body, he offers entertaining sidelights on the rise of counterfeiting, the establishment of the Secret Service to combat it, the prevalence of grave robberies, the art of 19th century embalming and the emergence among Irish immigrants of an ambitious middle class – and a criminal underclass. This rousing story of hapless con men, intrepid federal agents and ordinary Springfield citizens who kept a secret for decades confirms that truth often is stranger than fiction.
   Craughwell’s background is as diverse as the books he has written. He has studied medieval English literature, worked as a copywriter for the Book-of-the-Month Club and was a marketing director for an upscale travel company before he became a full-time writer. He has written advertising for television and direct mail for Time-Life Books, TV Guide, The Reader’s Digest, Hilton Hotels, and the American Banking Association. His articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Emmy magazine and the national Catholic news weekly Our Sunday Visitor. His books include Eye Beholds You: A World Treasury of Prayer, Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints, and Saints for Every Occasion which has been translated into Spanish, Italian, and Polish.
   He has discussed saints, the canonization process, and Catholic history on CNN and EWTN, and urban legends on the BBC, The Discovery Channel, Inside Edition, and approximately 75 radio stations. Stealing Lincoln’s Body was adapted into a PBS program.
Craughwell’s keen sense of humor surfaces in his writing as well as his lectures, assuring a good read as well as a most enjoyable talk.
   The program is free and open to the public. Books will be available for sales and signing.