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not meddling with them, unless they were first attacked by others; in which case I should feel it both a privilege and a duty to take that stand which, in my view, might tend most to the advancement of justice.
"But, fellow-citizens, I shall conclude. the great degree of modesty which should always attend youth, it is probable I have already been more presuming than becomes me. However, upon the subjects of which I have treated, I have spoken as I have thought. I may be wrong in regard to any or all of them; but holding it a sound maxim that it is better only sometimes to be right than at all times to be wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them.
"Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition is yet to be developed. I am young, and unknown to many of you. I was born, and have ever remained, in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relations or friends to recommend me. My case is thrown exclusively upon the independent voters of the country; and, if elected, they will have conferred a favor upon me for which I shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate. But, if the good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much. chagrined.
"Your friend and fellow-citizen,
"NEW SALEM, March 9, 1832."
On the navigation question he gave many details. His emphasis of this subject was part of the general enthusiasm of a growing country seeking trade facilities, and, still in the early spring, before the election came on, this enthusiasm was whetted by the trip of the first steamboat which had ever gone down the Sangamon River, a feat which stirred the imagination of all the business men with visions of what might happen now that the stream was proved to be navigable. Lincoln was one of a number of citizens who went to meet and welcome this boat, the Talisman, at Beardstown, amid great excitement. Rowan Herndon, who was chosen to pilot the steamer from near Springfield to the Illinois River, which he did at an average speed of four miles a day, took Lincoln as his assistant, and each received $40 for the job, after which Lincoln returned to New Salem.
Offut, however, was led away from that town by other enterprises, and by the summer of 1832 Lincoln was out of a job. He was, therefore, in the humor for anything when the Black Hawk War came along. The chief Black Hawk, in violation of a treaty, had crossed the Mississippi and marched up the Rock River Valley with about five hundred Indians on horseback, while the squaws and children went up the river in canoes. Governor Reynolds of Illinois called for
one thousand mounted volunteers to help the United States troops under General Atkinson at Fort Armstrong. There was a company for Sangamon County and Lincoln, seeing nothing better to do, the election being still distant, enlisted. He was soon chosen captain by his comrades. To his first order he received the reply, "Go to the devil, sir." It was not a company amenable to discipline, and Captain Lincoln himself seems to have taken his duties lightly, since for breaking a general order forbidding the discharge of firearms within fifty yards of camp he was put under arrest and stripped of his sword for one day. A slightly heavier penalty was inflicted on him for the fault of his subordinates, who got so drunk on some liquor procured from the officers' quarters with the aid of a tomahawk and four buckets, that they were incompetent when a marching order was given. Lincoln, who was ignorant of the deed, was placed under arrest and carried a wooden sword for two days.
His technical knowledge was naturally slight. Marching with a front of over twenty men he wished to go through a gate. “I could not," he says himself," remember the proper word of command for getting my company endwise, so that it could get through the gate; so, as we came near the gate, I shouted, 'This company is dis
missed for two minutes, when it will fall in again on the other side of the gate.""
One day a helpless old Indian strayed into the camp with a letter from General Cass. The volunteers, bitterly hating the red men, wished to kill him without investigation, but Lincoln saved his life and discovered that he was genuinely recommended by the general and entirely trustworthy. Another piece of magnanimity grew out of his defeat in a wrestling match with a man named Thompson, who threw him. The friends of Lincoln charged unfairness, but Abe declared that his opponent had acted squarely and proved himself the better man. On slighter evidence, the victor's own, there is a story that a Quaker named Wilson threw Lincoln twice out of three times, and beat him in a race for a five-dollar bill. What is certain is that he was fond of wrestling, very strong, and so competent that he was always backed against any celebrity who happened to be accessible.
As Lincoln was not in any of the engagements of this disgraceful little Indian war, it has little to do with the story of his life. When the volunteers were mustered out, May 27 and 28, he was one of few to reënlist, this time as a private in Captain Elijah Iles's company of Independent Rangers. He was mustered in by General Robert Anderson, who was to command Fort Sumter
He has left one imAfter a skirmish his com
in the crucial days of 1861. pression of this war.
pany came up in time to help bury five dead. "I remember just how those men looked, as we rode up the little hill where their camp was. The red light of the morning sun was streaming upon them as they lay heads toward us on the ground. And every man had a round red spot on the top of his head, about as big as a dollar, where the redskins had taken his scalp. It was frightful, but it was grotesque; and the red sunlight seemed to paint everything all over." He paused, as if recalling the picture, and added, "I remember that one man had buckskin breeches on."
Lincoln's company was disbanded, July 10, at Whitewater, Wisconsin, and as his horse had been stolen he walked most of the way to Peoria, Illinois, where he and a companion bought a canoe, paddled down the Illinois River to Havana, sold it, and walked to New Salem. The election was at hand, and Lincoln lost no time in beginning political work of the ordinary kind, including some stump speeches. At the first of these, it is related, he interrupted himself to stop by forcible interference a fight in the audience in which a friend was being worsted by an opponent. He was running essentially as a Whig in a Democratic