Civil War Fangirl

The thoughts of a (slighty eccentric & crazy) Canadian who happens to be obsessed with Abraham Lincoln, General William Tecumseh Sherman & the Civil War

An Afternoon with Lincoln…

I was having one of those days where I needed to get lost in a good book. So, I grabbed by copy of “Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald and sat outside for well over an hour reading, highlighting and making notes in the margins. That’s how I read. My books end up graffitied at the very end but I think that shows how much I enjoyed them.

Today, I read about his time in Congress, as well as when he went back to practicing at his law firm with his partner, William Herndon. I’m about partway through the chapter the covers the years 1849-1855. I thought with this post I could share some of the interesting things about Lincoln that I read this afternoon. So, here we go…

  • I found Lincoln’s thoughts on revolution from the 1840s to be quite interesting: “Any people anywhere…have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. Any portion of the people that can, may revolutionize and make their own, of so much of the territory as they inhabit. This is a most valuable – a most sacred right – a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world”. As Donald states, Lincoln would have to eat these words in 1860-61. He made this statement in reference to the disputed land between Nueces and the Rio Grande during the Mexican war.
  • He visited Niagara Falls and when Herndon asked what reflections he had when he saw the falls, Lincoln replied he wondered where all the water came from. In reality, he had started writing a bit of a rhapsody about it, which he clearly didn’t share with Herndon: “Niagara is strong, and fresh today as ten thousand years ago. The Mammoth and Mastadon – now so long dead, that fragments of their monstrous bones, alone testify, that they ever lived, have gazed on Niagara. In that long-long time, never still for a single moment. Never dried, never froze, never slept, never rested”. Donald says this is where Lincoln stopped writing. My question is why? Donald states he might have recognized that he wasn’t go at writing this sort of thing. My thoughts? Maybe he got interrupted and never got back to writing it. How often has that happened to us before? We’ll be writing something, get interupted, lose our train of thought and never come back to it. Maybe that was the case with Lincoln.
  • Y’ALL, I FOUND A CONNECTION TO CUMP!! When Lincoln was in Congress, the Secretary of the Interior was Thomas Ewing.  Thomas Ewing was the father of Ellen Ewing and also William Tecumseh Sherman’s foster father. Sherman ended up marrying Ellen, so Thomas became his father-in-law.

    Thomas Ewing, Sr. Sherman’s foster father AND father-in-law

    Lincoln had some dealings with Ewing when he was in Congress. Leave it to me to dig out a connection to Sherman. Also, it was Thomas Ewing who offered Lincoln the position governorship of Oregon Territory after he did not get the position Commissioner of the General Land Office (and position which paid $3000.00 a year. Quite a sum of money in those days!). Lincoln obviously did not take this governorship for a variety of reasons (mainly that Oregon would be democratic when officially in the union and Lincoln could not see them selecting a Whig as their governor or senator). When he declined the offer, Donald states that he “put the blame, as husbands so often do, on his wife who, he said, put her foot down about moving”. I actually can’t see Mary having enjoyed being in Oregon Territory. Nor Lincoln either. I mean, come on…remember the game “Oregon Trail”?

    I wouldn’t wanna go either. Also, google “Oregon Trail Game” and go to images. You’re welcome.

  • When Lincoln was back practicing law with Herndon, they ended up moving to a bigger office. They rented  a larger, second-floor office on the west side of Capital Square in Springfield. There they would together. And much to Herndon’s chagrin, Lincoln would often read…OUT LOUD…from a daily newspaper or whatever book he happened to have with him. Of this, Lincoln said “When I read aloud my two senses catch the idea – 1st I see what I am reading and 2dly I hear it read; and I can thus remember what I read the better”. YES!! #nailedit. I totally relate to this! I sometimes read out loud for this reason. And yes, I read parts of Donald’s book out loud this afternoon while sitting on my  back deck. IT DOES HELP! 🙂
  • In their law practice, Herndon would mainly focus on the research, bookwork and supervise the one to two students who were reading law with the firm. Lincoln would handle the courts and the clients. Of course, they each took on cases of their own too.
  • It was by age 40 that Lincoln started to be referred to as (though never to his face) as “Old Abe”. (sidenote: my husband just turned 40…). He was referred to as this because “of his weather-beaten appearance and because of his many years in public life and at the bar”(sidenote: I don’t know about y’all but I’ve never viewed Lincoln as being weather beaten. I’ve always found him to be quite handsome but that’s just me. Am I in the minority here? ). Lincoln had this to say about it (I suppose he did find out about the name): “I suppose I am now one of the old men”.
  • When he was out on the court circuit, which happened twice a year, Lincoln did not use the public stage coaches. Instead, he used a buggy that was pulled by a horse named Old Buck. Old Buck had replaced Old Tom, Lincoln’s previous horse. Y’all this is me…you had to know I’d have something about a horse in here somewhere.
  • It was on the circuit court that Lincoln established his reputation as a lawyer and earned himself the nickname “Honest Abe”. Cool, huh?

Anyway, that was how I spent my afternoon! I was actually having a pretty crummy day but getting lost in this book for well over an hour really helped.

While I haven’t finished Donald’s bio about Lincoln yet (and y’all know I’m a slow reader), I’m curious if any of you have read it. What did you think of it?

And just cause I always love to know what y’all are reading, tell me in the comments! Cause you know, I need more books to add to my to-read list.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time,


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