Orville J. (Orville James) Victor.

The private and public life of Abraham Lincoln : comprising a full account of his early years, and a succinct record of his career as statesman and president (Volume copy 1) online

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Online LibraryOrville J. (Orville James) VictorThe private and public life of Abraham Lincoln : comprising a full account of his early years, and a succinct record of his career as statesman and president (Volume copy 1) → online text (page 1 of 9)
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Victor Uf?vi/le. -Jnnne^

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Author of Lives of " Gabibaldi," "Winfieij> Scott," "John Paui,

Jones," etc.




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the

Southern District of New York.

(B. No. 14.)


^ ,

In producing this biography we have had in mind its
moral. Few men have lived in modern times whose life-
history is so suggestive as that of Abraham Lincoln. Not
that he should have stepped from a log-cabin to the national
Capitol, though that fact, of itself, might challenge our liveliest
interest; but that, out of the very discouraging circumstances
which surrounded his years to manhood, he should have come
forth with a well-stored mind, a large and humanitarian soul,
and perceptions which led him unerringly forward to his high
destiny — that is a result so remarkable as to render the story
of his life one of the highest significance. Greatness was not
thrust upon him — he achieved it. Step by step, line by

line —

" Through long days of lahor,
And nights devoid of ease,"

he forced his way from obscurity to renown. By the dim
light of the pioneer's hearth — by the candle in the log loft —
by the lamp in the musty office, he wrought out his task.
While others slept, he found repose in the realms of knowl-
edge. While he labored, with zeal, at the ax, at the plow, at
the harvest, at the sweeps of the flatboat, his eager soul was
laying away its treasures won from books, from experience,
from men — from every thing which could impart information.
The years of his hardest experience, therefore, were years of
development and mental progress; and it would seem, when
viewed by the light of succeeding events, that that early expe-
rience was a school of Providence to fit him for the mighty
struggle which we was to direct.

In the production of this work we have had before us the
several biographies already well known to readers. But aa


these were prepared for partisan purposes chiefly, they have
been found lacking in the material which we most desired —
the facts of his boyhood and student days, and the narrative of
his first steps in public life. These we have had to gather
more from men, from letters and from newspapers than from
books ; and if we have failed in producing such a work as we
designed, it has been less from lack of data than from our
neglect to properly use what was at our disposal.

That this little volume may do good is the highest wish of
both author and publishers.



Mr. Lincoln's Early History and Education, - - - - 18


His Experiences as a Flatboatman; "- - - - - -24


His removal to Illinois— Hard Experiences — Second Flatboat Voyage
to New Orleans — Becomes known as " Honest Abe " — Enlists 'as a
Volunteer in the Black-Hawk War — Instance of his extraordinary
Physical Strength, - - - - - - - - 28

As a Merchant, Legislator, and Lawyer, - - - - - 32


In Congress, - -.- - - - - - - - 39


The Canvass of 1854 — The great Senatorial Contest — Visit to Kansas
and New York— The Cooper Institute Speech — Beautiful Incident, 42


How he became President, - - - - - - *■ 50


The Secession Movement — Mr. Lincoln's Record — Stupendous Villainy
of the Conspirators and Imbecility of Buchanan — The " Progress"
of the President Elect from Illinois to Washington — The Inaugura-
tion, - - - -•."■- ..... . 58


The War^Cloud Deepens and Bursts, - - -> * - 74

Subsequent Events of 1861, - - - -78

New Laws, and the Battle Summer of 1862, . - - ■ * - 84

Events of 1868, -. - -. - - . . . . . 90





Abraham Lincoln — the " pioneer boy," the fiatboatman, the
" rail-splitter," the self-educated lawyer, the congressman and the
President of the United States — was born on the 12th day of
February, 1809, in an obscure cabin of that portion of Hardin
county, Kentucky, which has since been formed into the county
of Larue. Like that of Jackson, Clay, Webster, and others
whose illustrious names are bright upon the scroll of our
nation's history, his early life was cast in the unfavoring cru-
cible of poverty and toil — a crucible from which we come forth
dross or gold, as the case may be. Thomas Lincoln, his
father, and Abraham, his grandfather, were native to the soil
of Rockingham county, Virginia, their ancestors having emi-
grated thither from Berks county, Pennsylvania. Furthef
back than this, we find it difficult to trace his genealogy. It
was a Quaker family, originally, but, as time drew on, the
characteristic habits of that sect seem to have been forsaken
by the Lincolns. Our hero's grandsire, Abraham, had four
brothers — Isaac, Jacob, John and Thomas. Isaac emigrated
to a point near the junction of Virginia, North Carolina and
Tennessee, where his descendants are now living. The
descendants of Jacob and John are still living in Virginia, as
far as known. Thomas came to the wikls of Kentucky, and,
subsequently, died in that State, whence his descendants
migrated still further west, to Missouri.

In the year 1780, the remaining brother, Abraham, removed
to Kentucky, with his family, and took possession of a small
tract of land in the forest solitude, erecting a log-cabin wherein
to shelter his household gods. Armed with the pioneer's
watchword, " Hope and hard work," he here set himself


resolutely to the project of hewing for himself a comfortable
and permanent home out of the game-peopled, Indian-haunted
wilderness. But his occupation was accompanied by con-
siderable personal peril. His cabin, which was isolated from
its neighbors by several miles, was a dangerous dwelling in a
region infested by roving savages, whose blind instinct of
revenge was perpetually searching for a pale-face victim ; and
it searched only four years before this hardy pioneer was
numbered with the slain. At the end of that period, while at
work on some timber, about four miles from his home, he was
shot dead by the bullet of a skulking savage, and his scalped
remains were found the next morning by his afflicted family.

Upon sustaining this heavy loss, the widow was left alone
in the inhospitable wilderness with her three sons and two
daughters. Poverty compelled a family separation, and all
the children but Thomas bade a farewell to their sorrowing
mother, to seek other homes in other parts, the second son
migrating to Indiana, and the rest to other portions of Ken-
tucky. The elder of the brothers, Mordecai, lived long in
Kentucky, and afterward removed to Hancock county, Illinois,
but soon after died there. Several of his descendants rdfcide
in that location at this present date (1864). Mary, the eldest
sister, was married to Ralph Crume, and some of her descend-
ants were to be found in Breckinridge county, Kentucky, in
1864 Nancy, the second sister, was married to William
Brumfield ; but there is nothing further known of her family,
though they are supposed to have remained in Kentucky.

Thomas, the -younger son, and the father of our Chief
Magistrate, owing to his mother's straitened circumstances,
was, from early childhood, a wandering farm-boy, and grew
up without education. The extent of his knowledge of pen-
manship was the mastery of his own signature. When still a
boy, he passed a year, as a hired hand, with his uncle Isaac,
who had a farm on the Watoga branofe of the Holston river.

He was in his twenty-eighth year when, upon his final
return to Kentucky, he married Nancy Hanks, mother of our
subject, in the year 1806. The Old Dominion was also her
native State, and some relatives of hers were, in 1864, residing
in Illinois, in the counties of Coles, Macon and Adams, as
well as in Iowa. Thomas Lincoln and his wife were plain


people, members of the Baptist church, and about equally-
uneducated. The latter could read, but not write ; while her
husband, as we have before stated, could manage his own
name as a penman, but, it is said, in a style more perplexing
than readable. Nevertheless, he could fully appreciate the
value of a better education than he himself possessed, and was
not devoid of that truly democratic reverence which can bow
before superior mental attainments in others. He was, besides,
an industrious, cheerful, kind-hearted man. His wife was a
woman of excellent judgment, sound sense, and proverbial
piety, and, withal, an excellent helpmeet for a backwoodsman
of Thomas Lincoln's stamp, and a mother whose piety and
affection must have been of inestimable value in the shaping
and directing of her children's destinies. Says the poet :

44 There's a Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough hew them as we will. 1 '

But how much that divinity is controlled and directed by
the heart and hand of the mother, the lives of all men remind
us: In their keeping rests the destiny of their children, to an
almost exact degree.

fci Europe — in our own country, in many cases — a similar
lowliness in progenitors might be disguised, or alluded to with
the haste of an unworthy shame ; but the compiler of this record
of a truly noble life, dwells upon the rude but honest charac-
teristics of the parents of his now most illustrious subject with
pride, and with democratic fervor "in his pride.

A brimming health to our low-born, high-risen President,
and a God-rest to the bones of those whose simple names arc
emblazoned in the brightness of his own !

Three children were the fruit of this union — a daughter, a
son who died in infancy, and Abraham. The sister, who was
older than Abraham, attained the year&fof womanhood and
married, but sh% long since died, without issue, so that the
subject of this biography has now (1864) neither brother nor

Together with his sister, Abraham was first sent to school,
when he was seven years of age, to a man by the name of
Hazel, who came to reside in the neighborhood of his father's
cabin. The capacities of this pedagogue seem to have been
almost as limited as those of the hedge-schoolmaster of Ireland ;


but he could read and write, which enabled him to assist the
young ideas of the backwoods to take root at least. Very
probably the school-cabin of Caleb Hazel appeared like a
temple of learning to the little Abraham when he first entered
its portals, with hope and aspiration in his breast and brain,
and a dog-eared copy of Dilworth's spelling book under his
arm. But this first by-lane to the broad highway to learning
was relinquished by the young aspirant almost as soon as
begun, owing to his father's removal, shortly afterward, to
another State. He had been residing on Knob creek, on the
road from Beardstown, Kentucky, to Nashville, Tennessee, a
few miles south-west of Atherton ferry, on the Rolling fork.
Thomas Lincoln seems to have been impelled to this removal
by an inherent disgust for the institution of slavery * with
which he had become early imbued, although himself a South-
ron by birth and residence. An early acquaintance with the
evil which wrought upon his own class by the effects of the
" peculiar institution," combined with an independence of
spirit which revolted at the consequent degradation which,
as a " poor white," he must undergo, if he remained in
the midst of the helot's curse, continually prompted h#n
northward ; until, at length, in the autumn of 1816, finding
a purchaser for his farm, he migrated from the then slave-
teeming region of Kentucky to rude, but free, Indiana, accom-
panied by his wife and son — the latter then approaching the
threshold of his ninth year. The place whereon the home-
seeking pioneer proposed to strive anew was in Spencer
county, Indiana. The price which he received for his Ken-
tucky farm was ten barrels of whisky, forty gallons each,
valued at two hundred and eighty dollars, besides twenty
dollars in money. Such transactions in the disposal of real
estate were quite common at that period.

As soon as the sale was effected, the father«determined to
proceed alone to Indiana in quest of the new home to which
he was finally to remove his family. Having had some expe-
rience as a carpenter, he set to work, with such slight assist-
ance as could be afforded by little Abe, and built a flatboat,
wherewith to transport his household goods to the northern

* Most probably this removal was, also, partially Influenced by the
difficulty in land-titles in Kentucky.


bank of the Ohio river. The flatboat was soon finished, and
launched on the current of the Boiling fork. Then loading it
with his goods and tools, and his ten barrels of whisky, the
pioneer bade adieu to little Abe, who stood watching him from
the bank, and was soon on his way down the stream. For
quite a distance the voyage was accomplished with success,
but after entering the broader current of the Ohio, an un-
lucky mishap served to dissipate the self-congratulation of
the adventurous voyageur. A sudden gust of wind, or the
sidelong punch of a sunken snag, caused the craft to careen,
when the whisky rolled from its position to the side depressed,
and the next instant there was a capsize. Every thing went
under water, and the captain with it, but he clung to the
structure of boards and logs, and shouted for assistance.

His cry fortunately attracted the attention of some men at
work on the bank of the stream. A skiff put off for the
wreck, and, in a few moments, released the skipper from his
uncomfortable dilemma. The flatboat was also righted and
secured, and as much of the cargo saved as was possible. But
except a few carpenter's tools, axes, and some other articles,
with three barrels of whisky, every thing was lost.

Having reloaded his boat with the recovered property, Mr.
Lincoln heartily thanked the generous men for their timely
assistance, and once more proceeded on his voyage. From
the information he had received, he determined to make his
final landing at a place called Thompson's ferry, which was
the nearest point, on the river, to the loqation of his contem-
plated home. He arrived at Thompson's ferry without further
mishap. Here he found a settler named Posey, whom he
hired to guide and convey him eighteen miles, into Spencer
county, giving his boat in payment for the services received.

The district in which he proposed to locate his new home
was very sparsely settled, and the approach to it difiicult^in
the extreme. FOr the last few miles, they were compelled to
hew their way through the unbroken forest, to make a road
by which to proceed. But the determined hardihood of
veteran pioneers quails not befof e obstacles which a swinging
ax and patient "grit" can surmount, and our bold home-
seeker and his assistant toiled steadily forward, sometimes
enabled to drive their team for a long distance through open


glades and natural lanes, and then halting to cut their way-
through dense, apparently interminable, forests. Several days
were employed in accomplishing the distance of eighteen
miles. Mr. Lincoln was heard to say, afterward, that the
hardest experience of his hard, rude life, was his journey from
Thompson's ferry, to Spencer county, Indiana.

Having determined the site of his new home, the pioneer
returned to Kentucky on foot, leaving his goods under the
care of one of his new neighbors in Indiana. Preparations
to remove his family were soon completed, and the emigrants
set forth with three horses, Mis. Lincoln and her daughter
mounted on one, little Abe* on another, and the head of the
family on the third.

A wearisome journey of seven days, through a region
almost wholly uninhabited, making a couch of the earth and
a roof of the sky by night, at length brought them to their
future, residence. An ax was placed in the hands of the boy
— probably for the first time ; a neighbor also assisted, and, in
a few days, a clearing for the site of the cabin was effected.
Soon, under the experienced supervision of Mr. Lincoln, a
comfortable abode, about eighteen feet square, was reared for
the future homestead. It was composed of logs, which were
fastened together in the usual w r ay, by notches, and the crevices
between them " chinked " with billets of wood and mud. A
bed, table, and four stools, were then made of slabs, and the
rude habitation was ready to receive its occupants. The
cabin had only one room, though the slabs laid across the
rough joists overhead'formed a sort of loft between them and
the roof. This loft was allotted to Abe for a bedroom, and
was reached from below by means of a ladder. Here he re-
posed nightly, for years, contentedly and soundly, we have no
doubt. What better fare had he known than this? We
question if a sw T eeter sleep or balmier repose than the future
President of the United States enjoyed, after his long days of
wood-chopping, ever was attained by the most pampered pet
of princely luxury.

Although diligently employed during the ensuing winter,
besides giving attention to the prosecution of his simple
studies, he also was constrained to practice with the rifle, and
became quite a proficient in the use of that important element

death of Abraham's mother. 19

of woodcraft. One day, toward the close of his eighth year,
while his father happened to be absent, a flock of wild tur-
keys approached the cabin, and Abraham, standing inside,
took aim with a rifle through a crevice of the log-house, and
succeeded in killing one of the fowls. This was his first shot
at living game, and, according to his own account, he has
never since pulled a trigger on larger ; but we can imagine,
and participate in, the pride with which he exhibited hs
trophy to his delighted parents. The skill of the riflemen of
that day was very great. The driving in of a sixpenny nail,
at a hundred yards, or the snuffing of a candle, by night, at
fifty, were no uncommon feats of marksmanship. Hence it
was considered important that boys should early learn to
. shoot with accuracy ; and a lad with a natural tact for the
rifle was looked upon as a " rising genius." by the neighboring
settlers. Skill with the fire-arm was, further, to be valued
and desired, inasmuch as, in addition to procuring game for
the larder, furs were in great demand, and many animals
were esteemed on this account. This early culture in the use
of the rifle assisted much in the development of the boy's
physical vigor; manly strength and great power of endurance
have ever since distinguished him. Doubtless much of the
courage, promptness and decision, for which his whole life has
been eminent, came from the school of which the rifle was
master. The hardships and dangers of a hunter's life are
well calculated to call forth and give tangibility to the sterner

In the autumn of 1818, Abraham had the misfortune to lose
his excellent mother. That she was a truly noble woman,
the son's after life attested. From her came his deep and
abiding reverence for holy things^— his profound trust in
Providence, and faith in the triumph of truth. From her he
learned the gentleness and amiability of temper which, in the
lofty station of Chief Magistrate, he displayed so strikingly
during years of most appalling responsibility. From her he
received the spirit of playfulness, and the desire to see others
happy which afterward formed so prominent a trait in his
character. Though uneducated in books, she was wise in the
wisdom of experience and truth, and was to her son a good
mother indeed. He never ceased to mourn her loss, ancj


never mentioned her name, in after years, but with the deepest

One year after the death of his mother, his father espoused
Mrs. Sally Johnston, a widow, with three children of her first
marriage. At the time of her second marriage she was resid-
ing at Elizabethtown, Kentucky. She proved a good mother
to Abraham, and is still residing in Coles county, Illinois.
He soon conceived a filial attachment for her, which ever
afterward continued.

Abraham achieved the art of reading before his own
mother's death ; and it may well be presumed that he did not
permit this key to knowledge to become rusty in his keeping.
He was an inveterate book-worm, as far as materials could be
procured, from the moment of his mastery of the rudiments,
and soon became the subject of remark among the neighbor-
ing settlers for his thoughtful ways and mental industry.
About the time of his father's second marriage, a person by
the name of Crawford, who came into their vicinage, was
induced to open a school, it being understood that he was
familiar at least with reading, writing, and the rudimentary
rules of arithmetic. Our young pioneer, in the pursuit of
learning, was sent to this school when about twelve or thir-
teen years old. Previous to this he had learned to write,
being assisted therein by a young man of the neighborhood,
and chiefly practicing out of doors with a piece of chalk or a
charred stick. In his new school he greatly improved him-
self in the first two branches named, and soon was master of
his teacher's store of arithmetic. His school dress, during the
prosecution of these " higher branches," consisted of buckskin
clothes and a raccoonskin cap. He attended two other

schools successively, kept by one Sweeney, and Azel

W. Dorsey ; but his circumstances were such as to render his
amount of regular schooling exceedingly limited,

Mr. Lincoln afterward remarked that he did not think the
aggregate of his schooling amounted to one year. . He never
attended a college or academy as a student, and never, indeed,
even saw the inside of a college or academy till after he had
won his law license. What he possessed in the way of an
" education " — as generally understood — he obtained by dint
of hard, unaided study.


Probably the most interesting period in the biography of a
great man — be he thinker, statesman or soldier — is this early
stage of life, when the desire for honor is rather a dream-like
or enthusiastic hope than the hungry longing of succeeding
years — when our little taste of the " Pierian % spring" has
grown into a thirst which would drink deeply and forever.
For at this period — at this charming danger of the first
draught — we seem to behold the incentives, the germs, the
incipient dawn, as it were, of those after-deeds which shed
luster upon the world and upon the doer's name. We feel
curious to know what were his first loves in the way of
books, human characters, and the visible objects of the natu-
ral universe. For in these we can look back upon our own
experiences, and find similitude or antithesis, or place them
alongside the similar characteristics of others of the world's
great men with whose histories ^re are familiar.

Our subject took uncommon pride in his early studies, and
his praiseworthy diligence soon won him the esteem of his
masters, while his attainments, limited as they then were, en-
abled him to act as a scribe for the more untutored settlers,
whenever they had letters to be written. He was quicker to
learn than most boys in his circumstances would have been,
and was gifted with, and aided by, a very retentive memory.

Of course, books were his great delight, and the procuring
of a_ sufficient number of them to employ his mind one of his
principal anxieties. His father did much to aid him in his
difficult pursuit, and whenever he heard of any particular
volume which he thought desirable, or for which Abraham
asked, he always endeavored to obtain it for the use of his

" In this way," says Mr. Raymond, " he became acquainted
with Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Esop's Fables* a Life of
Henry Clay,f and Weems' Life of Washington. The ' hatchet '
story of Washington, which has done more to make boys
truthful' than a hundred solemn exhortations, made a strong

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Online LibraryOrville J. (Orville James) VictorThe private and public life of Abraham Lincoln : comprising a full account of his early years, and a succinct record of his career as statesman and president (Volume copy 1) → online text (page 1 of 9)