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THE INDIAN WAR.
THE INDIAN WAR.
N 1831, while Abraham Lincoln was employed as a clerk, rumors of trouble with
the Indians became prevalent throughout the Western States. In pursuance of a treaty made with them in 1825, they had retired from Illinois to the west of the Mississippi. The territory now included in the beautiful States of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and inhabited by a population second to none in the world in enterprise, intelligence, and patriotism, was then the country of warlike and powerful savage tribes. The Sacs and Foxes, Kickapoos, and Pottawatamies, in Iowa, and the Winnebagoes, Ottawas, and Chippewas in what is now Wisconsin and Minnesota, were as numerous as their kindred ever were in Kentucky or Ohio. It is astonishing to reflect that in one brief generation, thirty-five years only, they have so nearly disappeared and become extinct. But so it is ordained of Providence. Man may so degrade limself that the influences of civilization and light, which to others are elevating, will be to him harbingers of swift destruction. So it is with the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, our Savior—to some a message of joy and endless progression in happiness, to others a savor of death.
The famous Tecumseh and Black Hawk, old chiefs of the Sacs, resolved to violate the treaty and invade Illinois. This they did in the spring of 1831; but on the approach of a few hundred troops, under Gen. Gaines, retired to their own territory. In 1832 they again crossed the river, and Gov. Reynolds, of Illinois, called for volunteers to repel them, and Abraham, then twentythree years old, instantly responded, and, borrowing a buck-rifle, repaired to the rendezvous at Salem. His friends and neighbors-among whom, and most zealous for him of all, was his friend of the smart-weed combat-proposed him for captain. A well-to-do and somewhat selfimportant man, named Kirkpatrick, for whom Abe had labored as a farın-hand, was seeking and expecting the commission. An election was held, and Abe beat his former employer by a vote nearly unanimous.
THE BLACK HAWK WAR.
The forces then assembled at Bardstown, and from thence marched to the field of operations. The wily savages refused to give battle, divided their forces into marauding bands, and scattered over the country. The volunteers became discouraged with the dull and futile toil of marching here and there in pursuit of the swift-footed redskins, and when the Indians, finding retreat across the river necessary to avoid battle, left the soil of Illinois, the volunteers refused to follow, and disbanded. The Governor at once called for volunteers from the disorganizing troops, and again Abe stepped forward. But before these new organizations could be perfected and brought into the field, Black Hawk and nearly all his warriors were defeated and captured at the battle of Bad Ax, on the Wisconsin River.
The “ veterans of the Black Hawk war returned home a few days before the fall elections in 1832, and immediately placed their captain in nomination for the Legislature. Abe was little known, except in Salem and the immediate vicinity, and the short time intervening between their return and the election-day prevented any efforts at canvassing the county, but in Salem he beat his opponent nearly two to one.
Soon after, a man named Redford, who had a store in Salem, sold out to a Mr. William G. Greene, who was well acquainted with young Lincoln. Greene proposed to Lincoln and another young man named Berry to take the store off his hands. The copartnership was formed, and Greene became their security to Redford. But Berry proved to be dissolute and dishonest, and the firm of Lincoln and Berry became bankrupt. Lincoln assumed the debt, and set to work to pay it out of his earnings, and at the end of six years had paid the last cent, principal and interest.
During the fall following, while Abe was employed in gathering corn, chopping and hauling wood for the winter, and similar labors, he received the appointment of postmaster from President Jackson. Postage was then high, mails few, and came but twice a week, correspondence meager, and the profits of such a position very small. He could not remain in an office, and so carried the letters in his hat! It was somewhat comical to go in quest of the perambulating “post-office," and to find it one day in a cornfield, and the next at a shingle-tree in the woods, but so the literary people of Sangamon were
A PERIPATETIC POSTMASTER.
compelled to do. When a letter, by frequent contact with the dusky pate upon which the “United States mail” rested, became worn and greasy, the postmaster posted it off to the deadletter office, with the evidences of its age patent upon its surface. The office was discontinued, and no one appeared to take charge of the proceeds, until many years afterward, when Lincoln was engaged in a thriving and successful practice at law. An agent then called on him and presented the claim. Lincoln read it over with an embarrassed look; and some friends who sat by, supposing he had not the money to pay, drew out their wallets to assist him. He thanked them, and said he had almost forgotten what he had done with that money. But going to an old trunk in a corner of the office, full of old papers, pleas, and other office rubbish, he dug down to the bottom, exhumed a lot of silver coin, tied up in a faded piece of calico, laid it upon the table, and counted out the exact sum which the agent's claim demanded—not a copper more nor less did the rag contain. In all those years of privation, penury, and toil, he had not used a cent—even for a brief period—of the money belonging to the Department.