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Scene from the Black Hawk War - Lincoln Defends the Aged Warrior

This latter-day artist's vision of a scene from the Black Hawk War depicts Abraham Lincoln's defense of an aged warrior who found his way into an Illinois militia camp. Many scholars believe that Lincoln, who had been elected an officer by the men of his militia company, prevented them from killing this unfortunate Native American. Many militia recruits hoped to kill an Indian in the Black Hawk War, but had little idea what real fighting entailed. When a lone Native American entered their camp, many of Lincoln's men leaped to their feet, eager to take the opportunity to fulfill their goal. But Lincoln, who had become the camp's champion wrestler as the men whiled away the endless hours of military life, informed his men that in order to harm the Indian, they would have to defeat him first. This story has become a staple of the oral tradition that grew up around Abraham Lincoln's early life, so ably documented by his Springfield law partner William H. Herndon and recently edited and published as Herndon's Informants by Rodney Davis and Douglas Wilson of the Knox College Lincoln Studies Center.

©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project