Abraham Lincoln arrived in the village
of New Salem, Illinois. The local entrepreneur Denton Offutt had promised
the young man a position as manager of a general store. Founded only
two years earlier, New Salem's blacksmith shop, general stores, and
mills served the surrounding rural areas in addition to about one hundred
residents. Despite Lincoln's management, Offutt proved to be an unreliable
businessman, and the store soon failed. Out of work, the young man enlisted
in the Illinois State Militia in time to serve in the Black Hawk War.
There the men of his company elected him Captain, and honor that Lincoln
cherished for the rest of his life. But Lincoln and his men saw no action.
He later recalled that he "had a good many bloody struggles with the
musquetoes; and, although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can
truly say I was often very hungry." Upon returning from the Black Hawk
War, Lincoln entered into a partnership with William F. Berry, who had
been a corporal in his company during the Black Hawk War. They purchased
another of New Salem's general stores, which is visible in this sketch,
across the street from the village hotel. But the business soon failed
in a community isolated from the growing market economy. Although New
Salem was located on the Sangamon River, the stream did not provide
a deep enough channel to accommodate the steamboats that served as the
period's principal vehicles of commerce. New Salem would soon wither
and die, and Lincoln would move on to Springfield.