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 Sketch of New Salem In July of 1831

Sketch of New Salem in July of 1831

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.

Permission: Northern Illinois University.
©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project