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New Manuscript of Lincoln’s original Second Annual Message to Congress found at National Archives

Message contains some of Lincoln’s most memorable quotations about the Civil War

January 13, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress dated December 1, 1862 contains some of his most memorable quotations about the reason for continuing to fight the Civil War. Now, as the 150th anniversary of that message approaches, the first of two previously missing pages of the document and a complete second copy signed by Lincoln have been found at the National Archives in Washington, DC by researchers with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) in Springfield, Illinois.

The whereabouts of the first two of the 86 pages of Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress had been a mystery for more than a century. Researchers with the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project to identify and publish all documents written or signed by Lincoln or written to him, solved part of that mystery recently during an ongoing search at the National Archives.

The message, written by several clerks, is among Lincoln’s most famous official communications to Congress. It is a forerunner of the modern State of the Union address. Although a Congressional clerk, and not Lincoln himself, read the message to the assembled Senators and Representatives, Lincoln’s words resonate with us today. It closes with the admonition, "Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves…. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation…. We—even we here—hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, this last best, hope of earth…."

Read more: New Manuscript of Lincoln’s original Second Annual Message to Congress found at National Archives

Black Hawk War military documents signed by Abraham Lincoln discovered at National Archives

1832 and 1855 papers relate to Lincoln’s friends and fellow soldiers from central Illinois

November 4, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Previously unknown Black Hawk War documents written and signed by Captain Abraham Lincoln while on duty in 1832, and an affidavit signed by Lincoln in 1855, have recently been discovered at the National Archives in Washington, DC and their authenticity confirmed by researchers at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) in Springfield, Illinois.

“Few documents survive that detail Abraham Lincoln’s service as a Company Captain in the 4th Illinois Mounted Volunteers in the 1832 frontier disturbances collectively known as the Black Hawk War,” said Daniel Stowell, editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln at the ALPLM. “As Veterans Day approaches, this discovery reminds us that many U.S. presidents, including Lincoln, answered their country’s call to duty long before becoming Chief Executive, and that service had a formative effect on their future careers. Lincoln always said he was more gratified by being elected an officer by his men than any position he held afterwards.”

Private researcher Anne Musella recently brought a previously discovered Certificate of Discharge signed by Lincoln to the attention of Papers of Abraham Lincoln staff who are working at the National Archives Building in downtown Washington. That led Assistant Editor David Gerleman to delve further into the Bounty Land Warrant files at the National Archives where he found two more Certificates of Discharge written and signed by Lincoln. Together with other documents previously discovered, it appears that Lincoln, like other officers, filled out and signed dozens of these Certificates of Discharge. Given to soldiers as they mustered out to return home, the veterans later submitted these documents as proof of service when they claimed
the bounty lands allotted to them by Congress. The certificates located at the National Archives more than double the number of surviving discharge certificates written and signed by Captain Abraham Lincoln, and likely others still await discovery.

Read more: Black Hawk War military documents signed by Abraham Lincoln discovered at National Archives

Lincoln really did speak here

New research confirms Toulon’s and Kewanee’s Abraham Lincoln history

July 19, 2011

KEWANEE – Local and state historians have confirmed through new research that Abraham Lincoln spoke in Kewanee during the 1858 U.S. Senate campaign, and have placed a new date on a speech he made in nearby Toulon. The findings are the result of a collaboration between the Stark County Historical Society; the Kewanee Historical Society; and The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

The chief piece of evidence for both new findings was an original letter written by Lincoln on October 18, 1858 where he admits he has forgotten the name of the town in which he is to speak. The letter was written to prominent Toulon attorney and State Senator Thomas J. Henderson, who invited Lincoln to speak in Toulon and gave him a ride from the railroad station in Kewanee. Historians have known about the letter for many years, but its obscure references had been misinterpreted.

“Until now, no official historical sources that tracked Lincoln’s whereabouts in 1858 had him speaking in Kewanee,” said Daniel Stowell, editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln. “And we have also learned that the 99-year-old monument that memorializes Lincoln’s 1858 speech in Toulon has him visiting that town on the wrong date.”

Read more: Lincoln really did speak here

Newly discovered Lincoln document traveled with Donner Party to California

July 19, 2010

SACRAMENTO, CA – In one of the more unusual discoveries in recent years, researchers in Illinois, Utah, and California have confirmed that an original Abraham Lincoln document from the 1830s was carried by one of Lincoln’s military buddies on the ill-fated Donner Party expedition to California in the 1840s. That document, an 1832 list of the men in a company of Illinois volunteers during the Black Hawk War, is located in the California State Library in Sacramento, where experts recently determined it contains Lincoln’s original handwriting.

“We often find documents that detail fascinating stories about Abraham Lincoln’s life and times, but it is rare indeed for the document to have such an intriguing history after it was written,” said Daniel W. Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln. “That these documents detail part of Lincoln’s military service and that they accompanied the Donner Party to California makes them doubly significant.”

“Our interest in James Reed’s papers centers on the horrific ordeal of the Donner Party,” observed Gary Kurutz, the head of Special Collections at the California State Library in Sacramento, “but it is fascinating to learn of his pre-California life, the Black Hawk War, and his association not only with a future president but also with the other fascinating personalities recorded on the muster roll, including noted Western explorer and mountain main James Clyman.”

Read more: Newly discovered Lincoln document traveled with Donner Party to California

Pieces of earliest known Lincoln document reunited

Two halves of teenage Lincoln’s homework in Chicago and Providence electronically joined after 145 years of separation

April, 14, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The dog didn‟t eat it, but until now it was a mystery what had happened to a page of Abraham Lincoln‟s homework as a teenager in the 1820s, a part of the oldest known original Lincoln document.

Researchers with the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, have identified and electronically matched two pieces of a page from Lincoln's arithmetic copybook, one piece at the University of Chicago and the other at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

“The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is delighted to have been able to reunite these two fragments from a page of Lincoln‟s homework as a teenager,” said Daniel W. Stowell, Editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln. “Although the two original fragments are in repositories nearly 1,000 miles apart, the Papers of Abraham Lincoln has reunited them digitally into a single page.”

Read more: Pieces of earliest known Lincoln document reunited

On Lincoln's Mind

On Lincoln's Mind Cover