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Is that you, Mr. Lincoln?

Grant will help nationally renowned project use new computer technology to identify early, anonymous Lincoln writings

May 2, 2012

SPRINGFIELD – “With malice toward none, with charity for all” apparently did not count when Abraham Lincoln wrote scathing, anonymous articles for newspapers during his days as an Illinois legislator. Now, a grant will help a nationally renowned project use new computer technology to identify those early, anonymous Lincoln writings that so far have been difficult to link to the future president.

The Office of Digital Humanities of the National Endowment for the Humanities has provided a $50,000 grant to the Papers of Abraham Lincoln to apply sophisticated computer techniques to questions about Lincoln’s early political writings. The project will work with Dr. Patrick Juola, professor of computer science at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to use his stylometric computer programs to authenticate early Lincoln writings in the Sangamo Journal during the years he served in the Illinois legislature (1834-1842).

“This project has the potential to expand substantially our knowledge of a previously little-known part of Lincoln’s life—the letters and editorials he wrote for the newspaper either anonymously or under a pseudonym,” said Daniel W. Stowell, Director and Editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln.

Read more: Is that you, Mr. Lincoln?

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln illuminates Lincoln’s America

Staff members publish new works about Lincoln’s law practice and Civil War music

March 9, 2012

SPRINGFIELD – Researchers with The Papers of Abraham Lincoln have recently published books that shed new light on the Lincoln-era judicial system and the music that inspired the nation during the Civil War.

Stacy Pratt McDermott’s new book, The Jury in Lincoln’s America, demonstrates how central the law was for people who lived in Abraham Lincoln’s America. McDermott draws from a rich collection of legal records, docket books, county histories, and surviving newspapers to reveal the enormous power jurors wielded over the litigants and the character of their communities. According to the 1860 census, Springfield and Sangamon County, Illinois comprised an ethnically and racially diverse population of settlers from northern and southern states, representing both urban and rural mid-nineteenth-century America. It was in these counties that Lincoln developed his law practice, handling more than 5,200 cases in a legal career that spanned nearly 25 years. McDermott is the Assistant Director and Associate Editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln and the coeditor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases and The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln.

Christian McWhirter’s Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War analyzes the many ways music influenced both blacks and whites, and North and South, during the years surrounding the Civil War. Music was everywhere during the Civil War. Tunes could be heard ringing out from parlor pianos, thundering at political rallies, and setting the rhythms of military and domestic life. With literacy still limited, music was an important vehicle for communicating ideas about the war, and it had a lasting impact in the decades that followed. McWhirter gauges the popularity of the most prominent songs and examines how Americans, including Lincoln, used them, and returns music to its central place in American life during the nation's greatest crisis. McWhirter is an Assistant Editor with The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, working at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Read more: The Papers of Abraham Lincoln illuminates Lincoln’s America

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

On Lincoln's Mind

On Lincoln's Mind Cover