More from Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg

In the Preface of the book Abraham Lincoln The Prairie Years and The War Years: The Illustrated Edition, Carl Sandburg’s comments written in 1954 from Flat Rock, North Carolina are featured. He gives some interesting autobiographical history:

“As a growing boy in an Illinois prairie town I saw marching men who had fought under Grant and Sherman. I listened to stories of old-timers who had known Abraham Lincoln. At twenty in 1898 I served in the 6th Illinois Volunteers, our expedition to Porto Rico being commanded by General Nelson A. Miles, a brigadier general in some of the bloodiest battles of the Army of the Potomac in 1864. Our uniforms were the same light blue trousers and dark blue jackets with brass buttons as worn by the troops of the Army of the Potomac. We took swims in the Potomac River and had our first salt water swim in Charleston Harbor in sight of Fort Sumter.”


One can imagine that Sandburg’s early years had a powerful influence on his thinking about the Civil War, and, in particular, Abraham Lincoln. To wear the same type uniform as those Union veterans, to talk to them of the battles they served in, to hear what aquaintances of Lincoln had to share, to actually be physically present at some of the battle sights, and to spend one’s youth living on the same prairies of Illinois that earlier had been trod by Lincoln, had to have laid a firm foundation for the life-long love that Sandburg would develop and nurture for Abraham Lincoln.

At the end of the Preface, Sandburg closes out the section with a quote from 1909 by then Brazilian Ambassador Joaquin Nabuco that I think still apply today:   

“With increased velocity of modern changes, we do not know what the world will be a hundred years hence. For sure, the ideals of the generation of the year 2000 will not be the same of the generation of the year 1900. Nations will then be governed by currents of political thought which we can no more anticipate than the seventeenth century could anticipate the political currents of the eighteenth, which still in part sway us. But whether the spirit of authority, or that of freedom, increases, Lincoln’s legend will ever appear more luminous in the amalgamation of centuries, because he supremely incarnated both those spirits.”

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