Notes on Abraham Lincoln’s Military Service

Young Lincoln

Young Lincoln

The year 1832 saw the start of what is known in history as the “Black-Hawk War.”  Black Hawk, age 67, was the leader of the Sauk and Fox tribes. He had crossed over the Mississippi River into Illinois in violation of a treaty that he and his people were to remain west of the river.
Governor Reynolds of Illinios called for 400 thirty- day volunteers from Sangamon County to serve in the state militia. Enter Abraham Lincoln. At the time, he was working in Offutt’s failing store. The time seemed ripe for a change. He and other men from the area, mostly Clary’s Grove boys, signed up. To his surprise, Lincoln was voted captain of the company. He was very pleased but didn’t know a thing about soldiering. He didn’t even know the orders and commands common to soldier life. His first verbal order to his troops resulted in a reply of “Go to hell.”
Lincoln and his men marched a lot, slept on the damp ground, and ate lousy food. They didn’t fight in any battles but they did arrive after the fact of a fight in which they found 12 dead white men bloodied and scalped. Lincoln also got into some other troubles. He was arrested for shooting off a firearm in the camp and was held in custody for a day. At a subsequent court-martial, Lincoln was ordered to carry a wooden sword for 2 days.
Lincoln re-enlisted twice after the first term of service ended. He was a private both times. He still saw no action. He was a soldier and did what soldiers do and have always done-marched, worked on details, survived/endured inclimate weather, and complained. Yet on a much later day and time in his life, Lincoln became teary-eyed when he talked about the common soldier. After he was President, he also commented that nothing in his life up to that point had ever given him as much satisfaction as having been chosen by his peers at that time as their captain.
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One Response to “Notes on Abraham Lincoln’s Military Service”

  1. Bill howard says:

    Evidence of “court martial of Abraham Lincoln?”

    Sounds like a myth.

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