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said a citizen of New Salem to Abraham, “and you ought to be her captain.”
“It will take a man of more experience than I have had to run her up the river," was Abraham's modest answer.
“Well, there's nobody here that understands the business better than you do,” continued the citizen. “ Will you undertake if you are wanted ? ”
"I'll try, and do the best I can,” was Abraham's characteristic reply. “I have tried this river considerably with a flat-boat.”
“ That is what I thought, and for that reason you ought to pilot the Talisman; and I think that is the general opinion.”
“I am willing to undertake it if it is thought best," Abraham added.
The result was that he was sent, with others, to meet the steamer at Beardstown, and pilot her up. There was great excitement over the experiment, and the inhabitants came from far and near to witness the trial from the banks of the river. Abraham took his place at the helm, and piloted her with comparative ease and safety as far as the New Salem dam, the people gathered upon the banks of the river frequently cheering at the top of their voices. Here it was necessary to remove a part of the dam to let the steamer through. She ran up to Bogue's mill, when the rapidly falling water admonished the successful captain that she must be turned down stream or be left there for the season. No time was lost in beginning the return trip, which was accomplished at the slow rate of three or four miles a day, “on account of the high wind from the prairie.” J. R. Herndon was sent for, and he says : “I was sent for, being an old boatman, and I met her some twelve or thirteen miles above
New Salem. ... We got to Salem the second day after I went on board. When we struck the dam she hung. We then backed off, and threw the anchor over the dam, and tore away part of the dam ; then, raising steam, ran her over the first trial. As soon as she was over, the company that chartered her was done with her. I think the captain gave Lincoln forty dollars to run her down to Beardstown. I am sure I got forty dollars to continue on her until we landed at Beardstown. We that went with her walked back to New Salem.”
While Abraham was in the employ of Offutt, the latter made some unprofitable ventures, by reason of which he became pecuniarily embarrassed. His mill enterprise did not prove as successful as he anticipated, and other speculations left him considerably out of pocket. Fortune ceased to smile upon any of his enterprises, and his difficulties multiplied from week to week, until he failed, closed his store, shut down his mill, and left Abraham without employment. It was, however, a period of very great advancement to Abraham. He had acquired much knowledge of mercantile business, had become familiar with grammar, had read many books, made many friends, and improved himself generally. Dr. Holland says that when he terminated his labours for Offutt, "every one trusted him. He was judge, arbitrator, referee, umpire, authority in all disputes, games, and matches of manflesh and horse-flesh; a participator in all quarrels; everybody's friend ; the best-natured, the most sensible, the best-informed, the most modest and unassuming, the kindest, gentlest, roughest, strongest, best young fellow in all New Salem and the region round about.” XVIII.
ON THE WAR-PATH.
THE Black Hawk War was causing great excite
I ment in Illinois and other Western states when Abraham closed his labours with Offutt. Not long afterward the Governor of Illinois called for four regiments of volunteers.
“I shall enlist,” said Abraham to his intimate friend and companion, William Green, as soon as the news reached New Salem.
“ I shall if you do," responded William.
“Well, I shall do it, honest. Nothing else on hand now. Besides, Black Hawk is one of the most treacherous Indians on the footstool, and he ought to be shot. It is not more than a year ago, and hardly that, that he entered into a treaty; and he was to keep his people on the other side of the Mississippi, and now he has crossed to make war on the whites."
“Real Indian, that is," continued William ; "the only way to deal with an Indian is to shoot him.”
" I don't know about that; it's the only way to treat Black Hawk, though,-a cunning, artful warrior, who is in his element when he can massacre the whites," added Abraham.
“They expect to make short work of it, or the governor would have called for volunteers for more than thirty days,” suggested William.
“They may call for them again after the expiration
of thirty days, and the same volunteers may re-enlist. I shall enlist for the war, whether it is thirty days or thirty months.” Abraham meant just what he said, as the sequel will show.
“ Clary Grove Boys” were now the fast friends of Abraham, and all were eager to enlist with him. Other young men, and older men, also, were ready for the war. In consequence of the general interest awakened, Abraham said,
“We can raise a company in New Salem.” “True as you live," answered Herndon.
“We must be about it in a hurry if we are goin' to do it,” remarked Green.
The whole town became fired with military ardour in consequence of Abraham's leadership, and the result was that a recruiting office was opened in New Salem. Within a few days the company was full, Abraham being the first to enlist, and the choice of officers became the exciting topic. However, the officers were not elected at New Salem ; but the volunteers marched to Bushville, in Schuyler County, where the election took place.
There were only two candidates for captain, Abraham and Fitzpatrick, the owner of the saw-mill at Spring Creek. He sawed the lumber for Abraham when he built the boat for Offütt, and treated his customer rudely. Fitzpatrick was a popular man, but there was a small show for him in a race with Abraham.
The method of electing captain was peculiar-perhaps the best method for that place, under the circumstances. The two candidates were required to take their positions opposite each other, at a suitable distance; and, at a given signal, each volunteer went to the one whom he desired for his captain. Three-fourths of the whole number at once took their stand with Abraham; and, when those who first went to Fitzpatrick saw the over
whelming majority for Abraham, one by one they left the former and joined the latter, until but one or two stood with Fitzpatrick.
“I felt bad for Fitzpatrick," said Green ; "he was the most lonesome-looking fellow I ever saw."
"He might have known that we shouldn't vote for him when Abe is about,” remarked Herndon. “He was too anxious to serve his country.” · These, and kindred remarks, were bandied about after the company had indulged in vociferous cheering, that Black Hawk might have heard if he had been within a reasonable distance.
“A speech from the captain," was the imperative call from the company; and Abraham promptly accommodated them to one of his best efforts, in which he thanked them for the honour conferred, maintained that their choice might have fallen upon one much better qualified for the position than himself, and promised that he would do the best he could to prove himself worthy of their confidence.
“ Captain Lincoln !” exclaimed William Green, addressing Abraham facetiously, and tipping his hat; and, henceforth, “Captain Lincoln” was alone the soubriquet by which he was known.
One incident occurred before the organization of this company which should be rehearsed. It illustrates his temperance principles, at the same time that it shows his marvellous strength. Green said to a stranger who happened to be in New Salem,
“Abe Lincoln is the strongest man in Illinois.”
“I deny it,” answered the stranger, immediately naming a stronger party.
“How much can he lift ?” asked Green.
"He'll lift a barrel of flour as easily as I can a peck of potatoes.”