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Lincoln Quiz

How did Lincoln bring fame to Beardstown, Illinois?

Long before the celebrated "Beardstown Ladies" captured our attention, Lincoln put this river town on the map, so to speak, when he tried a murder case two years before he was elected president.

Beardstown lies about 45 miles northwest of Springfield, in the heart of Illinois farm country. As you approach the intersection of routes 67 and 100 southeast of the Illinois River, you'll see a handsome sign which proclaims Beardstown as the home of Lincoln's famous "Almanac Trial."

Lincoln's association with the town went back to August 1832, 12 years after its settlement. He was living in New Salem (almost 20 miles from Springfield) and had piloted a Texas-bound family and their household goods on a raft down the Sangamon River to Beardstown.

The next April he volunteered to serve in the Black Hawk War and marched from New Salem to Beardstown, where he was elected captain of his company. After his military service, he traveled to Beardstown to pick up supplies for his store. When he became a lawyer he tried cases in the town courthouse.

The "Almanac Trial" courthouse was built in 1844 and served Cass County for nearly 30 years before the county seat moved. Actually, the town of Virginia stole it. The original building still stands on the Beardstown town square -- you can trot up to the second floor to see the courtroom where Lincoln defended William ("Duff") Armstrong.

On the wall you'll see a copy of a Lincoln ambrotype taken on May 7, 1858, the day he won the case. After the acquittal, 18-year-old Abraham Byers stopped him in the street and asked him to pose in his studio. Lincoln protested that his rumpled white linen suit was not fit for a portrait, but the younger Abraham prevailed.

The acquittal represented a personal and professional triumph for Lincoln, who once rocked the cradle of the defendant in New Salem. Lincoln took over the defense after a change of venue from Mason to Cass County.

The trial resulted from a nighttime brawl, and the resourceful Lincoln produced an 1857 almanac, the year the incident occurred, to show that the state's witness could not have seen Armstrong kill the victim because there was no moonlight at the time. He would have seen Armstrong from a long distance -- impossible without full moonlight. Lincoln also produced a witness who helped achieve the acquittal.

Other Quizzes

  • What happened when filmmaker Ken Burns covered the Lincoln assassination?
  • What event happened on May 26, 1854, which re-awakened Lincoln's interest in politics?
  • By what route was Lincoln's body returned to his hometown?
  • Which speech did Lincoln say would "wear as well as--perhaps better than--any thing I have produced"?
  • Which Lincoln relative died on January 17, 1851?
  • How did Lincoln spend Christmas week as President and President-elect?
  • Which impact did Lincoln's election have on his professional life?
  • Which friend of Lincoln was killed on October 21, 1861?
  • Which two things would Lincoln not want you to know?
  • How did Lincoln spend the Fourth of July?
  • What was Lincoln's postal job like?
  • What happened the morning of February 11, 1861?
  • What happened behind the scenes with Lincoln's First Inaugural Address?

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