tv Abraham Lincolns Indiana Childhood CSPAN November 12, 2016 8:53pm-10:01pm EST
next, a history professor at indiana's anderson university talks about his forthcoming book "lincoln in indiana." he talks about how his formative years influenced lincoln's decision to practice law and seek the presidency. it is just over one hour. our speaker is dr. brian dirck, who is a professor at anderson university in anderson, indiana. yet several books about abraham and can, including his first book which was a comparison of abraham lincoln and jefferson davis. he also wrote "lincoln the lawyer," which probably everyone in this room has read.
he wrote "lincoln and the constitution," and "lincoln and america.". he will be talking about his newest book, "lincoln in indiana." that is where lincoln spent his formative years. us howoing to tell important that was to lincoln's life. please welcome dr. brian dirck. [applause] is my powerpoint -- oh. it is good to go. try -- nothing is happening. hold on a second. back.you for inviting me this is actually my third visit
to the lincoln group. i have very fond memories of you guys. i don't know if any of you were here the first time i was here way back, i want to say in the year 2000. was a freshly minted professor at my university with my first book humming out and you guys were my very first book talk, and i was petrified. [laughter] prof. dirck: i was literally like, oh my god. but you guys were sweet and i enjoyed the experience. i came back about three or four years ago. it is wonderful to come back and wonderful to be with this awesome facility, it is a beautiful museum. this is what would've looked like in 1865, it is amazing stuff. my new book is coming out in february, that makes sense with lincoln's birthday.
it is called "lincoln in indiana." i think sometimes, anyone who writes a new book on lincoln has to immediately explain why they think there needs to be another book on abraham lincoln your -- abraham lincoln. [laughter] prof. dirck: there are something like 15,000 lincoln books in existence, which does not mean there are 15,000 good books, but there are quite a few. as you move more and more through the stack, you feel like you need to spend some time explaining why you did this. topic -- thear indiana lincoln is almost like the neglected stepchild of lincoln scholarship. lincolnwhen the bicentennial was getting into
high gear, i remember going into meetings at the lincoln boy home in indiana and what they were going to do, and what kentucky was going to do, and of course we have the 400 pound gorilla in the room, illinois, which has everything. it felt like you had to justify eating involved, as if this were involved,fy getting as if it were a "me too, me too." the years lincoln spent in indiana were years that were terribly important. i will make a case for that tonight. there are some years that are a little obscure. , ase are the years in which david pointed out, he went from childhood to early youth.
he's came that she came to indiana at age seven and left when he was 21. for the most part, lincoln is unremarkable. he is not famous or winning wars yet, he is not freeing slaves yet, he is a young man growing up in difficult circumstances in the indiana frontier. that makes the topic of little harder to get out, and not as romantic, maybe, as the grand story we tell about abraham lincoln. i want to go through his story tonight. some of this will be familiar, perhaps some will not be familiar about what exactly his life was like in indiana. i make it case as to why this really matters. before we get further into this -- how about i turn it that way.
usually, and i should apologize -- historians don't like to talk about sources when we do this type of thing. , we don'tbook talk want to show you how the sausage got made, we just want to show you that we put forth a good story. but i want to explain you the difficulties of getting into this time. -- into this time peering, largely because i used a fair number of what my oldest pfizer calld advisor used to "weasel words." them weasel words, probably, may be.
if i have my fair share of these words, i have to explain why this is. is typical of what you see of how abraham lincoln's life has been portrayed in popular media, the young man growing up as a wood splitter on the frontier. it is a must of content -- cartoon image. lot of useful, primary sources. lincoln himself rarely spoke of his indiana years. it is a pretty unusual thing for him to even talk about, what his life was like in indiana. i think that tells you something right there. we will get to that later in the presentation.
he only really spoke at length about his life in indiana in his two autobiographies. was -- he provided this to the journalists to provide meat for his campaign for presidency. i am flattering the case. we are about 3-4 pages at most. very brief documents in which he laid out his life. these are the only documents we have for he says anything much about indiana, and even then he doesn't say a whole lot. after that, there is a smattering of things here and there. he did not want to talk about these years. if we were stuck with that, we will be having a very short conversation this evening. i could not have written this book and we would know next to nothing. , that isr that man
william. at thehim and i hate him same time. partner inoln's law springfield for over 20 years. why am i bringing him up? after abraham lincoln dies, billy, who was kind of a pessimistic sort, was growing angry about the already growing ,yth of the great man lincoln and was preparing to write his own true story of lincoln in a biography. billy has his heart in the right place. get information, which was rare at the time. war, he right after the
begin the project of compiling eyewitness accounts of people who knew lincoln back in the day . he put an extraordinary amount of work into this. he and his assistant scour indiana and kentucky, finding people who knew abraham lincoln and getting their memories of knowing abraham lincoln growing up. of what islection usually called "the reminiscences" by lincoln scholars, have a lot of information about abraham lincoln's early life. when i wrote my book, that was about 75% of my data. you want to throw your arms
around billy and had him for doing that, because of he had not done this, this would have been lost. he provided us with almost the sole source on abraham lincoln's stepmother, he went and interviewed her when she was elderly. he talked to people who knew him as a little boy, and it is an awesome collection. i can see a couple of you guys knotting, but on the other hand -- nodding, but on the other hand. think about what he is doing. these are people in their 50's, 60's, in some cases in their 70's, to remember things that happened 30-50 years ago. i don't know about you, but i have a hard time remembering what i have for lunch last week. [laughter] prof. dirck: you have these old people trying to remember what happened back then, and of course they get names mixed up
and dates mixed up, they contradict each other, they contradict the things that we know from other sources did not actually happen, that kind of thing. also think about the people he is discussing. we talking about usually very ordinary people. farmers in indiana, people who had really no claim to fame but now they have their 15 minutes. yep somebody coming into their theyay in 1865 asking if knew abraham lincoln back in the day. the temptation must have been overwhelming. yes, i saw that kid working in the cornfield when he was 13 years old and i knew he was going to be president someday. reads everyta claus letter. you can tell that they so
desperately want to hang on to the coattails of the great man. i am not knocking them, i would be the same way. you just want to be in on it. and then you have billy himself. he had opinions and they were strongly held. he has strongly held opinions about lincoln's character, his religious views, about whether or not lincoln was a true abolitionist and things like that. these things will color how he goes about gathering these interviews, and the problem is that in most cases, all we have are the documents, the notes he wrote down -- he did not write down what he is asking. we don't know how he is asking the questions. everybody is biased, everybody has a point of view.
if, for example, i don't know if this is true, but for example, if he thinks lincoln's religio exaggerated, he might ask, do you think lincoln was really that religious? i don't know if he did that, but we don't know how he is covering the answers he is getting. historian,gine, as a sifting through all of this stuff. more than once i would go, what? i don't know what to do with this. is it true? is it sort of true? do i wanted to be true? that is what i have to be careful about because i want to write a good story. i have my own biases and i have
to be sure i am not cherry picking stuff. i am kind of showing you how the sausage is being made, but i want to be honest. this is a difficult. ina difficult period lincoln's life. let's get into the actual story. abraham lincoln -- still having a problem. go.r ego -- there we he rides in indiana in 1818. we don't know the exact time, but we are right on the bicentennial. thing -- it isg 1816. he crosses the ohio river. i think the generic photograph of a ferry, that is to give
you an idea. father, his older sister is sarah, and his cousin is dennis hanks. you will hear more about dennis, he is an important source. we have to rely on him for much of the information that we have. a leave kentucky. why did they leave kentucky? there is a story right there. why does thomas lincoln moved his family from where lincoln was born, why do they go to indiana? hard to say, but there are a couple of explanations. lincoln himself in one of his autobiographies says, we left kentucky partly on account of slavery but also because of defective land titles.
and over the years, people have done various things without. people want to look backward and say, here is the great unemancipated, his dad was in abolitionist and he got that influence. there is really no evidence of that. we have no idea what his father thought about slavery. we lincoln himself saying it had to do something with slavery but we should not read too much into that. the other half of the equation is just as valid. kentucky did a terrible job of keeping track of land titles. the ohio river is the breakpoint between the northwest ordinance and the southeast ordinance, which does things in a completely different fashion. the northwest breaks this into , it was agrids brilliant thing the founding fathers did. they did not do this for
kentucky and nobody knows where the lines are, it is a hot mess. is leavingoln kentucky because he is afraid he will lose his land. he thinks he will look up and one of the days he will not have anything. , when you old advisor talk about history, you use the "or." d, not the word role,y may have played a but it may simply be that thomas lincoln feared that if he lost his farm, he could not compete with slave labor. thomas did attend to baptist churches in kentucky that had anti-slavery ministers. they could've had an effect on him, we really don't know.
at the same time, we have the land title issue. a thing -- they seem to work together on lincoln's father. this is very common. indiana is generally settled south to north. there are a lot of farmers in the same boat looking to indiana, a relatively newer area, to recoup their fortunes. he is part of a larger wave. they're all going that way. land prices in indiana are cheaper than kentucky. the land is not quite as good, but the land prices are cheaper largely because indiana is such a difficult place to start a farm because of the backwoods and wilderness and difficulty in clearing it out. you can get land cheaper. this is why thomas packs up his family. dennis comes with them.
he goes back and forth between the various lincoln relatives. back,s with them, he goes he comes back again. --goes to a place some here somewhere writing here. right in here. we are not exactly sure where they crossed the ohio river. spot on the a southern shore of the ohio river. if you want to get a mental picture in your head, it is probably a little later than this time of year now, late november, it is getting colder, some frost on the leaves, probably the trees have started to turn in everyone is bundled up in coats. it is a difficult time to do this but they did it.
were not alone, we think that as many as six other families were waiting to cross the ohio river using a ferry in this area. they're part of a larger migration. thomas had been to indiana at least one previous time, maybe more. he scouted the area out. county,over to spencer seems to think this is a good place, goes back and gets his family. from what we can tell, they don't have much. they don't have any auxin yet -- oxen yet. they have some horses and a cow. they have not much stuff. they crossed the river and spend an entire day just packing -- hacking a road through the brush
to get to where thomas wants to go. that is how wild the area is. you and i probably have a hard time even imagining how remote this is. it is a very heavily wooded place. indiana is famous for having had underbrush and it had to be difficult work. they hacked a road out near little pigeon creek. i imagine, we don't know for sure, that we think they ended up here because there was a pretty good spring. you need water. there was a source of fresh water nearby. they begin to settle down. remember, winter is coming. you can't plant anything, they are way past that. thomas can make some fairly sketchy decisions on occasion,
and it probably would've been better to move at a different time, but winter is coming. they have to get something built quickly. to, itild a little lean is basically to walls -- two walls and a roof. what a family living in would basically be a cheap pup tent. they build a second cabin that is a little larger. a hack that one out of the woods about 2-3 days later and it is so small that adults cannot stand in it. they have told, get the people inside. they didn't bring much in the way of resources with them. dennis later said, all we did
was hunt when we were not working on the cabin. there was a lot of game in the area. they were constantly shooting game. young lincoln one day spotted a flock of wild turkeys flying near the camp, and he is so little -- his dad and dennis are off somewhere. , heuns back to his mom cannot load the gun himself so his mom loads gun and he shoots a turkey and dennis later comically put it that he accidentally killed one. time,as the last according to lincoln, that he pulled the trigger on big game. that was the first and last time he killed anything. this is living on the edge. edgeare teetering on the
until they can get established. now -- there we go. what about his family? thomas lincoln on the left, the only known photograph of him. this is his father. i love these old photographs. they give you a feel sometimes for the way people are. he looks a little flinty, tough. there is reason for that. background,a little thomas lincoln lived a tough life. -- hisborn into a family grandfather, abraham, was not a poor man. he had over 5000 acres on various plots of land mostly of virginia. it prettyeen mining -- they have been
migrating pretty steadily westward. captain abraham lincoln had amassed about 5000 acres. if things had gone the way i'm sure the captain had planned, thomas's life would've been different. they weren't wealthy, but they were not doing badly. but then everything goes bad one afternoon when they were on their farm, this was right on the edge between kentucky and virginia. it was originally part of virginia. there were problems with the shawnee indians. thomasaptain abraham and and his brother mordecai are building a fence, a shawnee indian warrior draws a bead on
captain abraham and shoots him dead right in front of thomas. very nearly kidnaps thomas. thomas was only about six or seven years old. the warrior grabs the little boy and has him under his arms and his calling -- and is hauling him off. his older brother was running into the cabin, their mother bathsheba hits in the gun, he later said the shawnee warrior had a trinket on his chest, and he used it as a marker and shot him dead. mordecai hated indians the rest of his life for killing his dad. abraham lincoln tell stories about uncle mordecai and how he was a difficult man when it came to indians. he killed a couple of them something because they were indians because he was mad about his father getting shot.
things go south for thomas and hurry. land toabraham left the work i -- to mordecai. thomas didn't get anything. bathsheba is a single mom in this time. and that is not good. you have a difficult time writing about that. his mother moves them further west into kentucky. abraham lincoln later said that she was an impoverished widow. thomas never got any education, he never got any real help. she was barely able to keep things together. why mordecai did not step in, i don't know. thomas grip in difficult circumstances as a day laborer. he learned carpentry skills and
eked out a living. this is nancy hanks lincoln. we don't know what she really looked like, this was a painting to give us a general idea of what she would've looked like back in the day. nancy's background is even more difficult than thomas'. you will find this one interesting, and you might even think i am making this up. that book, i speculate nancy was illegitimate. the reason i wrote that in my in life, abraham lincoln was having a conversation about -- with billy heard, and abraham lincoln told him that his mother was illegitimate. billy's memory could be faulty. half the biographies you pick up
will say she was illegitimate and the other half will say there is nothing to that. it is hard to say, but here is something very interesting. run here, i can look at about 3:00 this afternoon and there was an e-mail waiting for me from a gentleman, i did even know they were doing this, he is part of a group trying to use dna evidence to establish once or for all --ther nancy hanks was it was illegitimate. he pointed me to a website. they have apparently established without a shadow of a doubt that she was a legitimate. i found this out for hours ago. isn't history beautiful? i think it is pretty clear now that she was illegitimate. lincoln believed that she was
the daughter of a woman also named nancy hanks and an unknown wealthy virginia man. this dna project believes she was the daughter of nancy's e.ster, ann trying to keep track of the hanks family, it is nearly impossible. a -- really difficult to untangle all of the stuff. they had a lot of illegitimate children, and the illegitimate children would live with ann's and uncles and friends, and it extended the kinship network. the point is, nancy comes from a difficult background. interestingly enough, she seems to have been somewhat literate. she was apparently at least able to read and write a little,
probably more than her husband. when she was living in elizabethtown with a family called the sparrows, we will get with them later. she was a seamstress and a general laborer. at some point they fall in love, we know nothing about their courtship and nothing about their relationship. there is no documentation hardly at all. dennis later said that she was a kind, intelligent, somewhat meek woman who tolerated a lot in life and would never go against her husband under any circumstances. we don't know if that is the truth, but that is what we can see. ,braham lincoln's sister, sarah i don't even have a painting to work with for her. we don't know much about what she looks like. she favored her father in being a bit more heavyset.
we know that she was a kind girl that everyone had a high opinion of, and she had a good character . i don't know what to do with that, that is all we have. at any rate, they settle down in the area around engine creek. -- pigeon creek. this is a modern-day greek creation of the cabin we believe they lived in. 1.5 years later, thomas decided they needed a bigger cabin and they built one that had something of a loft where the boys would sleep. is bigger than what they had. this is what we think it might have looked like, this is at the lincoln boyhood home in indiana. if you get through there, check this out.
they settled on this farm. we don't know a lot about what they grew, i have to kind of extrapolate by looking at what typical indiana farmers were. -- grew. they grew a little of everything. grew know that thomas several acres of tobacco that he himself smoked. he also grew some flax, back before it was cool with vegans, it was used to make clothing. they grew a little of everything. space,owly cleared out a very difficult work. if you actually go look at what it is like to do this kind of work -- i can't relate to the stuff. i am a modern person. can you imagine? stumpng a week to get a
out of the ground? work -- hard, breaking back breaking work. and while he was doing all of this work, we know that abraham lincoln did not like it very much. he never cared for manual labor. we don't have anything from back then, but later on he would say this himself. he seems to have had a good relationship with his mom. we know next to nothing on that. that is probably because tragedy strikes. i will get to that in a minute. we do know that abraham lincoln have a difficult relationship with his father. i don't think this is a small matter. i don't want to psychoanalyze him, this isn't "dr. phil." but i do believe that his father
contributed to many of lincoln's personality traits. again, this is why these years matter. those who went to springfield will recognize this. the museum has constructed a pretty impressive reproduction of the cabin, and what we think lincoln would have looked like at 12 or 13. they got csi crime scene investigator types and they used their scientific technology to extrapolate backwards. this is probably as close as we will get to knowing what he looked like at the time. i love this because he has a book in his hand. thomas lincoln was not against his son reading. there are some autobiographies that claim that, that he would knock the books out of his hand,
, going afterure it. thomas lincoln is a developed christian. here's his kid over here making fun of the minister. that does not end well. a couple people said thomas came over and kind of smacked him. you know, stop doing that. abraham lincoln, we think he's funny but thomas lincoln does think so. his part, in this, as a human abraham lincoln is ashamed of his dad. this is clear if you look at the writings. he said thomas could do little more than bogglingly find his own name. he is ashamed of a step. he cannot read or write.
lincoln's hunting, hates hunting. thomas loves hunting. thomas and abraham lincoln just don't get along. as they getorse older. the relation between abraham and his mother is different. this is about two years after indiana, tragedy strikes. good and lincoln is a very neighbor. helps everybody out. everybody agrees on this. it is not a myth. she is awesome to have as a neighbor, she would help you everything. after they moved into the big
cabin, guess what happened was thomas and nancy sent word back to kentucky, hey guys come on up place. have the big the sparrows, who had helped raise her, they were not her mom and dad but they were like that, should that she invites them to come out of the elizabethtown and come with them. says they will help them build a bigger camera along with a little girl named sophia. this little girl named sophia hanks there are everywhere. what happens is this, somewhere owned byea a cal somebody, maybe owned by the lincolns or a neighbor because people trade stuff all the time, a cal eats a plant called white -- a cow eats a plant called
white snake root. it grew wild in indiana and cal's could be attracted to it because it stuck out especially in the fall. root andeat the snake it contains a deadly poison. they don't know this. they don't understand the biology and how it works but they know there is something in the area called the milk sickness. it is odorless, tasteless, but you in just an hand usually die and not only that but it can get into the dairy products. if you slaughter an animal that has come a tall -- the
substance, you will die. the lincolns, it is couple.s, a german the mother gets sick and then the sparrows both get sick with the milk sickness. tocy drops what she can do go help them. she is back and forth to the camp's. there are two little kids, helping them out. she must have been exhausted. i can't imagine what that was like. at some point, she ingests the poison. idea how.no ingested it somehow by mistake. all of a sudden she has the same
feeling. breath.people bad they started to develop ever greater severity of diarrhea and stomach cramps and till bedridden. to die.t a pretty way she lasted for seven days, dennis later remembered. ridden andletely had in the cabin. know she is going to die. she calls abraham and sarah to her bedside, tells him to be good children to their father and right after that she expires. she dies. thesparrows both die, burner woman dies. -- this is a pretty widespread outbreak. there is no church of structure yet so they don't have a church cemetery. haultake the bodies and
them on makeshift sleds. can you imagine how devastating that can be to a little boy helping to push his mother's body to a grave. they did not have this marker until later. this is a modern photograph i buriedd she is still there. so abraham lincoln loses his mother and around the age of nine. this had to be traumatic. bachelorhood. for about one hour or two. mean, can you imagine, you know? i mean, first of all, single fatherhood was not really thought of as all that great back then. the household chores fall to sarah, a little 12-year-old girl. with thehe girl
sparrows moves in. thiss hangs around he has big family. it forally tries to make several months and then he finally says that's it i can't do this and he leaves the family flying chair back to kentucky and as it happens there was a woman there he was going to marry before he married nancy. sarah bush. she has married another man and that has not gone well. he died penniless. impoverished. she was down there living in a little house in elizabethtown. literally says to her, hello sarah, nancy is dead and
your first husband is dead, let's get hitched, you know? and she responded and said, i would like to but i owe people money in this town. he says, write them all down. he goes and pays all the debts that night. look at the desperation here? i got kids, i got all over. they get hitched, bam like that. nancy never had a problem apparently with thomas. actually had some fine furniture when they showed up at the lincoln camp and. when they got there, apparently she was looking at the kids going -- i mean -- they were filthy, they had not had baths in weeks. can you imagine what that cabin was like with that poor little 12-year-old? mean, my daughter is 16 now
but if she were 12 that would not go well. ok? she showst mess and up, cleans everything up, and thomas says, that fine furniture does not work well in indiana. and she says, no. she makes him put in a wooden andr, a door, i like her, out you? she is like, i am not going to live out here like this, you know, and she kind of takes job.e and does a very fine she is an excellent stepmother and she and abraham get along fabulously well. i believe he loved her more than he did his father. they are tight and you know, many years later abraham lincoln said i loved my stepmother. he said more about her than he did about his role mother. i'm sure he left her to but they
had a good relationship. she strongly encourages him with his reading habits and education. i have the impression on occasion she intervened for him so he can get some done one thomas wanted him to go do manual labor and that kind of thing. they gone this way for a couple years after that. another depiction of lincoln. that's what we depict him as, right? doing hist man homework problems on the back of a shovel. reading books by firelight. you know what guys? myths sometimes are true. this is well-documented. this is a very studious young man. he did not go to school much. he did a little bit. "blabad what they called schools," because people recited things by rote.
to school at to go know something about reading, g, these thingsin go in and out all the time. he went to three different schools, and none of them was that long. he said he went to school by little here a little there. harvest time would come home of the school would close, the aggregate of schooling was probably less than one year but he was a voracious reader and that part of the myth is completely true. he read everything he can find. not much he can work with. the bible, pilgrim's progress, on the shelf of every christian back then. aesop's fables. one of the famous stories, he borrows a biography of george washington from a local neighbor
named crawford. he is reading this book, puts it on the shelf in the cabin, unfortunately but the close to a window and it ruins the book. he goes back to crawford, crawford make simple blades of for one week in a cornfield to make up for the loss of the book. that is when you pull out the shucks the corn. abraham presented that. he did not like crawford. later he was opposed to nasty little rhymes about what they called about nosy crawford because of his big nose. abraham lincoln could be merciless and his satire. he is a bright young man, knows how to make fun of people and is good at it. there was friction between the lincolns and the local family that lived not far away, the very large grigsby family. for a varietyion
of reasons and lincoln, there is a big double wedding the between lincolngsby plan and was not invited the anti-composed a satirical column about the two boys going up to their rooms on the wedding nights and getting the wrong brides. kind of risque. the grigsby stood not appreciate that and they handed up in a big fist fight about that. abraham lincoln could be a little bit nasty sometimes. he could poke people that way and he could rub people the wrong way, you know? his sister was still around for a while. up, right after sarah shows -- sera begins -- i'm not she starts to kind of move out of the house a bit. i'm not sure why. she ended up living with the grigsby's for a while.
she hired herself out to live with them. she was not home much and she ended up mirroring one of the grigsby's and they settled down into a farm not far. grigsby'sne of the and a year later she was going to give birth to one of their children, and in what must've experience, both his sister and the baby died. dies, i even ran this by some of our nurses at the university to get some idea of what happened here but the evidence is so vague you just don't know. there apparently was a midwife present but they -- they had some kind of a birth complication. her distraught husband goes and gets a doctor that lives like 30 miles away, goes and gets the doctor, the doctors so drunk he cannot do anything. they try to find a second doctor of by the time they do, they are both dead.
apparently was a grizzly, bloody mess. they both die. meanwhile, we have no record of lincoln's reaction to his mother's death but we do have a therd that when they buried sister and put the dead baby in her arms in the coffin, at the baptist church, lincoln sat down on a log and balled his eyes out. , is tells you something indiana matters. lincoln matters in indiana. early on he has experience that is not pretty. he has a well, painful life in a lot of ways. life in a lot of ways. he is growing into manhood he gets restless. if you go look at the records 19-20-21,om about age
he is really at home. he is moving around the neighborhood, living around the neighborhood, doing odd jobs for them. gohanded dennis for a while work on a canal in louisville. he also worked at a mill on the occasion. if you read behind the lines, this is a young man staying away from his father as far as possible and we think it is because relations were getting worse. the father is beginning to earn money, but according to the law at the time he is legally obligated at the age of 21 to lead every time he earns in the pocket of his dad. and it seems thomas took it and did not give anything bad. and that wrinkled abraham lincoln for the rest of his life. when he was the president, talking to abolitionists, he said he knew what it was like to be a slave because his dad did it to him.
loggerheads. we don't have details but it is obvious. he is not at home. he wants out. he goes to his neighbor, 20 years old, a guy named red. he says, mr. ward, i know you are well-connected with the riverboat traffic in louisville, can you get me a job as a riverboat high lead or something on a steamboat? and mr. would highly of this young man and said, you don't want to do that. you are not legally able to leave your father's home until you're 21, that is the law. you will get in trouble. please. and lincoln says, but i want a start in life. i want to start now. talks him out of it. he is not the only one getting restless. thomas lincoln is getting restless as well. i am much or what is happening here. he does not have a land like in
kentucky but he is doing ok. i don't know what it is sitting pointiddle-age, at this pushing early 50's, i am 51 so -- back then, that is old. everybody is moving out, man. it is obvious abraham is going to be gone, man. he is going to be out the door. he is wondering if he and sarah are going to be able to function in old age. another hank's cousin, john hanks, moves to illinois and rights to thomas saying, you have got to come to illinois, god the land is awesome. milk and honey. he sings the prison of illinois, no problems in illinois and thomas is hemming and tying on whether he wants together. ofhe sings the praises illinois and thomas is hemming and hawing.
he goes back and forth and finally leaves. of indianaem get out and move to illinois but guys, when they get to illinois everything goes wrong for thomas lincoln. he and sarah false that with this what is called 'the egg'back then. worst winter in a century. thomas lincoln was going to beat a retreat back to indiana but when he did that, lincoln said, not me, ma'am. thomas and sarah were on their way back to indiana. thomas and sarah do not make it back to indiana. sarah put her foot down. they sold all their land, sold other houses, had nothing.
she makes thomas eventually settled down in indiana where he dies probably of some kind of congenital heart disease in the 50's. i hope you can see why this time matters. lincoln learns about hardship, death and dying, learns about the difficulties of making ends meet. he learns the subtle values that are going to have a big impact on the kind of man he is. you can see why he did not want to talk about these years very much. i get it now. i don't think he was happy in indiana. i am guessing at this, don't want to read too much into it but these do not seem to have been good times for him. [applause] questions? said "all ince
" anded i owe to my mother it might've been sarah he was talking about. do you it might've been nancy? do: probably -- professor probably he met nancy. i don't mean this regard, there of nancye that spending a spinning wheel and lincoln laughing. these little shards of memory you have you carry around with you, that's all we have. and he clearly says in his autobiography that he adored his stepmother so i would lean more toward sarah. that is just my opinion. >> will kind of relationship did he have with women? dirck: that is a good one.
you could go down a road you don't want to go down. or the record, i think it was good. i don't even want to go there ok but, yeah, i got a little bit of that in the book. the commentary about lincoln's relations with women are really years.om his illinois that is warm as of that comes from because he is sitting the time to sit down and get married. but some people in indiana said he did not like the girls much. i don't get a vibe it was something they thought was you know, that odd. i want to say it was a guy named augustus chapman, his cousin who left a record behind to the thoughthat lincoln women were too frivolous. they did not want to talk about serious ideas. [indiscernible] that is what chapman thought
lincoln thought. there is also young sophia who we know next to nothing about. i tried to find something about this little girl who moved in. we know she lived with lincoln for a while. we know she eventually gets married and moves up. i found an article from 1908 where they interviewed her kids and they said, mom always said she just did not like the girls much because they wanted to go dancing and he did not want to go dancing. i think it is more along those lines than anything systemic. at least that is my feeling on it. considering how critical sources are to this time in his life, and the problems that you said they have with them, how andyou decide what to take what to reject? and could you give an example of each?
: you know, it is true, you know, we are -- professor dirck: part of it is, you test the document the way you test any document. is it internally consistent? in other words can you find another document that corroborates the first document? that was possible on occasion. for example, stories about abraham lincoln saw honesty. abe"the nickname "honest -- some unbelievable. i find six orif seven people saying he was really honest, that is multiple
eyewitness accounts saying these things so part of this is like any source, you test it with other sources. if you have multiple account saying the same thing than those things are probably pretty good. i have to be honest with you, we had a wonderful conversation that dennis and i, i have to be honest with you, i have spent now 20 years writing about abraham lincoln. feeling.my gut i will level with you, there are just times when things feel right. the example of the illegitimacy thing. i argued in the book that nancy was illegitimate because they conversation lincoln has with billy,what i know about i have been reading this stuff for years. turns out think goodness i was right. because the -- backed it up. instinct.me i try and my footnotes to explain my reasoning, you know.
for example, a document i rejected. i did not use the anecdote about ." could never tell a lie it just -- part of it is you just have to reason from what you would reason a kid would he have liked. you know what i'm saying? there are some fundamental things and there is also context. as much as i could, a typical indiana farm looked like. i run across a source about something it seemed like something lincoln was doing something no other kid would do on a farm. it sounds like a complicated answer to a simple question. i havee came to worse, to be honest, i don't want to lie to my readers. i want them to see, yeah, he is andably just guessing here that is why. i wanted to put that out. it is part of doing this.
you know, you have got to be able to make educated guesses sometimes and i was hoping when you look at the totality of the look it feels right if that makes sense, you know. i have a question. one last question. there is a political campaign here. when lincoln was 19-years-old, a very big presidential campaign. some indication he was for andrew jackson back in indiana and later changed. aboutu run into anything political views expressed in indiana or illinois?
prof. dirck: there is very little that says he was politically aware except for woods'testimony where he said they would talk politics and his cabin. apparently one of abraham lincoln's first attempts at writing was with eight temperate -- washat was with a mperance thing. he seems by the time he is 19 or he is mored politically aware. he is visiting indian apart houses, seeing lawyers. he is saying that -- he is at courtime visiting indiana houses. later on, he was pro-jackson.
he kind of looks back and says -- most people were jacksonian indiana at that time. thank you very much, guys. thank you. [applause] host: we have this that we like to give to -- dirck: thank you. [applause] [indiscernible conversation] announcer: you are watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history tv every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter