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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Lincoln, Abraham (in Wisconsin)


Lincoln is known for certain to have visited Wisconsin twice, and may have visited on at least one other occasion.

In 1832, while serving as a 23-year-old captain of the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War, Lincoln crossed into Wisconsin at Beloit on June 30th. Over the next 10 days he and his unit scouted lands north as far as Lake Koshkonong, in the valley of the Rock River. When he travelled the same route 27 years later in a horse-drawn carriage, he recalled many details of his 1832 march between Beloit and Janesville, before either city had been founded. He was mustered out on July 11, 1832, and headed south for his Illinois home. Lincoln did not fight in any battles in Wisconsin during his Black Hawk War service, and there is no eveidence that he ever crossed paths with Jefferson†Davis, who was also in the war†[View more information in Jackson, Alfred Augustus. "Abraham Lincoln in the Black Hawk War." Wisconsin Historical Collections 14 (1898): 118-136].

In 1859, Lincoln spoke at the State Agricultural Fair in Milwaukee on Friday, Sept. 30, and the next afternoon addressed a Republican meeting in Beloit. At the end of this second talk, he was persuaded to accompany Janesville Republicans back to their city, where he gave†a third†address on Saturday evening, Oct. 1. He stayed in Janesville (at the Tallman House) all day Sunday, leaving on Monday Oct. 3rd, 1859 [View more information in "Lincoln's 1859 Address at Milwaukee." Wisconsin Magazine of History 10/3 (1927): 243-258].

Many anecdotes have been recorded about supposed Lincoln visits to other places in Wisconsin, but none are confirmed by documentary evidence. One that is validated by multiple oral accounts is that in the autumn of 1835, during a period otherwise unaccounted for by his biographers, Lincoln came to Wisconsin while grieving the death of Ann Rutledge. Independent verbal traditions record that he told informants long afterwards that he had walked from Milwaukee to Port Washington and stayed with a prominent innkeeper there. It is also possible that Lincoln very briefly visited Milwaukee in early October 1848, when his steamer stopped there on the way to Chicago [View more information in Olson, Julius. "Lincoln in Wisconsin." Wisconsin Magazine of History 4/1 (1920): 44-54].

[Source: Wisconsin Historical Collections 14 (1898): 118-136; Wisconsin Magazine of History 4/1 (1920): 44-54; Wisconsin Magazine of History 10/3 (1927): 243-258.]
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