[LINCOLN, Abraham (1809-1865), President]. HARDIN, John J. (1810-1847). Manuscript signed ("John J. Hardin Inspector and mustering officer"), a "Muster Roll of Captain Lincoln's Company of the Brigade of Mounted Volunteers..." Beardstown, [Illinois], 28 April 1832.
2 pages, large oblong folio (12 7/8 x 15 3/4 in.), two tiny holes at fold intersections, neatly silked, otherwise in excellent condition, the ink dark and clear.
LINCOLN'S FIRST POSITION OF LEADERSHIP, AS CAPTAIN OF A MILITIA COMPANY IN THE BLACK HAWK WAR
A muster roll, certified by Hardin (a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln), recording the personnel of Lincoln's company of mounted volunteers, a unit enlisted in response to Governor John Reynolds' call for militia to assist Army regulars in defending the frontier from the anticipated depredations of the Fox and Sauk tribes, led by Chief Black Hawk. This post constitutes LINCOLN'S FIRST ELECTION TO ANY OFFICE and gave him his first opportunity to serve as a leader as well as his only military experience, both of which proved instrumental to his future political successes. Lincoln and 61 of his neighbors were initially mustered at the farm of Dallas Scott on Richland, Creek, just south of New Salem on 21 April, where, to his surprise and gratification, Lincoln was elected captain with the support of certain neighbors. Though as Mark Neely notes, "the election proved to be a better index of his popularity than of his military ability," it testifies to the high level of respect the young Lincoln was already accorded in the community. And, David Herbert Donald notes, "the election was one of the proudest moments of his life"; much later Lincoln described it as "a success which gave me more pleasure than any I have had since" (Abraham Lincoln, p.44). The day after the election, Lincoln's company marched to Beardstown, where the present muster roll was prepared. (At Beardstown, Lincoln and Lorenzo Dow wrestled to determine which of two militia companies would have the best camp site; Lincoln was the loser.) On April 28th, the company was formally enrolled, Lincoln drew supplies and munitions for his men and the unit marched to the north, where the frontier defense forces were mobilizing. Lincoln later joked that in his military career, he had had "a good many bloody struggles with the mosquetos," but never "saw any live, fighting indians" (Neely, Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia, p.29).
The neat, scrupulously detailed document is labeled at the top "Muster Roll of Captain Lincoln's Company of the Brigade of Mounted Volunteers commanded by Brig. General Whitside and mustered into the service of the United States at Beardstown Ils. on the 28th day of April 1832..." Beneath, in tabular form, the roll lists the Company, beginning with its commander, Lincoln (numbered "1" in the left-hand column), 10 subordinate officers in descending rank from 1st Lieutenant to 4th Corporal (numbers 2-11), followed by privates (nos. 12-62), which are continued on the verso. To the right of each name are seven neatly ruled columns: "rank," "when" (all enrolled on 21 April), "where" (all at "Richland, Sangamo[n]" County), "who by" ("Abraham Lincoln," in each case), "period" of enlistment ("sixty days," in all cases), "present" (blank) and "remarks" (blank). At the end of the roll, Hardin certifies "that this muster roll exhibits a true state of Captain Abraham Lincoln's Company of mounted Volunteers...on this day..." Written vertically on page 2 is a docket "Abraham Lincoln 4th Regiment."
Among the company are a number of significant figures from Lincoln's early New Salem years, including First Sargeant John Armstrong ("Jack," leader of the "Clary's Grove Boys," who engaged Lincoln in a celebrated wrestling match not long after Lincoln's arrival at New Salem in 1831), William F. Berry (1811-1835, Lincoln's partner in a short-lived general store), Royal (or Rial) Clary, John M. and David Rutledge (related to the founder of New Salem, James Rutledge) and others. Hardin, later a political rival of Lincoln, was killed in the Mexican War. A VERY RARE RECORD. For a later muster role of the same company, see Basler, 1:10-12.
Provenance: Roy P. Crocker (sale, Sotheby Parke-Bernet, 28 November 1979, lot 236).