Capt. A. Lincoln’s signature found in Black Hawk War papers


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Imagine thumbing through old documents and stumbling upon the signature A. Lincoln.

That’s what happened to researchers looking through documents at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The papers were written and signed in 1832 by a young Capt. Abraham Lincoln during his service in the Black Hawk War.

‘We were very excited when we ran across these,’ said David Gerleman, who has been scouring for Lincoln documents at the Archives for The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project.


Gerleman went searching for more documents from Lincoln’s short military service after another researcher in October ran across a certificate of discharge signed by Lincoln. The certificates were used by soldiers to claim federal land offered for their service.

Gerleman, assistant editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, pored over Bounty Land Warrant files and found two more certificates of discharge written and signed by Lincoln. Gerleman also found an affidavit signed by Lincoln in 1855 attesting to another former soldier’s military service.

Samuel Wheeler, a researcher with the Papers of Abraham Lincoln and editor of the blog, said in an email that the certificates of discharge that Lincoln wrote for volunteers who served in his company are ‘among the very few surviving records that document his “wartime experience.”

‘We know of about 12 such documents signed by Lincoln in 1832,’ he said. ‘No doubt he issued more, but if they are still in existence almost 180 years later, where are they now?’

Although the documents were discovered in October, the National Guard issued a news release this week calling attention to the find and to Lincoln’s service as a volunteer with the Illinois Militia, a forerunner to the Illinois National Guard.

‘Lincoln himself once joked that the only blood he saw in the war was drawn by a mosquito,’’ Wheeler wrote on his blog. ‘But also, I think, his wartime experience is overlooked because very few documents relating to his wartime service exist.’


-- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.


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