Friday, August 30, 2013

LINCOLN'S SKILL AS A HOMICIDE DEFENSE ATTORNEY

Some authors say that Lincoln was not very good at defending murder cases. He only tried a few murder cases, and he seems to have lost more than he won. These "reasons" to think that Lincoln was no good at defending a murder case are not reasons at all.

Let's look at the second "reason" first (that he lost more than he won). If prosecutors make good charging decisions, they are prosecuting people who are guilty. If the prosecutors do a good job of presenting the evidence against a guilty defendant, the defendant's going to get convicted. The fact that Lincoln lost more murder cases than he won merely shows that antebellum prosecutors in Illinois were making good charging decisions and presenting good cases.

Now let's look at the first "reason" (that Lincoln didn't try many murder cases). Unless you are a homicide specialist in a large jurisdiction like Miami or New York, you are not going to try many murder cases. Murders just don't happen as often as auto thefts. Having tried a few murder cases myself, I can say that  the mechanics of trying a murder case aren't that much different than the mechanics of trying any crime of violence. There's a lot more riding on a murder case than on most cases,  but that has nothing to do with the mechanics of putting on evidence. Lincoln was an excellent trial lawyer who could do an excellent job of defending a murder case.

As a matter of fact, Lincoln once won a murder case in the most spectacular way imaginable.  Two brothers named Trailor had been charged with the murder of a man who had disappeared, and they hired Abraham Lincoln to defend them. The case looked grim. Despite the fact that the victim's body had not been found, the state had an eyewitness to the killing. Lincoln won the case by using the testimony of a medical doctor to prove that the victim was still alive. The victim surfaced shortly after the acquittal, and he never gave a satisfactory explanation of what had happened to him. The case was so remarkable that Lincoln actually wrote an anonymous newspaper article about it, and the article can be read in  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 1, pp. 371-376.

You don't win a murder case like this every day. The only other time that I know of where this happened was back in the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. Not long after Constantine made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire, a doctrinal controversy broke out among the Christians of the Empire. The dispute took its name from the champion of the side which lost—a bishop named Arius. The view which ultimately prevailed was championed by Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, who is sometimes called the Father of Orthodoxy. They played rough in those days, and Athanasius’s enemies trumped up a murder charge against him. An Arian bishop named Arsinius had disappeared, and the Arians were displaying a severed hand which they claimed Athanasius had cut from the body of his victim for use in making magic.

Eventually they complained to the Emperor, and he sent his half-brother Dalmatius to Antioch to preside over the murder trial of Athanasius. The legend has it that when the Arians displayed the severed hand at the trial, it angered the the spectators in the courtroom so badly that they almost lynched Athanasius on the spot. When it came time for Athanasius to present his case, two of his supporters brought a hooded monk out of the audience and presented him before the court. They took off his hood—and it was Arsinius.  Athanasius had them display Arsinius’s hands, both of which were still attached, and then he asked the Arians whether Arsinius might have had a third hand. Dalmatius dismissed the charge in disgust. At least that's what the legend says.
 
What actually happened, as described by Athanasius himself, was that Athanasius’s supporters discovered that Arsinius was hiding in Tyre. They commandeered the man and brought him before Paul, the Bishop of Tyre, who wrote a letter to Dalmatius attesting that Arsinius was alive. The reality wasn’t quite as dramatic as the legend, but the letter of Paul was sufficient to get the charges dismissed against Athanasius. The full story can be read in Robert Bush Wheeler's biography, St. Athanasius: His Life and Times, pp. 98-100, and also in Historical Tracts of St. Athanasius, pp. 94-96.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

WAGON HAMMERS

When researching the Almanac Trial I came across a term which intrigued me. One of the witnesses talked about an "old fashioned wagon hammer." As it turned out, this old fashioned wagon hammer figured prominently in the witness's testimony, but no other witness even so much as mentioned an old fashioned wagon hammer. I assumed that the term referred to some sort of a hammer used in connection with repairing a wagon. Being something of a connoisseur of hand tools, I was interested in finding out what an old fashioned wagon hammer looked like. Nobody I knew had ever heard of a wagon hammer. No tool catalog I referred to mentioned a wagon hammer. No reference book I referred to mentioned a wagon hammer. I searched flea markets and antique stores for wagon hammers. I could not find a new fangled wagon hammer, much less an old fashioned one. I could not eve find anyone who knew what I was talking about. I was stymied.

I went on the internet in search of wainwrights. The first wainwright I came across was Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop in Letcher, South Dakota.  I called the shop. Doug Hansen, the owner, was very helpful. Mr. Hansen told me that a wagon hammer was not really a hammer at all. It was a pin used to attach the doubletree (part of the harness) to the wagon. Not only was a wagon hammer not a hammer, but it didn't even look like a hammer. It was actually a dual purpose wrench. In addition to connecting the horses' harness to the wagon, it was also used to tighten the nuts on wagon wheels. Mr. Hansen said that although a wagon hammer was certainly heavy enough to drive nails, it was more properly called a wagon wrench. He described the wagon hammer as the 1800's answer to the modern tire tool. Mr. Hansen even had some for sale, and they looked like this:

Wagon Wrench or Wagon Hammer
 

Although we didn't discuss the possibility that there might be a difference between old fashioned wagon hammers and new fangled wagon hammers, I decided Mr. Hansen had educated me on new fangled wagon hammers. I wanted to know about old fashioned wagon hammers. I looked further and found what I was looking for on the Internet Archive, a website devoted to preserving public domain books, recordings, and artwork. On the Archive I found a book entitled Conestoga Wagons in Braddock's Campaign, 1755. This book taught me that in the mid-1700's a wagon hammer actually looked like a hammer. Its full and proper name was "hammer-headed double tree pin." It seems that between the mid-1700's and the mid-1800's the wagon hammer had evolved into a wagon wrench.

By this time in my search I had developed a burning desire to have an old fashioned wagon hammer, so I went looking for one. I knew Hansen Wheel and Wagon Works didn't have one, so I looked for other wainwrights. I struck pay dirt with Texas Wagon Works in Gonzales, Texas. When I spoke to the owner, Terry Moore, he knew exactly what I was talking about. Did he have one? No. Did he know where I could get one? No, but he could make one for me. (He was a blacksmith). He quoted a price that I thought was reasonable, and that's how I became the proud owner of a genuine replica of an old fashioned wagon hammer.

If you're still reading this post, you must be as curious as I was about what an old fashioned wagon hammer looks like. Here it is:


Old Fashioned Wagon Hammer


Why was I so determined to find out about something as arcane as an old fashioned wagon hammer? I thought it was important to the story of the Almanac Trial.  Some scholars with whom I consulted thought that wagon hammers had little or no significance to the case. Were wagon hammers important? Why would I think they were? What, if anything, did they have to do with the case? You'll find the answers in the book.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

INVESTIGATING MOONLIGHT MURDERS


Back in 1998 I had a murder case which had an issue similar to the issue in Lincoln’s Almanac Trial. The state’s star witness claimed to have seen something at night, and an almanac figured prominently in deciding whether she was telling the truth or not. I thought about mentioning my case in the book, but I decided not to. I was working within a word limit imposed by the publisher, and I felt mentioning the case would take up space better occupied by more pertinent information. Nevertheless, it was an interesting parallel to a key issue in the Almanac Trial.

I had supper last night with the defense attorney from that old case, and we reminisced about it. If you have ever seen the movie Gigi, you will remember Maurice Chevalier’s duet “I Remember It Well.” In that duet Chevalier and a lady friend recalled their first date, and they couldn't agree about anything that happened on the date.  That’s the way my attorney friend and I were about the circumstances of the case.

As I recalled, the witness said she saw something by the light of a full moon just above the treetops, and the defense attorney produced an almanac showing that there was no moon at all that night. Somewhat chagrined, I waited until sundown and went to the scene to see what I could see. At the scene I found a lamppost off in the distance. It was topped by a brightly glowing lamp encased in a huge globe. Obviously, this lamp was the “full moon” which gave our witness enough light to see by.

My friend recalled things very differently. He remembered that the witness said she could see by the light of a distant lamppost which was topped by a large globe. He produced proof that there was no lamppost in that vicinity, and I countered with an almanac which showed a full moon just above the treetops at the time our witness made her observations. Either way, the witness had ample light to see by.

I told my friend that I had access to the transcript of testimony from the trial, and I would go back and read the testimony to see which of us was right. I plan to do so next week, and I’ll post a follow up on which of us was right.

The problem my friend and I had about remembering the trial is identical to the problem I confronted trying to sort out the facts of the Almanac Trial. The witnesses to the Almanac Trial, all of whom spoke years after the trial, had widely diverging memories about what happened at the trial. Although my friend and I will easily be able to sort out or diverging memories by looking at the trial transcript, there is no transcript of the testimony given at the Almanac Trial. Consequently, I had to study and piece together what I thought was the most plausible course of events.

When a historian (or anyone else for that matter)sorts through conflicting evidence, it is very easy to credit the evidence which is congenial to the historian’s preconceived opinions and pronounce the contrary evidence to be unworthy of belief. A lot of this type of evidentiary analysis goes on in Historical Jesus research. Dozens of historians, theologians, and others have looked at the Gospels and come up with widely diverging opinions about who Jesus was and what he did. Questers after the Historical Jesus have found him to be many things—a revolutionary, a Pharisee, a Cynic sage, a first century guru of postmodern political correctness, a magician, a peasant, a charlatan—everything except who the Gospels say he was.

The last thing I wanted to do was to come into the research on the Almanac Trial with a preconceived notion of what happened and a subconscious agenda of twisting the evidence to fit my preconceptions. As luck would have it, I had already worked out a system of evidentiary evaluation for a previous book I wrote, and I used it in my research of the Almanac Trial. You can read about my system in chapter two of my book The Case against Christ: A Critique of the Prosecution of Jesus. The heart and soul of my system of evidentiary analysis is the exact opposite of the system employed by most questers after the Historical Jesus. Their method is basically to believe the witnesses are lying until you can find proof that they are telling the truth. My system is to provisionally accept a witness’s testimony as true until I find a reason to disbelieve it.

I said earlier that I did not want to come into my research with a preconceived notion of what happened, but I must admit that I began with an idea about what I thought had probably happened. I did not, however, invest any emotional capital into the idea. I was not going to feel that my human worth would be diminished if it turned out that I was wrong. I looked at my idea about what probably happened not as a theory to be confirmed, but as a hypothesis to test. I tried to model my methodology as much as possible after the methodology taught by the philosopher Karl Popper in his excellent book Conjectures and Refutations. I had two other role models to emulate in evaluating evidence, but I think I’ll save them for another post.

How successful was I in resisting the temptation to twist facts to fit my hypothesis? I was very successful. I discarded my hypothesis about halfway through my investigation—it just couldn’t stand up under scrutiny. How successful was I in ferreting out the true facts about the Almanac Trial? You’ll have to read the book and judge for yourself.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A MILESTONE ACHIEVED: THE MANUSCRIPT IS IN THE [E]MAIL

I just sent off the final draft of Abraham Lincoln's Most Famous Case: The Almanac Trial to the publisher. I got it in four months ahead of my projected finish date. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I had more fun writing this book than any other I have ever written. I hope those who read the book will get as much pleasure from it as I did.

LINCOLN'S TOMB

When Lane and I got back from Springfield after locating Duff Armstrong's grave we still had some daylight left. What can you do on a Sunday afternoon in Springfield? Probably a lot of things, but what we decided to do was to go visit Lincoln's Tomb in Oakridge Cemetery at 1500 Monument Avenue. When I first laid eyes on it, I thought to myself "An Egyptian Pharoah would not be ashamed to be buried in this tomb." The caretaker's house looked like a medieval castle.


Old Caretaker's House at Lincoln Tomb
 
A caretaker doesn't live there any more. I think somebody told me the building is now offices, but I could be mistaken. It being Sunday, the building was closed.

The tomb itself is a huge obelisk sitting on a structure which reminded me of the tomb of King Mausolus of Caria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Mausolus's tomb, of course, is the structure from which we get our term "mausoleum." The two structures really don't look much alike other than being huge.


 
Lincoln's Tomb
 
 

The stairway to the balcony was roped off, but you could go inside and to view Lincoln's final resting place. I took no photos inside the tomb. Somehow it didn't seem right to be taking photographs there. Lincoln, his wife, and all but one of his sons are entombed here. Robert Todd Lincoln, a Civil War veteran, is buried at Arlington. You can take a virtual tour of the tomb here: Lincoln's Tomb Virtual Tour

At each corner of the tomb is a statue honoring various military services: infantry, cavalry, artillery, and navy. People had placed pennies on various places outside the tomb. I could not help but feel a sense of awe and reverence at the tomb.



Pennies Left at the Tomb
 

It took a long time to complete construction of the tomb, so they needed a temporary resting place for the body. The tomb itself sits on a huge mound. At the back of the mound, you can find the temporary tomb, which appears to have been dug into the side of the mound.

Although it's not part of the tomb, the old Springfield train station has some connection to Lincoln's burial. That station was the last stop for the train which carried Lincoln's body from Washington back to Springfield. On the way, the train stopped in several cities for funeral services. If I remember correctly, Lincoln had 19 funerals, with the first being in Washington and the last in Springfield.


Springfield Train Station
 

The tracks have been taken up and the station is no longer functioning as a station, but it is an interesting place to visit. Inside they have a replica of the funeral train on display.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

DUFF ARMSTRONG'S GRAVE

It was Sunday, and most places were closed, so I decided to try to find the scene of the killing which resulted in Duff Armstrong's prosecution for murder. I knew two things about the scene: (1) It was somewhere near Salt Creek, and (2) it was in a place called either Walnut Grove, Walker's Grove, or Virgin's Grove. I had been told the approximate location of the place by one of the locals, and I felt I could find it. I was wrong. I found Salt Creek, which we in North Florida would call a river, but when I got to the place where Walnut Grove was supposed to be, all I found was a cornfield and a cemetery, and it was nowhere near Salt Creek. It was something of an Oddysey.


Salt Creek

Lane was very patient with me as I drove aimlessly through cornfields and small villages looking for Walnut Grove. It was something like going into a time warp back to the 1950's. We could have been in early twentieth century rural North Florida except that Florida corn cannot hold a candle to Illinois corn. Comparing the corn on the farm where I grew up to Illinois corn would be like comparing wild quail to farm-raised quail. Finally, I decided to give up and go back to the hotel. We needed gas, so I stopped at a gas station in a small town.

When I got out to put my credit card into the gas pump, I found further evidence that we had gone into a time warp back to the 1950's. There was no slot for a credit card. A quick check of the price displayed on the pump reassured me that we were still in the twenty first century, so I went inside the store to prepay. "Oh, you don't have to prepay," said the lady behind the counter, "Just pump the gas and come back and tell me how much it was." I did so. As I was paying, I asked her if she knew where Walnut Grove was. She didn't know, but she knew where I could go to find out. She directed me to a neighboring village and told me to check at the bar on the main street there.

We drove through more cornfields until we came to the small town, and then couldn't find the sign for the bar. I guess the locals knew where the bar was, so there was no sense in spending money on useless extravagances like signs. Using my finely honed detective skills, I deduced that the bar was the only building on the street which had cars parked in front of it. I pulled up and parked and asked Lane if she wanted to come in with me. She didn't.

The inside of the bar looked like the typical inside of a rural bar. I've visited many bars just like it, but when I visited most of those bars, it was in connection with a criminal investigation. I bellied up to the bar next to one of the patrons and the barmaid came over and asked me what I wanted. I told her, and she asked one of the patrons if he knew where Walnut Grove was. They told me that Duff Armstrong was buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery and they knew where it was. Receiving my directions, I exited the bar, got back into the truck, and we were off to find Walnut Grove.

We found the cemetery, and there were some trees in the distance which could have been Walnut Grove, but there was mostly cornfields.


Walnut Grove (?) Cemetery


I put the question mark in the caption above because I'm not certain that the cemetery had anything to do with Walnut Grove. It did have Duff Armstrong's grave, though.


Duff Armstrong's Grave

The picture above doesn't do justice to the lush fields of corn surrounding the cemetery. Duff's grave marker did not bear his date of birth or date of death. It did give the military unit he served in during the Civil War.


WM. ARMSTRONG
CO.C.
85 ILL.INF.

By all the evidence I have been able to muster, Duff died a pauper. The headstone is  a generic headstone given to Civil War veterans. We tried to take a rubbing of the tombstone, but didn't have the proper equipment. Beside the headstone is plastic plaque which is somewhat more legible.

 
WILLIAM DUFF ARMSTRONG
Accused Slayer Of
Preston Metzker
May 7, 1858
Freed By Lincoln In
Almanac Trial


Before we left, we found another headstone that I thought was worthy of a photograph. The gentleman buried beneath this headstone certainly had a nice sense of humor.


PARDON ME FOR NOT STANDING UP

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

INSIDE THE ALMANAC TRIAL COURTROOM

Nobody really knows how the courtroom was set up when Lincoln tried his famous case there. It is believed that the judge's bench is the same as it was in 1858, and maybe the rail which divides the audience from the working area. They have tried to recreate the layout, and it looks like a fairly reasonable setup for a courtroom. When you walk in the door, here is the first thing you see:

 

Why they would have a witness stand on both sides of the judge's bench is somewhat of a mystery. It seems that the witness stand on the right would better be set up as a clerk's workstation. On the left side of the courtroom sits a row of six chairs, which I assume represents the jury box:


The jury box panel is missing, and there are only half enough chairs. In Lincoln's day all juries consisted of 12 jurors. On the wall behind the jury box you see a painting of Lincoln showing the famous almanac to the jury.

Looking to the right you see a table surrounded by chairs. This is probably where the clerk sits when the courtroom is used to hear cases. On the wall on the right side, you see a reproduction of the ambrotype photograph which was taken of Lincoln on the afternoon of the trial. The original ambrotype is now located at the University of Nebraska. This ambrotype is unique in that it is the only known photograph of Lincoln wearing a white suit.


If my memory serves me correctly, I believe that our guide, Corky Kinstle, told me that the seats in the audience were discarded pews from a local church. On the back wall of the courtroom hang a number of exhibits, including a reproduction of the derringer used by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Lincoln. A more pertinent exhibit is a framed 1857 almanac turned to the page showing the moon wasn't where the eyewitness said it was. You will also see a reproduction of Norman Rockwell's painting of Lincoln holding the almanac as he cross-examines the eyewitness.



In the files of the Library of Congress, I found a 1937 photograph which gives us a possibly more accurate layout of the courtroom:

 
 
The bench and rail look the same as in the current layout, but the jury box looks much more like a jury box, with more seats and a panel in front of the seats. On the right is the clerk's workstation, which looks much more functional than the table which now sits in the right corner of the courtroom. There is only one counsel table, probably because the jury box and clerk's work station take up too much room to allow for two tables. In my early days as a lawyer, I tried many cases in a courtroom which easily accommodated only one large counsel table. It was somewhat awkwark to be sitting at the same table as your opponent, but we adjusted and made do. Finally someone realized that we could sit at separate tables if the one large counsel table was removed and replaced by two smaller tables. This was probably how the courtroom was set up when Lincoln defended the Almanac Trial--two smaller counsel tables rather than the one large table in the photo. Eyewitnesses to the trial described the lawyers as sitting at separate tables.
 
There are a number of websites devoted to the courtroom:
 

Monday, August 19, 2013

THE BEARDSTOWN COURTHOUSE THROUGH THE YEARS

Before we go into the courtroom, let's take one more look at the outside of the courthouse. In addition to the photographs that I took of the courthouse, I found two others which showed the courthouse in earlier years. One photo comes from an article written by J.N. Gridley in 1910. The other comes from the Library of Congress, and was taken in 1937.Here are the three pictures:





The structure which looks like a cupola in the two earlier photos is not a part of the courthouse. It is on the fa├žade of a building behind it. From 1910 to at least 1937 the building served as the Beardstown city hall. The most visible changes are: (1) The elimination of the chimneys sometime between 1910 and 1937. (2) The paving of the road in front of the courthouse, from dirt to brick to asphalt. (3) The buildings surrounding the courthouse. (4) The flagpole, which appears to be a wooden shaft with a square cross section in the 1910 & 2013 photos, but is a typical flagpole in the 1937 photo. Apparently the flagpole was changed to make it more like the one over the courthouse when Lincoln litigated the Almanac Trial.

If Lincoln were to see the courthouse today, he would probably have no trouble recognizing it as the courthouse where he defended Duff Armstrong, but he would probably recognize little else about the building's surroundings.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

THE BEARDSTOWN COURTHOUSE

When Lane (my wife) and I arrived at the courthouse in Beardstown, it was a Saturday and the courthouse was closed. I was disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to see the courtroom, because we had a busy schedule during our time in Illinois and weren't going to be able to come back. I decided that I could at least take a photo of the plaque that the Beardstown Woman's Club had put on the front of the building.

 
Plaque commemorating the Almanac Trial
 
The plaque reads "The Beardstown Woman's Club erected this Tablet February 12, 1909, In Memory of ABRAHAM LINCOLN Who for the sake of a mother in distress, cleared her son, Duff Armstrong, of the charge of murder, in this Hall of Justice, May 7, 1858."

We were getting ready to leave when Lane suggested that she take  photo of me standing at the front door of the courthouse.


 
Me in Front of the Cass County Courthouse


I am a compulsive reader, so while I was at the front door, I read the signs taped inside the window. I learned that the courthouse museum was open on Saturdays, but that we were just too early. We waited for the museum to open. Around 9:00 a gentleman by the name of Corky Kinstle soon arrived to unlock the door and we followed him in. He gave us the full tour of all the exhibits in the museum, most of which dealt with the history of Beardstown. It was interesting, but I couldn't help becoming impatient to go ahead and get upstairs to the courtroom.

Then he took us down and showed us the jail, which was a dungeon-like room at the rear of the courthouse. It was here that Duff Armstrong was housed from November 1857 until May 1858 awaiting trial. Mr. Kinstle told us that Armstrong didn't spend all his time in the cage. The sheriff granted him trustee status and let him out to go work doing odd jobs at the sheriff's home. It is likely that this helped Duff get acquitted. The people of Beardstown, twelve of whom would eventually serve on Duff's jury, likely became familiar with him and decided that he couldn't be that desperate a criminal if the sheriff was letting him out to do odd jobs.

Mr. Kinstle said that an effigy of Duff was on the bed in his cell. The dummy of Duff had been there for many years, and scores, if not hundreds, of visitors to the museum had gotten their pictures taken with "Duff." I declined to get my picture taken with him, but I did take a photograph of him lying on his jail bunk bed.

 
The Beardstown Courthouse Jail Cells

As you can see from the photograph, accommodations for prisoners have improved in the last century and a half. It is said that while Duff was in jail there was also a school teacher serving time there, and that he taught Duff to read. After looking at the jail, our guide decided it was time for us to go upstairs and see what they had up there.

One room of the upstairs was called the "Black Museum," which made me think of Scotland Yard's Black Museum in London. The Beardstown Black Museum was nothing like the one in London. London's Black Museum, which is not open to the public, contains evidentiary exhibits from various criminal investigations over the years. Back in the heyday of old time radio, Orson Welles narrated a radio show called "The Black Museum." At the beginning of each episode, Welles would describe one of the evidentiary exhibits from the museum, and then you would  hear a dramatization of the case in which the exhibit was collected. The Beardstown Black Museum was a collection of antiques and curios donated by a man named Black. Outside the courtroom and the jail cell, this was my favorite part of the courthouse museum. Mr. Black collected antique firearms, and the display of guns was quite interesting.

After looking at the Black Museum, it was time to go into the courtroom itself. I will save a description of the courtroom for a future post.

Friday, August 16, 2013

NEW BOOK ABOUT THE ALMANAC TRIAL




Before he became president, Abraham Lincoln made his living as a lawyer trying cases in the courts of Illinois. Of all the cases he tried, none is more famous than the case that history remembers as the Almanac Trial. The trial was contested in this courthouse in Beardstown, Cass County.
Old Courthouse at Beardstown 


Although Beardstown is no longer the county seat of Cass County, the courtroom is still in use. Most days the courtroom serves as an exhibit in the museum which is housed in the old courthouse, but once every week or so it is used to hear cases. It is the only active courtroom in Illinois where Lincoln actually tried cases. Across the street in the park there are two stones commemorating the places where Lincoln and Douglas gave speeches during their campaign for the Senate. The speeches were not technically a part of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates because the candidates gave their speeches on different days, and they stood on different sides of the park to give them.
Douglas’s stone stands out.
Stone Commemorating Stephen A. Douglas's speech at Beardstown
 
But Lincoln’s is overgrown with vegetation. In the upper right hand corner of the photograph you can see my finger as I held a branch back to expose the stone.
 
Stone Commemorating Abraham Lincoln's Speech at Beardstown
 

The story of the Almanac Trial became an issue during Lincoln’s run for the Presidency, and in the process the story became so twisted and garbled that it is hard to separate fact from fiction. I am in the process of writing a book which seeks to untangle the many different versions of the story and ferret out the probable course of the trial. When untangling the story, I tried to rely as much as possible on the letters, statements, and reminiscences of those who were involved in the case, and also upon the actual court records. I think that I have recovered a story which is different from the popular memory, but I think it is every bit as compelling. The trial was basically a high-stakes chess match between Lincoln and the prosecutor, Hugh Fullerton, and the maneuvering Lincoln did to win the case was little short of brilliant.
I just finished what I hope will be the final draft of the manuscript, and Praeger Books, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, should have it in print sometime next year. I learned a lot of interesting details about the trial and its background, so many that I could not get everything to fit within the publisher’s word limit. I began this blog so that I could share these details with the public. When the book comes out in print, I will begin posting periodic stories about the aspects of the trial which I couldn’t fit into the book. Stay tuned for future posts.