Friday, January 10, 2014


The popular version of the story of Lincoln’s Almanac Trial has him answering the call of an aged widow who had treated him as a son when he was a young, penniless boy just beginning to make his way in the world. This picture is enhanced by referring to the widow as “Aunt Hannah” and by a photograph of her taken in her old age. In the picture you see a wizened old woman wearing a bonnet, her features attesting that she is near the end of a life of toil and privation.  The bare essentials of the story of Hannah’s recruiting Lincoln to defend her son are true enough. She was a widow, she and her husband had shown kindness to Lincoln in his youth, and Lincoln did feel a debt of gratitude to her. But as we will see in my forthcoming book, Abraham Lincoln's Most Famous Case, the relationship between “Aunt Hannah” and Lincoln was not the relationship of a mother-figure to her adoptive son. Firstly, she was actually three years younger than Lincoln. Secondly, additional facts which I uncovered in my research (and which I discuss in the book) suggest that they had a much more complex relationship than that. Although some of their contemporaries apparently thought otherwise, I am satisfied that their relationship was platonic.

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