Lincoln's Life in Letters:
Life in New Salem

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I do hereby certify that Nathan Drake volunteered and served as a private in the Company which I commanded— in the regiment commanded by. Colonel Samuel M. Thompson— of the Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Samuel Whitesides— in an expedition directed against the Sac & Fox Indians—and that he was enrolled on the 29th day of April & discharged on the 9th day of June 1832— having served forty and two thirds-days— given under my hand this 24th July 1832—

A Lincoln— Captain

^For value received^ I assign all the benefit of the within discharge to John Taylor and hereby authorise the pay master to pay over to John Taylor, all the wages I may be entitled to receive for my Services

Nathan Drake

attest

M. Mobley

A Lincoln Comp[Company]

Finding His Way

Lincoln came into his own in the river village of New Salem, Illinois. After arriving in 1831, he worked several jobs, including store clerk, surveyor, and postmaster. His first major step toward leadership, however, came when he volunteered to fight in the 1832 Black Hawk War—a state and federal effort to forcibly remove indigenous people trying to reclaim their land—and his company elected him captain. Lincoln later recalled that election “gave me more pleasure than any I have had since.” In this document, Lincoln discharges a fellow militiaman, fulfilling one of his last duties as captain.

During his Black Hawk War service, Lincoln was also running for the Illinois House of Representatives. He would lose that election but ran again in 1834, won, and eventually served four terms. Lincoln’s quiet ambition and the connections he would make in the legislature provided the foundation for his rise to national leadership.


Lincoln delivers mail during a snowy winter in New Salem. Standing outside, Lincoln hands a woman a letter while her dog and two children watch from behind. A man also peers from the doorway of the family’s log cabin.
Artist Fletcher Ransom’s depiction of Lincoln as postmaster of New Salem.
Today, the New Salem State Historic Site recaptures the rural central Illinois landscape of Lincoln’s era. In the distance sits multiple log cabins, two of which feature covered porches. Tree branches obscure the view of a well and another cabin.
New Salem after its reconstruction as a historic site in the 1930s.
The statehouse bears the typical characteristics of Greek Revival architectural style. The building’s entrance is covered by an unadorned gable roof supported by columns, and a dome-like structure tops the building.
Illinois Second Statehouse in Vandalia, Illinois.
Lincoln stands atop a snowy hillside wearing a coat, boots, gloves, and a racoon skin cap. He looks away from the viewer as he crouches to peer through surveying equipment. Lincoln waves an arm in the air, signaling to another surveyor barely visible in the distance.
Artist Fletcher Ransom’s depiction of Lincoln surveying land.