Saturday, September 18, 1858
FOR ABRAHAM LINCOLN, the fourth debate at Charleston was in many ways a homecoming. Thirty years earlier, as a nineteen-year-old pioneer boy, he had migrated to this region with his family, negotiating a huge oxcart brimming with their crude belongings. Here his aged stepmother still lived in a primitive cabin not many miles from town. Following the debate, Lincoln would spend a night in the home of his first cousin’s son-in-law, no doubt enjoying a nostalgic reunion with relatives and old friends.
A further reminder of Lincoln’s intimate association with the agricultural, onetime pro-Whig Coles County in east central Illinois could be found this debate day on prominent display in downtown Charleston. There supporters unfurled above the street between the courthouse and the capitol building a huge, flag-festooned, eighty-foot-long banner that featured a portrait of the young Lincoln driving his oxteam into the area back in 1828. It was, again, a forerunner of “railsplitter” image making to come. “Abe’s Entrance