Lincoln in Indiana

By Scott, Sean A. | The Journal of Southern History, February 2018 | Go to article overview

Lincoln in Indiana


Scott, Sean A., The Journal of Southern History


Lincoln in Indiana. By Brian R. Dirck. Concise Lincoln Library. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2017. Pp. xii, 132. $24.95, ISBN 978-0 8093-3565-7.)

Over the years, brevity has eluded many authors who narrate the life of Abraham Lincoln. Given the nature of the Concise Lincoln Library series and Brian R. Dirck's chosen subject--Lincoln's formative years in Indiana--Lincoln in Indiana is never gratuitously verbose. In fact, Dirck's ability to produce this book despite few relevant sources testifies to his fine historical imagination. Limited to some autobiographical lines penned by Lincoln, who purposefully revealed very little about his upbringing and youth, and the sometimes self- serving interviews that William H. Herndon gathered shortly after the president's assassination, Dirck has constructed an informative account that effectively situates the Lincoln family within their frontier milieu.

Anyone familiar with Abraham Lincoln knows the basic outline of his upbringing. He was born in Kentucky in 1809 and moved to Indiana in his eighth year. There, he was compelled to endure the drudgery of agricultural work while he thirsted for education and self-improvement, and he suffered the loss of his mother and sister. Shortly after turning twenty-one, the age of majority, Lincoln left Indiana and the limited opportunities of his rustic rearing and set out to make something of himself in Illinois. Dirck's careful attention to available sources prohibits him from altering this storyline or adding new details about Lincoln himself, yet by elucidating the context of living in Indiana between 1816 and 1830 Dirck teases nuance out of a well-known tale.

Dirck vividly describes the challenges that settlers faced in the untamed wilds of southern Indiana. …

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