Abraham Lincoln is being written about and documentaries shown on PBS as the 200th anniversary of his birth is remembered.
Carl Sandburg wrote a six volume biography of Lincoln. I read an abridged version of one in the three paperback set for a book report when I was in high school.
In the downtown Portland library I checked out the unabridged tape cassette versions and would listen to them as I walked in Powerline Park to recover from a respiratory problem.
Although Sandburg has been criticized for including dubious anecdotes of Lincoln's childhood, he had the good fortune and timing to be able to speak personally with people who met Lincoln as children or whose parents worked with Lincoln or knew the family. And with a poet's command of language combined with a knowledge of the Illinois area and temperament, Sandburg sometimes manages to give us an almost personal glimpse at the character and personality of Abraham Lincoln.
One story I wish I could relay more accurately was during an early political campaign nominating Lincoln for perhaps Senator. In a political gathering, some people came into the crowded room carrying old planks they brought from a river where Lincoln had built fences. "Where in the world that you get those?" Lincoln asked. When they told him it was from an area where as a youth he had split logs to make fences along the river, the crowd started chanting "identify your work, identify your work."
All he would've had to do would've been to look over the old weathered boards and say yes it was his work to send the crowd into a frenzy. But his deep-seated honesty I suppose kept him from even playing along in fun and he answered it may have been his work, but if it was, he'd done a lot better work than those boards.
I think that was where the nickname "the rail-splitter" took hold.
Another insight into his inherent kindness and understanding of people had to do with Gen.McClellan. Evidently General McClellan was loved by his men as they would march and train. He refused to engage General Lee in battle convinced the enemy army had overwhelming numerical advantage. He was always requesting more and more troops from Lincoln. His troops were building trenches and always preparing for battle.
From what I remember, they fought against General Lee's invading army and forced them to retreat. Had they pursued the retreating army, they could have won a decisive victory. Lincoln's letters to McClellan implore him to action.
But what I found amusing occurred years later when Lincoln was facing dim prospects for reelection. One political party wanted to nominate George McClellan for president. McClellan was eager to run as their presidential candidate, but hesitant about their platform to immediately end the war, thinking this would mean the soldiers had given their lives in vain. So during the convention, he waited a few days while considering the situation.
"He's entrenching! " Remarked Lincoln about the guy who had given him so much grief and was now going to run for president against him.