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Topic Thirty-seven:  Letters to and from Coles County, IL and other Places

Lincoln, in stovepipe hat, with Allan Pinkerton and Gen. John McClernand at Antietam

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Letters and Photos on this webpage were derived from the

 Library of Congress Lincoln Papers and Prints and Photographs Division


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Image, Source: digital file from original photo


1.  Dear Sir

This will be presented to you by Father Hanks who will more fully lay before you my wants than I can here explain. I will simply say that if consistent with your feelings, and not in any way conflicting with Army regulations I would like a permit to trade within the lines of the Armies of the Cumberland, Mississippi and Arkansas in Cotton & Hides for shipment North. For reference I can only offer Father Hanks.


I am very truly Your Obt. Servt.


W. F. Schriver.



The writer of this is personally unknown to me, though married to a young relative of mine-- I shall be obliged if he be allowed what he requests so far as the rules and exigencies of the public service will permit.


A. Lincoln

2.  May 15. 1864

[ Endorsed on Envelope by Lincoln:]

Dennis Hanks--

Poorman & Schriver.


[Note 1 This request from Schriver was carried to Washington by Dennis Hanks, Lincoln's cousin-once-removed and boyhood companion, who was visiting Lincoln in behalf of prisoners arrested following the Charleston, Illinois riot of March 28, 1864. William F. Shriver had married Dennis Hanks' daughter Mary Hanks. Lincoln apparently endorsed the original letter, but made a copy of it and his endorsement for his files.]

3.  Samuel H. Treat to Abraham Lincoln, Monday, July 04, 1864 (Telegram concerning Coles County prisoners)

The following Telegram received at Washington, 130 M. July 4 1864.

From Springfield Ill July 4 1864.

The record in the case of the Coles Co prisoners was ordered to be certified to the president it contains the whole case in my opinion the prisoners should have been surre surrendered to the civil authority under the act of March Third (3) eighteen sixty three (1863) Judge Davis was of the same opinion1

S H Treat

[Note 1 Lincoln knew Judge Treat well and had practiced before him as a lawyer. He had telegraphed Treat the same day, asking for a summary of the evidence in the case and Treat's opinion of the same. On March 28, 1864 a riot involving Copperheads and Federal soldiers broke out in Charleston, Illinois, resulting in numerous casualties, including nine dead. Fifteen Copperheads were arrested and ordered to be taken to Fort Delaware.

4.  Orlando B. Ficklin to Abraham Lincoln, Saturday, September 10, 1864 (Coles County prisoners)

Charleston Sept. 10th 64

My dear Sir

I beg leave to enclose to you the letter of our mutual friend Thomas A. Marshall, than whom no more ultra Republican lives in this latitude.

He tells you of the insignificance & want of influence & of consequence of the 15 Coles Co prisoners.3 Why keep them confined in Fort Delaware.

Powerless for good or evil, & wholly disconnected with the Coles Co. riot, their confinement is entirely without significance. It is a punishment to innocent men but furnish no warning to the guilty. Washington Reardon is in Hospital with slight hopes of recovery

Send him home to to be tried at our Court on the 4th Monday of this Month. He can give all the bail required, but kept there he is likely to die

I have told the friends of these prisoners that I had known you long & well & that you would not keep them in prison when there is no proof of their guilt.

What have they done that is worthy of death or of bonds? Reardon Brooke & Shelborne are now in hospital with a fair prospect of not getting out alive. Can you not be merciful to the afflicted & give ear to the wailings of the wife & children of each of these afflicted & wrongfully persecuted Men?


Republicans Democrats & Conservatives here all unite in asking that these men be tried or discharged & why can it not be done? 

Is the government afraid of a trial in open day?

From March till September these men have pined in a prison & most of them have no more connection than Your Excellency with the Coles Co raid Why then hold them The (54) Col. Mitchells4 Regt captured at Duvalls Bluff arrive daily & will all be here soon I beg of you to act in the case of the Coles Co Prisoners.5


Yours truly

O. B. Ficklin


[Note 1 Ficklin was an attorney and former congressman from Charleston, Illinois.]

[Note 2 See Thomas A. Marshall to Lincoln, August 23, 1864.]

[Note 3 A riot took place at Charleston on March 28, 1864 between soldiers of the 54th Illinois and anti-war Democrats. Nine men were killed in the riot and the military authorities arrested fifteen of the Democrats and transported them to Fort Delaware. Ficklin had traveled to Washington in July and met with Lincoln in order to persuade him to release the prisoners at Fort Delaware. See Lincoln to Ficklin, July 22, 1864 and Ficklin to Lincoln, [July 22, 1864]. For a discussion of the Charleston riot, see Robert D. Sampson, "'Pretty damned warm times' The 1864 Charleston Riot and 'the inalienable right of revolution,'" Illinois Historical Journal, Vol. 89 (Summer, 1996), 99-116.]

5.  Thomas A. Marshall to Abraham Lincoln, Tuesday, August 23, 1864 (Riot at Charleston, Illinois)

Charleston Ills

August 23rd 1864

Dear Sir

I am requested by our old friend Ficklin2 to write you my notions about releasing the 15 Copperheads that were arrested for being concerned in the outbreak here last Spring, & have been taken to Fort Delaware.3 I think none of them are of sufficient consequence, to be made State-prisoners of-- Several of them were I hear not indicted for any offence, by the grand jury -- of this County Which body was thouroughly Loyal, & well disposed to bring all to justice, against whom there was any proof--

I think those who were indicted had better be handed over to the authorities here for trial & the others let loose Most of them are poor miserable devils, that can do but little good or harm any way. The leaders & indeed most of the actors in the affair here have so far escaped arrest-- So far as I understand the feeling here the public would be satisfied to have these prisoners discharged--

I have been here from Vicksburg, some three weeks, & in about another week will return there.

Respectfully & Truly

Yours &c

T. A. Marshall

[ Endorsed by Lincoln:]

Coles Co, prisoners.

[Note 1 Marshall offers Lincoln advice in regard to the handling of defendants imprisoned after the Charleston, Illinois riot of March 28, 1864.]

[Note 2 Orlando B. Ficklin was an attorney and former congressman from Charleston, Illinois.]

[Note 3 On March 28, 1864 a riot involving Copperheads and Federal soldiers broke out in Charleston, Illinois, resulting in numerous casualties, including nine dead. Fifteen Copperheads were arrested and ordered to be taken to Fort Delaware.]

[Note 4 On November 4, Lincoln directed the military authorities to release the Coles County prisoners to the custody of the civil authorities in Illinois. See Collected Works, VIII, 90.]

6.  John J. Hall to Abraham Lincoln, Tuesday, October 18, 1864 (Dennis Hanks keeps the money that Lincoln sends for his stepmother)


Charleston Coles County Illinois Oct 18th 1864

Dear A Uncle,

This Leaves us all well but grand Mother.2 She is quite poor. I write to Inform you that Grand Mother has not and does not receive one cent of the money you send her. Dennis & Chapman3 keeps all the mony you send, her. She now needs, clotheing and shoes, they have the mony in their Pockett, & Uncle Dennis is, cusseing you all the time and abusing me & your best, Friends, for supportin you they make you believe, they are takeing care of her, which is not the case; I & my Mother are now takeing care of her and have for the last four years-- If you wish her to have any thing send it by check, here to the bank at Charleston or send none for I tell you upon the honor of a man She does not get it & he Dennis has threatened to put her on the county I hope to hear from you soon-- Brother Alferd is wounded & badly, shot through the foot & is now in the hospital at Quincy -- he was wounded at Dallas GA 27th of May last I remain your Nephew

John J Hall


I have written you these plain truths by grand Mothers request She has been asking me to do this for four years -- plese write soon

John J Hall--

[Note 1 Hall was the son of Lincoln's stepsister Matilda Johnston Hall. He had purchased the property in Coles County, Illinois of Lincoln's father, Thomas Lincoln, and helped care for Lincoln's stepmother.]
[Note 2 Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln's stepmother.]
3 Dennis F. Hanks and Augustus H. Chapman]

7.  James Shoaff to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, November 18, 1864 (Old friend seeks office)


Decatur, Ills., Nov. 18, 1864.

"Uncle Abe" -- Dear Sir:--

 "Excuse the familiar expression; but you remember by that name we called you in days gone by, when you used to sit around our table in our humble cottage.) My object in writing you is simply to ascertain if you will not confer a favor upon me. You can do it if you will and thereby place me in a Comfortable Condition of life whereby I can decently support my large family. What I respectfully ask for is the appointment of Post-master for Decatur. The present incumbent, Mr. Ryan, has held it over eight years, and a change would not shock this community. If you will do this much for me Uncle Abe, I will ever pray for your success in life. I feel competent to discharge all the duties of the office.

 As for my loyalty, I would respectfully refer you to our citizens. I was in the army 16 months, and perhaps would be there to-day were my health sufficient to stand the fatigues of a camp life.

Nancy wishes to be remembered. Father Hanks was robbed of $130 at Crestine, on his return from Washington.  Please give me a favorable answer, and you shall ever be remembered by


Yours very truly


James Shoaff


[Note 1 Shoaff was the former editor of a Democratic newspaper at Decatur and had served as a lieutenant in the 35th Illinois.]

[Note 2 The 1865 Official Register lists John Ryan as the postmaster at Decatur.]

[Note 3 Shoaff was married to Nancy M. Hanks, a daughter of Dennis F. Hanks. Dennis Hanks had traveled to Washington in order to try and persuade Lincoln to release the Coles County rioters. See Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds., Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews and Statements About Abraham Lincoln (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 653-54.]


8.  Harriet Chapman to Abraham Lincoln, Tuesday, January 17, 1865 (Family affairs)

Charleston Ills Jan the 17th 65

Dear Uncle 

I have ben intending to write to you for some time, but felt so bad that I had not the heart to write to enny one save my Husband. Our family have resently met with a great loss God in his divine mercy has seen fit to take from our midst a kind and beloved Mother. She died on the 18th of Dec after an Illness of a about 6 months in her death we have lost a devoted Mother one whose place can never be fild on this Earth You also have lost a friend for Mother was indeed a friend to you and Spoke of you often during her last moments But we ought not to greive too much for her for She died happy and left behind every assureance that She has gone hapy. Father3 takes her death vary hard he is not well and I fear that he is not long for this world and it is heart rendering to think of having to give him up too. I was down to See Grand Ma Lincoln4 on Newyears day She seems to be failing fast and is grieving her self to death about Mother. Poor woman how my heart aches for her. She was so destitute of every Comfort She wants to leave thare vary bad and Come to my house and tells me that She is badly treated5 I told her that it was impossible for me to take her just now for my house is small and not vary Comfortable and my family large. but I told her to wait till my Husband Come home his time of Servise expires the 17th of Feb. and then we would try and do Something for her it looks too hard for as good a woman as She is to be Compeld to Spend her last days in want and missery-- And I for one will do as I always have done my part in her behalf and now want you to assist me by giving my Husband a Situation so that he Can Support his family and get them a home and then we will take Grand Ma Lincoln and take good Care of her as long as She lives if we Should be spared that long. you Can do this and not discomode yoursilf in the least. and I think that Augustus deserves your favor. he has always been a Strong Union man Spent both time and moniy in your Election has now ben in the Army for 3 years and 3 months and would remain longer if his family was better Situated -- during that time has never been sick a day or unfit for duty and has never had but one furlough home and that only for 15 days. has not made ennything but a living for himself and family and this is why I ask you for your assistence feeling Sure that you would not deny me and then Gran Ma made me promis to write to you and tell you to do all you Could for us for She would rather live with us then enny where els The rest of the relations are all well.


The roling months have brought us the Close of an other year-- Thare has ben much suffering throughout our land during that time-- Meny are the vacant Chair-- Houses have ben made desolate partings endured-- Heart Strings have ben broke -- and meny widows and orphans have mourned for the loved and lost. But let us look forward to a better future and welcome young 1/65 with bright hopes and pleasent anticipations let us hope that before its Close Smiling peace will return once more and Scatter its blessings through all our land--


Well I have written a much longer letter than I intended to trouble you with this time and if I have transgrest I hope you will forgive.  If you feel disposed and Can assist Augustus please let him know soon he would be at home in about 6 weeks. Remember me kindly to your wife and Children

-yours with love

Harriet A Chapman

[Note 1 Augustus Chapman. Harriet was daughter of Lincoln's cousin & boyhood friend, Dennis Hanks.]  [Note 2 Elizabeth Johnston Hanks was Lincoln's stepsister and wife of Dennis F. Hanks.]  [Note 3 Lincoln's cousin, Dennis F. Hanks.]  [Note 4 Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, Lincoln's stepmother & mother of Elizabeth Johnston Hanks, Harriet's mother.]  [Note 5 Lincoln's stepmother was staying at the home of John J. Hall. According to Hall, money Lincoln sent to help care for his stepmother was kept by Hanks and the Chapmans. See John J. Hall to Lincoln, October 18, 1864.]  [Note 6 Though no Lincoln reply has been located, Chapman wrote to Andrew Johnson in September 1865 and informed the president that Lincoln had promised him an office in appreciation for his military service and care he had given to Lincoln's stepmother. Johnson appointed Chapman an agent to the Flathead Indians in Montana.

9.  Dennis F. Hanks, 1877 (Statement on his relationship with Lincoln)


This biographical sketch is writte n by request of an old friend.

I Dennis F Hanks and A. Lincoln were cousins both born in Hardin County Kentucky. I was born in 1799, May 15. A Lincoln born February the 12, 1809, near Hodginsville, now Larue County. Our parents moved to Spencer County Indiana near Gentryville in the fall of 1817. There I became his preceptor, learned him his letters, spell, read and write. He was a very good boy and an earnest man so was his father before him His mother belong to the Baptist Church, a christian lady in every respect. D. F. Hanks.

The picture that will accompany this writing is a very good one of myself. I live in Paris Illinois at this date 1877.

Dennis F. Hanks and A. Lincoln were always together until he was twenty one years old Then we were parted which was in Macon County Illinois I am the only relative living that was always intimate with him from birth until his assassination

D. F. Hanks.

[Note 1 See J. O. Humphrey to John G. Nicolay, July 5, 1886.]

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