415. Hannah Armstrong (William H. Herndon Interview).


Mrs. Jack Armstrong

Am the wife of Jack Armstrong — was so — Knew Abrm Lincoln in July or August 1831 — Know this by the birth of one of my children. Lincoln was clerking for Offutt at that time. I was living 4 M. from New Salem — Our acquaintance began then. Abe would Come out to our house — drink milk & mush — Corn bred — butter — bring the Children Candy — would rock the Cradle of my baby — the boy that was put on trial and the one Abe cleared — while I got him Abe something to eat. Abe is one year older than I am — am now 55 years — My husband Jack Armstrong died — about 1857 — I foxed his pants — made his shirts — didn't made any buckskin pants — only foxed his surveyors pants


— He has gone with us to parties with us — he would tell stories — joke people — girls & boys at the parties — He would nurse babies — do any thing to accommodate any body — I never Saw him drink a drop of liquor. Jack Armstrong and Lincoln never had a word: they did wrestle — no foul play — all in a good humor — commenced in fun and ended in sport. I had no books about my house — loaned him none — we didn't think about books — papers — We worked — had to to live. Lincoln has staid at our house 2 or 3 weeks at a time.

In reference to the trial of my son I wrote to Lincoln first — he then wrote to me — have lost the letter — went to see Lincoln at Springfied — Saw him in his office: he promised to come down to defend my Son — did so — cleared him — told the stories about our first acquaintance — what I did for him and how I did it &c — was truly eloquent. After the trial was over L. came down to where I was, in Beardstown. I asked him what he charged me — told him I was poor — : he Said — "Why — Hannah I shant charge you a cent — never. Any thing I can do for you I will do for you willingly & freely. without charge." He wrote to me about some land which some men were trying to get frm me. Mr. Lincoln said — "Hannah they Cant get your land — let them try it in the Circuit Court and then you appeal it — bring it to Supm Court and I and Herndon will attend to it for nothing.

In 1863.: I wanted to get one of my Sons — Wm — the boy whom Lincoln cleared in Beardstown out of the Army — needed him — all I had — wrote to Lincoln at Washington: he telegraphed to me as follows —

Sept. 1863

"Mrs. Hannah Armstrong — I have just ordered the discharge of your boy, William — as you say now at Louisville Ky

A. Lincoln.

As to the trial — Lincoln said to me "Hannah Your son will be cleared before sun down". He and the other lawyers addressed the Jury, and closed the case. I went down at Thompsons pasture. Staton Came and told me soon that my Son was cleared — and a free man. I went up to the Court house — the Jury shook hands with me — so did the Court — so did Lincoln. We were all affected and tears streamed down Lincoln's Eyes. He then remarked to me — "Hannah — What did I tell you." I pray to God that Wm may be a good boy hereafter — that this lesson may prove in the End a good lesson to him and to all.

Mr Lincoln lectured in the Evening after the trial on discoveries and inventions: it was a funny production and if I can judge a very good — that is a solid & good one.


A few days before Mr Lincoln left for Washington I went to see him — was a widow — the boys got up a story on me that I went to get to sleep with Abe &c — . I replied to the Joke that it was not every woman who had the good fortune & high honor of sleeping with a President. This stopt the sport — cut it short. — Well I talked to him some time and was about to bid him good by — had told him that it was the last time that I should ever see him — something told me that I should never see him — that they would kill him — He smiled and said — jokingly — "Hannah — if they Kill me I shall never die an other death. I then bade him goodby.

I never was in Springfield till 1859. — The stories going the rounds about jumping. I was in Springfield after my Son was cleared — saw him — shook hands with him — Saw his wife. Abe never spoke to me about his wife — never introduced me to her — thought something was the matter with him & her — The first time I went to his house knocked at the door — heard no answer — went to the back door — roused the girl — Saw Lincoln Come up Stairs

Jno. T. Stuart &c — tell it.

You understand the customs & habits of the People of Menard in 1831 to 1837 as well and better than I do and Can write them out — am sick — want to go home — will see you in Springfield sometime — will then tell you more — Goodby &c —

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3830 — 34; Huntington Library: LN2408, 1:377 — 81



1. For other references to the Duff Armstrong trial, see the index.

2. For other references to the foxing of AL's pants, see the index.

3. AL to Mrs. Hannah Armstrong, Sept. 18, 1863, CW 6:462.

4. Probably Daniel Staton.

5. Probably the first version of AL's lecture "Discoveries and Inventions." CW 2:437 — 42.

6. Apparently Mrs. Armstrong's story reminded WHH of another involving (or told by) John T. Stuart.