Abraham Lincoln: A story and a Play/Captain Abraham Lincoln
Captain Abraham Lincoln
Two years after Abraham went to live in New Salem a war broke out. It was between the white men and their red neighbors. A great chief named Black Hawk entered Illinois with his braves and led them in several terrible massacres against the white people. The settlers fled from their homes in fright, and an army was raised to rout the Indians.
By this time young Lincoln had become a great favorite in his part of the country, and he was chosen captain of a company of soldiers who had enlisted in the war. He was delighted at the honor, because it showed how much he was liked. He said afterwards that it gave him more pleasure than anything which befell him in later life.
Now it happened that the war came to an end before Lincoln's company was called upon to do any fighting, but the men were in camp for several months, where they were drilled daily and stood ready to fight if called upon. They had much spare time, however, in which they ran races, had jumping and wrestling matches and other sports, and Abraham enjoyed the good-natured companionship of so many young men.
Though they had not gone to the front, and had taken part in no fighting with the red men, they often talked together about the fearful massacres of which they heard. More and more they hated the Indians and felt a longing to destroy them. One day, as some of them were talking together about this very matter, an old Indian, poor and feeble, came walking into the camp.
"A spy!" the soldiers shouted, and they rushed upon him. They felt such hate for all Indians that now, when one of these savages stood in their midst, they were eager to kill him without giving him a chance to speak for himself.
Their frightened prisoner drew out a bit of paper and held it up. It was a pass from General Cass saying the Indian was honest, and a friend of the white men.
"Perhaps General Cass did not write the pass," said one of the soldiers.
They hated the Indians so much, they did not wish to lose the chance of killing one of them now that they had him in their power, so they were quite ready to believe that the pass was not a true one.
"Shoot him!" cried one after another.
Several guns were aimed at the shivering old creature, and in another instant he would have been killed, when suddenly Captain Lincoln stood in front of his men, with stern face and flashing eyes. Rushing between them and the Indian, he cried out:
"Hold on! I command you not to fire." At the same moment he knocked up the guns that were pointed at the body of the red man. The men were so angry, however, that they were not willing to obey the order of their captain.
"Are you soldiers, and yet willing to kill a poor old man who cannot defend himself? You would bring disgrace upon your country by such a cowardly deed!" cried Lincoln, in ringing tones. His eyes were fairly blazing as he spoke.
"He's a spy!" answered one of the men.
"If it be true," said Lincoln, "he must die. But till it is proved, any one who attempts to kill him, must settle with me. I am ready to fight it out with each one of you. In the meantime, disband."
The men, with deep scowls, lowered their guns and turned away. Lincoln was left alone with the Indian. He examined the pass and saw that it was a true one.
"You are free," he said to the old man. Too grateful to answer in words, the Indian knelt down and kissed the feet of the young captain.