Lincoln 1860

Lincoln 1860

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lincoln Flatboat Hits Some Rough Waters

As many of you know, Abraham Lincoln's flatboat trip down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers is being re-enacted, with the official journey under way just this past week. Seems as if the boat and crew encountered some very rough waters over the weekend from the remnants of Hurricane Ike and had to have some emergency repairs.

According to this article, the flatboat was buffeted by seven foot swells and huge waves on the Ohio River as it journeyed from Elizabethtown, Illinois to Paducha, Kentucky. The crew needed to fix some damage to the cabin in order to make the boat safe for continued travel. Thankfully, no one was injured in the storm.

The flatboat is apparently still on schedule. You may find updates to the schedule at the main site for the recreation of Lincoln's journey here.


Rebecca said...

Can you explain the significance of Lincoln's flatboat trip? I'm astounded I haven't heard about this before!

Geoff Elliott said...

Hi Rebecca,

Thanks for your question. From what I've read over the years about Lincoln's trip (actually two trips) on a flatboat to Louisiana, there doesn't seem to be all that much signficance to attach to them.

Lincon's cousin, Dennis Hanks, claimed many years after the trip that Lincoln was moved to end slavery as soon as he saw the horrors of slave auctions in New Orleans. Hanks said that Lincoln said something like "Denny, I'm going to hit it and hit it hard if I ever get a chance."

I'm not so sure I'd take Hanks at his word. David Donald's "Lincoln" gives the journeys the barest mention. I've not read anything where Lincoln wrote about or much discussed his trips down the rivers. They seem to have simply been a young man on an adventure of a lifetime, trying to earn some cash along the way. And since Lincoln was only 19 years old when he made his first trip, he dutifully turned over the money he earned to his father Thomas. However, he couldn't have been unmoved by the sights of slavery. Yet even if he was moved, he certainly didn't take steps to end it until he used it as a political tool during the Civil War.

The modern re-creation of Lincoln's trip is part of the official bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. It's officially sanctioned by The United States Bicentennial Commission. It's also serving to help drum up interest and tourism (read: money!) for the Indiana Lincoln sites.

Here's a link to the official site of the recreation:

I hope this helps!


Rebecca said...

Thanks for explaining the re-creation of Lincoln's flatboat trip and the link!

I wish I could enjoy some of the events of the bicentennial of Lincoln's birthday but I live so far away!

Christy said...

I seem to remember reading somewhere that Lincoln was mildly seasick on his visit to Richmond at the end of the Civil War. Have you hard this? I wonder how he would have liked seven foot swells. Yikes!

Ruth said...

Hi Geoff!
I have awarded your blog the I Love Your Blog award. You always have such great content that probably won't be found in most Lincoln biographies or histories. Always a fascinating read! Check out to get your award, and...Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Living near a powerful river like the Ohio would have proven irresistible to a dreamer like young Abe. He would have had been drawn by the many stories from the river boat crews and passengers at Rockport. New Orleans promised to be an exotic and mysterious place. He surely jumped at an opportunity to realize what he had only imagined to be downstream. Most agree that the Dennis Hanks' quote is apocryphal but I would bet that the impact of a slave auction on the sensitive young man was dramatic and that it deeply affected his later views and actions. Early on, I think Abe desired a much larger worldview for himself.

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