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Stillman's Run Memorial
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Stillman's Run Memorial

Stillman Valley, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln was a 23-year-old clerk living in central Illinois when Governor John Reynolds called for volunteers, thinking that the Sac and Fox tribes threatened the settlers of northwestern Illinois. In his 1860 autobiography, Lincoln said his employer's "business was failing -- had almost failed -- when the Black Hawk war of 1832 broke out. Abraham joined a volunteer company, and, to his own surprise, was elected captain of it. He says he has not since had any success in life which gave him so much satisfaction. He went to the campaign, served near three months, met the ordinary hardships of such an expedition, but was in no battle."

Lincoln's service took him to many locations around northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. At what is now the town of Stillman Valley in Ogle County, he helped bury soldiers who had been killed and scalped the day before. According to newspaper reporter Noah Brooks, Lincoln recalled that "the red light of the morning sun was streaming upon them as they lay, heads towards us, on the ground. And every man had a round red spot on the top of his head, about as big as a dollar, where the red-skins had taken his scalp. It was frightful, but it was grotesque, and the red sunlight seemed to paint everything all over."

In 1901, the Battlefield Memorial Association of Stillman Valley erected a monument with funds from the Forty-Second Illinois General Assembly. One side explains that it memorializes "the Illinois volunteers who fell at Stillman's Run, May 14, 1832, in an engagement with Black Hawk and his warriors."

The marble monument also soberly notes, "The presence of soldier, statesman, martyr, Abraham Lincoln assisting in the burial of these honored dead has made his spot more sacred."

Another side of the marker reads: "Here, on May 14, 1832, the first engagement of the Black Hawk War took place. When 275 Illinois militiamen under Maj. Isaiah Stillman were put to flight by Black Hawk and his warriers. So thoroughly demoralized were the volunteers that a new army had to be called into the field." The monument honors the following volunteers:

Captain John G. Adams
Sergeant John Walters
Corporal James Milton
Private Isaac Perkins
Private Joseph Draper
Private David Kreeps
Private Zadock Mendinall
Private Tyrus M. Childs
Private James Doty
Scout Gideon Munson

Location: This may be an obscure Lincoln site, but it's easy to find. Take I-39 to the Route 72 interchange, then several miles west on 72 to the town of Stillman Valley. The monument is on the south side of the highway near the town water tower.

Related Link
Lincoln Early Life Timeline

Related Reading
Brooks, Noah. "Personal Reminiscences of Lincoln." Scribner's Monthly Magazine, February 1878.
Davenport, Don. In Lincoln's Footsteps: A Historical Guide to the Lincoln Sites in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. Revised edition, Trails Books, 2002.
Thomas, Benjamin. Lincoln's New Salem. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988.

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