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Lincoln in Indiana

Lincoln in Indiana

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Brian R. Dirck


E-book (Other formats: Hardcover)
4 illustrations

Concise Lincoln Library


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About the Book

Abraham Lincoln, born in Kentucky in 1809, moved with his parents, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, and his older sister, Sarah, to the Pigeon Creek area of southern Indiana in 1816. There Lincoln spent more than a quarter of his life. It was in Indiana that he developed a complicated and often troubled relationship with his father, exhibited his now-famous penchant for self-education, and formed a restless ambition to rise above his origins. Although some questions about these years are unanswerable due to a scarcity of reliable sources, Brian R. Dirck’s fascinating account of Lincoln’s boyhood sets what is known about the relationships, values, and environment that fundamentally shaped Lincoln’s character within the context of frontier and farm life in early nineteenth-century midwestern America.
Lincoln in Indiana tells the story of Lincoln’s life in Indiana, from his family’s arrival to their departure. Dirck explains the Lincoln family’s ancestry and how they and their relatives came to settle near Pigeon Creek. He shows how frontier families like the Lincolns created complex farms out of wooded areas, fashioned rough livelihoods, and developed tight-knit communities in the unforgiving Indiana wilderness. With evocative prose, he describes the youthful Lincoln’s relationship with members of his immediate and extended family. Dirck illuminates Thomas Lincoln by setting him into his era, revealing the concept of frontier manhood, and showing the increasingly strained relationship between father and son. He illustrates how pioneer women faced difficulties as he explores Nancy Lincoln’s work and her death from milk sickness; how Lincoln’s stepmother, Sarah Bush, fit into the family; and how Lincoln’s sister died in childbirth. Dirck examines Abraham’s education and reading habits, showing how a farming community could see him as lazy for preferring book learning over farmwork. While explaining how he was both similar to and different from his peers, Dirck includes stories of Lincoln’s occasional rash behavior toward those who offended him. As Lincoln grew up, his ambitions led him away from the family farm, and Dirck tells how Lincoln chafed at his father’s restrictions, why the Lincolns decided to leave Indiana in 1830, and how Lincoln eventually broke away from his family.
In a triumph of research, Dirck cuts through the myths about Lincoln’s early life, and along the way he explores the social, cultural, and economic issues of early nineteenth-century Indiana. The result is a realistic portrait of the youthful Lincoln set against the backdrop of American frontier culture.


Brian R. Dirck is a professor of history at Anderson University in Indiana. He is the author of eight books, including Lincoln and the Constitution, another Concise Lincoln Library book, and Lincoln the Lawyer, which won the Barondess/Lincoln Award.


“Brian R. Dirck’s work exhibits extensive research and is very readable. This book’s strength is placing Abraham Lincoln and his family in an Indiana and American history context.”—William E. Bartelt, author of There I Grew Up: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth
“Lincoln’s youth is a topic encrusted by folk memory and legend. Dirck gets to the heart of the matter with his vivid word-pictures of the hardscrabble world from which Abraham Lincoln arose, as he weaves the few precious strands of direct evidence about Lincoln’s Indiana years into the foreground of his well-researched and colorful portrayal of frontier life in the Hoosier state.”—Gerald Prokopowicz, author of Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Abraham Lincoln

“For nearly two centuries, the poignant story of Lincoln’s youth in what he called a ‘wild region’ has languished in near obscurity. Now, acclaimed Lincoln scholar Brian R. Dirck has crafted an enjoyable and enlightening portrait of the Indiana frontier that casts a vibrant light on the future president’s early years. Here, Lincoln first experienced the harsh realities of life and death, developed his steadfast commitment to hard work and fair play, learned the value of self-improvement as the pathway to opportunity, and imagined a better life and a greater future for himself and his nation. Offering colorful insights from family and community members, gleaned from a trove of little-known reminiscences, Lincoln in Indiana presents a freshly rendered narrative of this crucial and formative—but too often overlooked—period in Lincoln’s life.” —Kenneth J. Winkle, author of Lincoln’s Citadel: The Civil War in Washington, DC
"In a triumph of research, Dirck cuts through the myths about Lincoln’s early life, and along the way he explores the social, cultural, and economic issues of early nineteenth-century Indiana. The result is a realistic portrait of the youthful Lincoln set against the backdrop of American frontier culture."
Jim Miller, Civil War Notebook

"Dirck slices through the myths about Lincoln’s youth and, at the same time, discusses the social, cultural, and economic issues of early 19th-Century Indiana...This volume presents a vivid portrait of the young Lincoln set within the context of the American frontier".--Frank J. Williams, Chair, Lincoln Forum

"The most recent publication in the Concise Lincoln Library collection is a tidy little gem. Lincoln in Indiana by Brian R. Dirck offers a terrific, yet concise overview of Lincoln's life experiences growing up in the Hoosier State...Dirck provides not only a glimpse of a slice of Lincoln's formative years, but places it within the context of the history of the pioneer movement of the early to middle 19th century--thus creating a parallel narrative."--James A. Percoco, Civil War News

"Lincoln in Indiana is a clearly and succinctly argued study of the early years of Abraham with rich descriptions of Indiana. It will certainly appeal to scholars interested in understanding Lincoln’s adolescence and early nineteenth century Indiana history. Its short length makes it ideal for an undergraduate course on Indiana history or Lincoln himself."--John C. Kennedy, The Civil War Monitor

"Every modern Abraham Lincoln biographer faces three challenges when writing a new book about our sixteenth president: telling a story that has not already been well told, presenting an honest examination of a popular and important historical figure without succumbing to the temptation of writing mere hagiography, and carefully navigating the often-thin line that separates the historical fact from the erroneous or exaggerated memories of some Lincoln contemporaries. Professor Brian R. Dirck conquers all three challenges in his latest book, Lincoln in Indiana."--Alan Manning, University of West Florida

"Much about Abraham Lincoln's life in Indiana remains unkown, but Dirck clearly demonstrates that it was more complex than the self-depreciating presidential candidate's on summation: "The short and simple annals of the poor" (p. 1). Lincoln scholars should appreciate this succinct overview, and anyone interested in the historian's craft will learn from Dirck's careful handling of sources, lucid writing, and ability to smoothly superimpose Lincoln's story on the broader context of the early republic."--Sean A. Scott, Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities