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Endorsed Play - Abraham Lincoln’s Beardstown Trial




Event Type:

ALBC Endorsed Event


Civil War Battlefield Preservation Trust


Ninety Six


South Carolina

Event Info:

Lincoln’s Beardstown Trial 

A play about Lincoln’s legal defense of William “Duff” Armstrong.  When Hannah Armstrong asked Lincoln to defend her son on the charge of murder, Lincoln did so, even though at that moment in time he was preparing to run against Stephen A. Douglas for the Illinois U.S. Senate seat.  Refusing to take a penny from Mrs. Armstrong, he accepted the case purely out of friendship.  The Armstrongs befriended Lincoln when he moved to New Salem, although his first meeting with Jack Armstrong was in a famous wrestling match.  Lincoln won the case by a surprise presentation of an almanac to prove the key prosecution witness was mistaken about the placement of the moon in the sky. 

John Ford featured a trial and an almanac in his movie, Young Mr. Lincoln, starring Henry Fonda.  The movie bears no resemblance to the real trial.  Another work based on the trial is Moonlight by John Walsh (2000).  His historical interpretation includes an accusation that Lincoln suborned perjury.  Lincoln's Beardstown Trial is historically accurate, and is based upon recorded public memory from the 1890s.

The play was produced by the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Trust Fund in Beardstown, IL on the anniversary of the trial this September.

For more information, visit:  http://www.civilwar.org/