Abraham Lincoln gets himself into big trouble and ends up facing a political opponent in a duel.
Two fellows with razor-sharp swords are on a boat together headed to Bloody Island. This may sound like the plot for a pirate adventure tale, but no, this is a true story of Abraham Lincoln and fellow Illinois politician James Shields out to settle a score in 1842, when Lincoln was a young Springfield lawyer. Shields took offense when Lincoln wrote a letter as “Aunt Rebecca” to the Sangamo Journal, a Whig paper, calling Shields a fool and a “conceity dunce.” Following a rash of other letters from the fictitious lady, Shields challenged Lincoln to a duel, and off they went to Bloody Island. Lincoln didn’t want to kill Shields, nor did he care to die himself, so, as the challenged man, Lincoln got to name the weapons and set the rules. He came up with a clever plan that, as things turned out, wasn’t even necessary, as the duel never happened. It was an “almost-duel.” Bowman’s upbeat telling is infused with folksy humor, and Schindler’s superb watercolor-and-ink illustrations effectively capture the period (populating scenes with an all-white cast). After all the setup, though, the conclusion is a letdown, albeit one that is true to history. A rather limp allusion to the Emancipation Proclamation attempts to connect this minor episode to what Lincoln’s best known for. Backmatter offers further information and discusses the political careers of Lincoln and Shields.
An attractive volume created out of an insubstantial historical anecdote. (sources) (Informational picture book. 6-9)