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New Lincoln papers found in the heart of Dixie

Lincoln to CameronPapers of Abraham Lincoln collection adds letters located at University of Alabama

August 11, 2014

SPRINGFIELD – The Papers of Abraham Lincoln announced that it has scanned two previously unknown Lincoln documents from the A. S. Williams III Americana Collection at The University of Alabama Libraries in Tuscaloosa.

The first is a letter to Lincoln’s former secretary of war, Simon Cameron, written on Nov. 6, 1863. The letter concerns a series of treason cases against prominent Baltimore officials. Cameron had imprisoned many of them during his time in Lincoln's cabinet, and in turn, several of them had sued him in federal court for false imprisonment. Cameron wrote to Lincoln urging the president to press the treason trials to demonstrate the government's intolerance for treason and to help Cameron's case.

Lincoln responded that he had sent an attorney to Baltimore to investigate the matter and had learned that the judge did not want to proceed without the presence of the Supreme Court justice responsible for Maryland's federal circuit.


Lincoln, the resourceful lawyer and politician, suggested, “It might do good, for the government to urge for the trials, whether it should succeed in bringing them on or not.” He asked Cameron to confer with his attorney in Baltimore and report back. Ultimately, both cases were dismissed.

The second document is an endorsement written by Lincoln on an 1862 letter from New York firearms dealer Orison Blunt to an Army official trying to locate rifles for Illinois soldiers. Blunt wrote that several thousand British-manufactured Enfield rifled muskets had been captured from ships trying to run the blockade into the Confederacy. “I think it would be well for this quality of arm to be put into the hands of our Western soldiers who know how to use the Rifle,” Blunt said.

Blunt suggested the President order the court in control of the rifles to turn them over to the Ordnance Department. Lincoln wrote the following endorsement on Blunt’s letter:

If approved by the Sec. of War, I request the court to turn the arms within mentioned, over to the U.S. Ordnance Department.
A. Lincoln
July 30, 1862

These documents are in the A. S. Williams III Collection, a rich assortment of Americana assembled over forty years by a Birmingham businessman. Williams presented the collection in 2010 to The University of Alabama, where selections are on display in the Gorgas Library.

George C. Rable, the university's Charles Summersell Chair in Southern History, said, “It is amazing that in the twenty-first century new Lincoln materials are still being found. It was especially pleasing that the two new documents were discovered at the University of Alabama. Once again the relentlessly diligent researchers for the invaluable Papers of Abraham Lincoln have discovered previously unknown material on our sixteenth president.”

Jonathan W. White, author of “Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War,” remarked, "This is a very important find. It confirms how Lincoln's finger was on the pulse of so many aspects of the war."

“After working in the collection for four years, I continue to find treasures, and the Lincoln Letters are indeed treasures,” said Nancy DuPree, curator of the Williams Collection. “One of these small pieces of paper was actually written by Lincoln himself, only a few days before he delivered the Gettysburg Address. Besides their historical importance, such original documents offer a link with Lincoln himself, a sense of connection across space and time. We are honored to have the letters in the Collection.”

Daniel W. Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, said: “This discovery shows the importance of following document leads from helpful researchers. We rely on researchers and collectors to alert us to documents in private collections or to those recently acquired like these at the University of Alabama.”

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is a long-term documentary editing project dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating, and publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime (1809-1865). The project is administered through the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and is cosponsored by the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield and by the Abraham Lincoln Association.

The Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library at The University of Alabama supports teaching and research needs in humanities, social sciences, and government information as the campus' main library and is among the premier research libraries in Alabama providing the latest technology-driven services and unparalleled print and online research collections.