John L. Wilson to Abraham Lincoln, 11 September 18561
Hon Abm LincolnSpringfield IllDr[Dear] Sir
Our cause is going on gloriously in this end of the state. I was at Junction yesterday and the people were there in their might— no mistaking the signs of the times. 2Accessions are made to our ranks hourly and we bid fair to throw 1840 into the shade–3 Old democrats whom I have known for nearly a quarter of a century here in Northern Illinois were on the ground yesterday in large numbers and as enthusiastic a set of men were they as you ever saw in favor of freedom. The heart of the people is touched. Trumbull made a glorious speech and everybody speaks of it in the highest terms–4
Douglass is down here in Northern Illinois and almost execrated– Push on the column in the south part of the state vigorously and give the Buck Africans plenty to do in Egypt.5 Let us know how– and where we can help you– We are more than all right hereaway– Will come to the Springfield line with more than 20.000 majority– I know of what I write– The Maine election has filled the hearts of our people with joy— for in it they see that the hour of our redemption draweth nigh–6 Push on the column of freedom–7
Your FriendJohn. L. Wilson
1John L. Wilson wrote and signed this letter.
2“The Junction” or “Junction” was the original name of West Chicago, Illinois, which was situated at the site of the state’s first railroad junction.
William H. Stennett, A History of the Origin of the Place Names Connected with The Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railways (Chicago, 1908), 150; “West Chicago, IL,” Encyclopedia of Chicago, accessed 31 January 2023.
3In the presidential election of 1840, Cook County, of which Chicago is a part, gave Democrat Martin Van Buren 65.8 percent of the vote to 34.2 percent for Whig candidate William Henry Harrison. See the 1840 Federal Election.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 6, 107; Edward Callary, Place Names of Illinois (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 68.
4Lyman Trumbull delivered an address in Chicago on September 9, 1856. He made his address in reply to Stephen A. Douglas, who spoke in Chicago on September 8. Trumbull and Abraham Lincoln corresponded throughout the summer of 1856 regarding strategies for the Republican Party’s success in the 1856 Federal Election.
Chicago Daily Tribune (IL), 9 September 1856, 2:1; 12 September 1856, 2:1; Abraham Lincoln to Lyman Trumbull; Lyman Trumbull to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Lyman Trumbull; Lyman Trumbull to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Lyman Trumbull.
5“Buck African” was a racist term for a man of African ancestry, which some nineteenth-century Euro-Americans employed as a racially charged epithet. Within this context, Wilson is referring to the Democratic Party.
Egypt was a popular nickname for Southern Illinois. Lincoln delivered more than fifty speeches throughout Illinois during the campaign of 1856, including in Southern Illinois. Turnout was low in Southern Illinois, however, as relatively few Republicans lived in the region.
D. R. Hundley, Social Relations in Our Southern States (New York: Henry B. Price, 1860), 195; O. J. Hollister, Life of Schuyler Colfax (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1886), 124; Chicago Daily Tribune (IL), 8 September 1856, 2:1; 12 September 1856, 3:3; 13 September 1856, 2:1; 17 September 1856, 2:2; George W. Smith, When Lincoln Came to Egypt (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2016), 3-4; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:425-26.
6In state and congressional elections held on September 8, 1856, Maine’s voters elected Republicans to the U.S. House of Representatives in each of the state’s six voting districts and elected Republican Hannibal Hamlin governor by a large majority.
Bangor Daily Whig and Courier (ME), 8 September 1856, 2:1-2; Michael J. Dubin, United States Congressional Elections, 1788-1997: The Official Results of the Elections of the 1st through 105th Congresses (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1998), 176; Chicago Daily Tribune (IL), 13 September 1856, 2:1.
7Lincoln’s reply, if he wrote one, has not been located.
In the federal election of 1856, Democrat James Buchanan won the presidency. In Illinois, he won 44.1 percent of the total vote to Republican John C. Fremont’s 40.2 percent and American Party candidate Millard Fillmore’s 15.7 percent. Buchanan scored majorities in every county in Southern Illinois except St. Clair. In Northern Illinois, voters went for Fremont, but not in large enough numbers to overcome Buchanan’s majorities in the southern part of the state. The Republican Party swept the races for every state office in Illinois.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 10, 135-39; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 20 November 1856, 2:2; Arthur Charles Cole, The Era of the Civil War 1848-1870, vol. 3 of The Centennial History of Illinois (Springfield: Illinois Centennial Commission, 1919), 151.

Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Volume Volume 2, Herndon-Weik Collection of Lincolniana, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).