Post Reply 
Captain Abraham Lincoln vs. Private Lorenzo Dow Thompson
04-11-2016, 12:45 PM
Post: #1
Captain Abraham Lincoln vs. Private Lorenzo Dow Thompson
I knew that Abraham Lincoln once lost a wrestling match to a man named Lorenzo Dow Thompson, but I had never read a detailed account of the match. Last week a gentleman named Brian L. Moore joined the forum, and he sent me a most detailed account of the match. Brian is a direct descendent of Jonathan Moore who refereed the match. Brian was kind enough to send this account. Thank you, Brian!




While searching for material affecting the history of the Black Hawk War, of course I found the stereotyped version of the noted wrestling match between Captain Abraham Lincoln and an obscure private from the St. Clair company of Captain William Moore; the same published in Nicolay and Hay's Life of Lincoln. But not until too late for my purpose did I secure its details with anything like accuracy. A long course of investigation has just rewarded me with the facts.

The match was celebrated, the State over, long before Lincoln became famous and it must be admitted a pleasure to turn from the serious man, to the early, robust Lincoln; the young man of stature and strength, informal as he was when just reaching man's estate and in possession of his first prize in life.

It may seem ridiculous to class the modest office of captain of a company of sixty day volunteers, as a proud position, yet Leonard Swett has told us the day of Lincoln's election to such a position in 1832, was the proudest of the latter's life.

When Governor Reynolds called out the militia to remove Black Hawk and his band from Illinois soil, " dead or alive," Abraham Lincoln as he has told us, was "out of a job," and enlistment therein invited him to place, adventure and perhaps renown. A company of sixty-eight intractable spirits (two more were added subsequently), was organized in Sangamon County and enrolled on April 21st, of which Lincoln was elected captain and from which he was expected to exact discipline. His First Sergeant was John Armstrong, the gentleman who had undertaken with disastrous personal results, to introduce Lincoln to New Salem " life " through the medium of a wrestling match. William Kirkpatrick, said to have filched a cant-hook from Lincoln, as well as the latter's rival in the contest for captain, was another. The Clary boys, Royal and William, who acted disagreeable parts at the Armstrong function, were of the number, while as though smiling at the joke of it, " Pleasant " Armstrong was another private. Finally from the sentimental side we find the names of John M. and David Rutledge to add to the list. Truly a picturesque crowd!

Once organized, the company was marched to Beardstown to be sworn into the service of the State by Inspector General John J. Hardin, where too the captain fell in with such men as O. H. Browning, Edward D. Baker, Adam W. Snyder, John Dement, Gov. Carlin and others who became famous in the history of the State and Nation. At that point the companies were formed into regiments and moved toward " The Yellow Banks " en route for the mouth of Rock River where Captain Lincoln was to meet General Henry Atkinson, and Lieut.-Col. Zachary Taylor, as well as Lieutenant Robert Anderson, Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, Captain William S. Harney, Lieut. Albert Sidney Johnston and many others who were to be prominent in his future during the great crisis of our country.

In referring to the nights of that period, O. H. Browning in his journal of May 2d, wrote that they were " cold and tempestuous; " so that choice camping grounds, affording wood and water, were eagerly sought and when found, the scramble for their possession was spirited.

At, or just out of Beardstown, the companies of Captain Lincoln and Captain William Moore from St. Clair County, came upon just such a camping ground simultaneously and for its occupation a strife arose of course. With the propensity for free fights, usual to those days, it may appear miraculous at this day that such an affray was avoided; but as Captain Lincoln felt his official oats at the time and may have desired to reap a little personal advantage from the collision, he proposed to Captain Moore that " ' captain for captain/ the matter should be settled by a match." But as every rule of wrestling forbade a contest so unequal, Captain Moore, who declined, suggested as a substitute the selection of a man from each company. That appeared fair enough and with a metaphorical chip on his shoulder Captain Lincoln selected himself to represent his company, while Captain Moore who was not an authority on " wrestling form," turned over the function of selection to his brother, Jonathan Moore, Orderly Sergeant.

The latter knew his business even though a shout of derision went up from Lincoln's men when the champion was produced. When led up for slaughter, the victim was found to be just above medium height and weight and so unobtrusive and guileless that I had almost forgotten to mention his name: " Lorenzo Dow Thompson of St. Clair County. Captain Lincoln chortled and gave the upstart a look of such fine scorn that the poor fellow should have been sorry for living and had the affair been one of to-day we surely could have heard the captain shout " what a cinch! " when the books were opened for bets.

Jonathan Moore was called to referee the match which was to consist of " best two in three " falls. He tossed up a coin, winning choice of " holts " for Thompson, who chose " side holt." Lincoln's was " Indian holt," and generally speaking it was a scrappy sort of a " holt " too. At once a great scramble followed among Lincoln's men to lay their bets before Captain Moore's men got " scart." But Captain Moore's men refused to get " scart." In fact there was a very suspicious degree of firmness and unanimity in their opinion of " Dow " Thompson's ability to take care of himself and any loose change his friends might put up on him; so up went powder-horns, guns, watches, coats, horses, pay-rolls and reputations until there remained not one solitary article of property in possession or expectancy thereof which had not been put into the pot on that match.

To increase the zest of his men for gaming, Captain Lincoln who was co ck-sure of victory, had urged them to offer odds and discount the future all they could, and the men did it. Then the combatants grappled " side holt, " Thompson's choice.

They see-sawed. The spectators shouted. Momentarily Lincoln's men bantered Thompson with words of encouragement, " just to drag the sport out and get their money's worth," but when they discovered their error there appeared a temporary inspiration by the Clary boys to meddle. The Armstrong boys wanted to get busy as the contest proceeded, but before any of these meddlers could devise a plan, the long legs of the captain cleft the air and in the very next instant Thompson had him fairly upon the ground. The din which followed would have silenced a thunderstorm.

As said of the boy who fell down cellar: " he did not hurt himself, but did hurt his new pants, so it might be said of the chagrined captain after that first fall. His person had not been harmed but the disaster to his feelings was something dreadful. Particularly harmful because the crowd to witness it had quadrupled several times, each installment adding a few words of humiliation. Defeat in the presence of a few friends would have been dreadful, but surrounded by an army and he a captain, it was a catastrophe. Even the swagger back to the center did not square it. His friends shouted: " That's only one fall, while two more are due." That encouragement did not place his confidence in status quo. But he made his bluff by stating icily when he had secured his " holt : " " Now Mr. Thompson, it's your turn to go down."

The Indian hug or " holt " did not work at all however. In fact the patronizing captain was kept busy trying to keep his feet solid against the multitude of tricks which Thompson had up his sleeve to thwart the captain's favorite " holt." At last it was abandoned as altogether useless.

The redoubtable captain followed with a "crotch-holt," but that terrible device was resisted as easily as water runs from a duck's back. A trick called " sliding away," was introduced, only to confirm the growing opinion of the spectators that the doughty wrestler from Sangamon had met his master.

A moment of indecision followed, the slipping of a mental cog, so to speak, — just enough to allow the despised St. Clair man to get in his fine work, and once more the legs of the valiant captain rose in the air and both men fell to the ground in a heap.

" Dog fall! " yelled Lincoln's men.

" Fair fall! " retorted Moore's men.

A free fight was imminent, but Lincoln, disgruntled and defeated though he was — in one fall at least — was a " good loser." Springing to his feet before the referee could act, he cried : " Boys ! The man actually threw me once fairly ; broadly so, and this second time — this very fall, he threw me fairly though not apparently so." That settled the matter and the frankness of the speaker saved him his reputation although his men had lost all their available property.

On the 8th day of August, 1860, Professor Risdon Marshall Moore, then of McKendree College (now of San Antonio, Texas), son of the referee, Jonathan Moore, called upon Mr. Lincoln at the latter's house in Springfield with a delegation of college men, devotedly attached to Mr. Lincoln's cause. In introducing Prof. Moore, Lieutenant Governor Koerner added, " of St. Clair County."

Prof. Moore then stated : " Mr. Lincoln, we have called to see the next President." To which Mr. Lincoln replied: "You must go to Washington to see the next President."

During this and other conversation which followed, Mr. Lincoln eyed Prof. Moore constantly with a suspicious twinkle of the eye, after which he asked: "Which of the Moore families do you belong to? I have a grudge against one of them."

Professor Moore replied with a still merrier twinkle : " I suppose it is my family you have the grudge against, but we are going to elect you President and call it even."

There were present at that meeting the same O. H. Browning who had witnessed the match nearly thirty years before, Norman B. Judd, Richard J. Oglesby and some others, to all of whom Mr. Lincoln related the story as herein told, concluding with these words : "I owe that Moore family a grudge, as I never had been thrown in a wrestling match until the man from that company did it. He could have thrown a grizzly bear."

Poor Thompson! He migrated to Harrison County, Missouri, and became its first representative in the General Assembly of the State in 1846 was re-elected in 1848. He was also a member of the first grand jury of the county. Politically he was called an anti-Benton Democrat. Positive in all his convictions, he was called eccentric toward the end of his life, but all who knew him testify that he was able, upright and a good neighbor and citizen.

In 1875 he died in indigence at the age of 65 and his body lies in Oakland cemetery six miles north of Bethany.

Singularly enough, we are told that to the same point migrated one Peter Rutledge who claimed to be brother to Ann Rutledge.

In the early history of Illinois, the Moores were known as the " fighting Moores," by reason of their daring in the Indian war of 181 2-14 and the border troubles which were constantly menacing our frontier.

Jonathan Moore who was born in Georgia, Nov. 20, 1799, was one of the number. He moved to Illinois in 181 2, served in the Black Hawk War and enlisted in the Mexican War, but his company was rejected because troops enough had already been sent to the front.

At the breaking out of the Civil War, he enlisted and was made captain of company " G " Thirty-second Illinois Infantry and served at Shiloh and other hard fought engagements.

Chicago. Frank E. Stevens.

P. S. — I wish to express my indebtedness to Gen. Henry Cadle, of Bethany, Mo., for valuable favors connected with this story.


Brian also included the photos below. In a previous trivia question I had confused the two men and incorrectly said the photo of Moore was Thompson.

[Image: thompson.jpg] [Image: moore.jpg]
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
04-11-2016, 05:40 PM
Post: #2
RE: Captain Abraham Lincoln vs. Private Lorenzo Dow Thompson
Fascinating - thanks for sharing!!! I hope I didn't read over this - from when is this account?
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
04-12-2016, 04:51 AM
Post: #3
RE: Captain Abraham Lincoln vs. Private Lorenzo Dow Thompson
Eva, I do not have the exact date, but I looked up the author, Frank Stevens. I found Mr. Stevens had written other published articles and books including one called The Black Hawk War. That book was published in 1903, so I will guess the article above is probably from the early 1900s.
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
04-12-2016, 06:15 AM
Post: #4
RE: Captain Abraham Lincoln vs. Private Lorenzo Dow Thompson
Thanks, Roger!
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
04-12-2016, 02:37 PM
Post: #5
RE: Captain Abraham Lincoln vs. Private Lorenzo Dow Thompson
The article entitled "Captain Abraham Lincoln versus Private Lorenzo Dow Thompson" by Frank E. Stevens, appeared in "The Magazine of History with Notes and Queries" Volume 1, January- June , 1905. It was a New York-based history magazine, which began publishing in 1905, with the last issue in 1922.
The majority of the text is taken from an article entitled "Mr. Lincoln as a Wrestler", by Col Risdon M. Moore (Professor Moore of the article from Mckendree College later commanded the 117th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, referred to as the "Mckendree Regiment" since many students and faculty served in its ranks.) That article was published in the transactions of the "Illinois State Historical Society for the year 1904" page 433-434. it is available free on-line through Google e-books.
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
04-13-2016, 05:52 AM
Post: #6
RE: Captain Abraham Lincoln vs. Private Lorenzo Dow Thompson
Thank you, Mr. Moore!
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply 

Forum Jump:

User(s) browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)