Saturday, April 13, 2019

Young Lincoln of New Salem:A Historical Novel, Wonderfully Heavy on Fact

Young Lincoln of New Salem: Abraham Lincoln’s spiritual journey during his time at New Salem and beyond

Author: Sam Rawlins
Publisher: Yorkshire Publishing, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 2019

A Historical Novel, Wonderfully Heavy on Fact
Full disclosure: I love America and Abraham Lincoln. I have always thought of Lincoln as a man of faith, a regular reader of the Bible, and one who had a personal relationship with the Creator. However, I was lacking two pieces of the puzzle that portrayed the full life of the 16thPresident of the United States.  First, I had no idea about his childhood experiences.  Second, I had no idea of how it was he became such a spiritual person.  Sam Rawlins’ book provided me those two pieces.
The author’s research is extensive, spanning three years of focusing on 121 different sources available to him.  From these, he paints for us a powerful image of what life was like for ‘young Lincoln’ and those who knew him best.
The story starts off with his arrival in New Salem where he catches a glimpse of the young woman who becomes the love of his life while she lived and the angel that guided him after she died. From there, through Lincoln’s memory, we are allowed to share his childhood, living with a man who had no right to be called a ‘father’ as he treated his son like a slave, or perhaps worse.
There are several themes throughout the book that Rawlins uses to drive home some key ideas about Lincoln: his devotion to Ann Rutledge; his honesty; his commitment to his friends; his losses; and his desire to do God’s will.
Lincoln became the man he ultimately was after he faced and conquered his past growing up under a drunken tyrant. He had to deal with his enemies slowly turning each one of them into a valued friend that stood by him to the very end.
Rawlins gives us a very intimate look into life for American settlers in the early 1830s. It wasn’t pretty in many respects.  Only the strong and the faithful could handle it. Lincoln seemed a natural for it.
He had to learn to accept opportunities to lead others in very difficult circumstances, when he felt he didn’t deserve them. He cared and attended to the needs of weaker or ill neighbors during the ‘Winter of the Deep Snow’ which hit the community hard. And then he enlisted in the great War against Chief Blackhawk who had had enough of the maltreatment that his people were receiving from white Americans. Through that he saw death and war like he had never imagined it before.  Many were lost including young men close to him. He hated war. And this experience served to mold his character into what was needed for him to later end slavery in the United States.
Another theme that Rawlins drives home is Abe’s thirst for knowledge. He devoured whatever book he could get his hands on. And soon, a dream emerged that was supported not only by his true love, but also some of the older, wiser men who came to see him as a young man of promise or a true brother, and also one who came to see him as his own ‘son’. Young Lincoln, who could hardly read or write his name when he arrived in New Salem, now wanted to become a lawyer someday.  And what a journey that was.
But as fate would have it, the loss of his mother as a young child, the loss of his sister, the loss of his friends in battle, was soon to be followed by the loss of his beloved. Could fate have served him a more bitter pill? Abe now had to fight extreme depression, no appetite, and a desire to end it all. But God had other plans for young Lincoln, and the friends He had arranged for Abe to have, helped him survive.
Resolving to do all he had promised his love before she died, Abraham Lincoln put his life together with the help of others and embarked on the necessary steps to accomplish their joint dream. How all of this came about makes this historically based account an incredible read.
Eventually, Lincoln becomes a famous attorney and through an unfortunate event ends up marrying someone who could never be what he had lost in losing his fiancée many years earlier. You’ll have to read about that for yourselves. Suffice it to say that his legal partner, William (Billy) Herndon wrote a book entitled, “Lincoln and Ann Rutledge and the Pioneers of New Salem” which positively exposes Abe’s true and only love for Ann, to the unending opposition of his wife, Mary Todd and her family. 
Rawlins uses real names of people and places as well as their accounts of what actually took place from other historical sources. The skill with which he does this, is alone worth the ‘price of admission’ to his book.  At the back of the volume, Sam Rawlins shares how the book came about, his sources, his appreciation of those that remained true to their word in writing about Abraham Lincoln as they knew him, and what today’s readers could actually experience themselves by visiting the actual sites that provide the setting for the book.
Personally, this is a book I wish many would read. It helps us understand Abraham Lincoln who was born just ten years after George Washington died (210 years ago). It helps us grasp how his life experiences made him who he was and enabled him to achieve what he did. It makes us reflect on what may be missing in the lives of our modern leaders – and perhaps our own.  It certainly made me more aware of the difference God can make in the lives of people and their life’s accomplishments for the good of others. Even ordinary folks like you, and me, and a mistreated young man, who felt he would be better off dead, named Abraham Lincoln.
Highly recommended for those who love history, those who enjoy a great romance story, and those who want to be challenged about how to live a productive life for God and for others. I intend to take it with me when I visit Springfield, Illinois, and Lincoln’s New Salem Historic State Park in Menard County, Illinois.

n  Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, April 13, 2019,

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