The text of this biography and the words of each valued volume in the little “library” were absorbed into the memory of the reader. It was his practice when going into the field for work, to take with him written-out paragraphs from the book that he had at the moment in mind and to repeat these paragraphs between the various chores or between the wood-chopping until every page was committed by heart. Paper was scarce and dear and for the boy unattainable. He used for his copying bits of board shaved smooth with his jack-knife. This material had the advantage that when the task of one day had been mastered, a little labour with the jack-knife prepared the surface of the board for the work of the next day. As I read this incident in Lincoln’s boyhood, I was reminded of an experience of my own in Louisiana. It happened frequently during the campaign of 1863 that our supplies were cut off through the capture of our waggon trains by that active Confederate commander, General Taylor. More than once, we were short of provisions, and, in one instance, a supply of stationery for which the adjutants of the brigade had been waiting, was carried off to serve the needs of our opponents. We tore down a convenient and unnecessary shed and utilised from the roof the shingles, the clean portions of which made an admirable substitute for paper. For some days, the morning reports of the brigade were filed on shingles.
Lincoln’s work as a farm-hand was varied by two trips down the river to New Orleans. The opportunity had been offered to the young man by the neighbouring store-keeper, Gentry, to take part in the trip of a flat-boat which carried the produce of the county to New Orleans, to be there sold in exchange for sugar or rum. Lincoln was, at the time of these trips, already familiar with certain of the aspects and conditions of slavery, but the inspection of the slave-market in New Orleans stamped upon his sensitive imagination a fresh and more sombre picture, and made a lasting impression of the iniquity and horror of the institution. From the time of his early manhood, Lincoln hated slavery. What was exceptional, however, in his state of mind was that, while abominating the institution, he was able to give a sympathetic understanding to the opinions and to the prejudices of the slave-owners. In all his long fight against slavery as the curse both of the white and of the black, and as the great obstacle to the natural and wholesome development of the nation, we do not at any time find a trace of bitterness against the men of the South who were endeavouring to maintain and to extend the system.