“Mrs. M. C. Lee.”
In February, 1860, he was ordered to take command of the Department of Texas. There he remained a year. The first months after his arrival were spent in the vain pursuit of the famous brigand, Cortinez, who was continually stealing across the Rio Grande, burning the homes, driving off the stock of the ranchmen, and then retreating into Mexico. The summer months he spent in San Antonio, and while there interested himself with the good people of that town in building an Episcopal church, to which he contributed largely.
THE YOUTH OF LINCOLN
He was long; he was strong; he was wiry. He was never sick, was always good-natured, never a bully, always a friend of the weak, the small and the unprotected. He must have been a funny-looking boy. His skin was sallow, and his hair was black, He wore a linsey-woolsey shirt, buckskin breeches, a coon-skin cap, and heavy “clumps” of shoes. He grew so fast that his breeches never came down to the tops of his shoes, and, instead of stockings, you could always see “twelve inches of shinbones,” sharp, blue, and narrow. He laughed much, was always ready to give and take jokes and hard knocks, had a squeaky, changing voice, a small head, big ears—and was always what Thackeray called “a gentle-man.” Such was Abraham Lincoln at fifteen.
He was never cruel, mean, or unkind. His first composition was on cruelty to animals, written because he had tried to make the other boys stop “teasin’ tarrypins”—that is, catching turtles and putting hot coals on their backs just to make them move along lively. He had to work hard at home; for his father would not, and things needed to be attended to if “the place” was to be kept from dropping to pieces.
He became a great reader. He read every book and newspaper he could get hold of, and if he came across anything in his reading that he wished to remember he would copy it on a shingle, because writing paper was scarce, and either learn it by heart or hide the shingle away until he could get some paper to copy it on. His father thought he read too much. “It will spile him for work,” he said. “He don’t do half enough about the place, as it is, now, and books and papers ain’t no good.” But Abraham, with all his reading, did more work than his father any day; his stepmother, too, took his side and at last got her husband to let the boy read and study at home. “Abe was a good son to me,” she said, many many years after, “and we took particular care when he was reading not to disturb him. We would just let him read on and on till he quit of his own accord.”
The boy kept a sort of shingle scrap-book; he kept a paper scrap-book, too. Into these he would put whatever he cared to keep— poetry, history, funny sayings, fine passages. He had a scrap-book for his arithmetic “sums,” too, and one of these is still in existence with this boyish rhyme in a boyish scrawl, underneath one of his tables of weights and measures: