Abraham Lincoln's Most Famous Case: The Almanac Trial

Abraham Lincoln's Most Famous Case: The Almanac Trial

by George R. Dekle Sr.

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Overview

Dispelling common myths and misunderstandings, this book provides a fascinating and historically accurate portrayal of the 1858 Almanac Trial that establishes both Lincoln's character and his considerable abilities as a trial lawyer.

Even after the mythical elements are removed, the true story of Abraham Lincoln and the Almanac Trial is a compelling tale of courtroom drama that involves themes of friendship and loyalty. Abraham Lincoln's Most Famous Case: The Almanac Trial sets the record straight: it examines how the dual myths of the dramatic cross-examination and the forged almanac came to be, describes how Lincoln actually won the case, and establishes how Lincoln's behavior at the trial was above reproach.

The book outlines three conflicting versions of how Lincoln won the Almanac Trial—with a dramatic cross-examination; with an impassioned final argument; or with a forged almanac—and then traces the transformation of these three stories over the decades as they were retold in the forms of campaign rhetoric, biography, history, and legal analysis. After the author exposes the inaccuracies of previous attempts to tell the story of the trial, he refers to primary sources to reconstruct the probable course of the trial and address questions regarding how Lincoln achieved his victory—and whether he freed a murderer.


  • Written from the highly informed and experienced perspective of a veteran criminal trial lawyer who has investigated, prosecuted, and defended hundreds of murder cases
  • Presents accurate information gathered from the most significant letters, statements, and interviews of the participants in the trial and cites the actual court record, allowing readers to distinguish fact from myth and lore
  • Explains how a fictional account of the trial came to be believed as fact and proves that the myth of the forged almanac was a libel invented by those who sought to profit from the lie
  • Appeals to Lincoln scholars and trial lawyers as well as any reader with an interest in American history or true crime



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440830495
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/17/2014
Pages: 223
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

George R. Dekle, Sr. has been a legal skills professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law since 2006.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Murder at a Whiskey Camp 1

2 Lincoln the Cross-Examiner 7

3 Lincoln the Orator 13

4 Lincoln the Trickster 18

5 The Hagiography of the Trial 23

6 The Historiography of the Trial 33

7 Lincoln and the Clary's Grove Boys 42

8 The Camp Meeting 52

9 The Prosecution 62

10 The Trial Begins 73

11 The Famous Cross-Examination 86

12 The Misplaced Moon 100

13 Winning the Almanac Trial 109

14 Was Armstrong Guilty? 119

Appendix A The Statements of the Major Participants 123

Appendix B Selected Documents from the Armstrong Court File 151

Appendix C The Oral History of the Armstrongs 165

Notes 173

Selected Bibliography 207

Index 217

What People are Saying About This

Ronald H. Clark

"Engrossing. Reads like an engaging mystery. Dekle, through meticulous scholarly research and with a novelist's style, unscrambles the conflicting accounts of Lincoln's famous Almanac murder trial in this endeavor to uncover the true story."

Ron J. Keller

"Dekle provides a unique and fascinating examination of the celebrated Almanac trial. As a retired prosecutor, he utilizes his years of legal experience to weigh the known testimony and evidence, and brilliantly undertakes a cross-examination of the competing historiography of the past 150 years. The reader will be exposed to new insights, and will assuredly be won over to his side. It will forever be very difficult when considering the Almanac Trial to argue against the solid case that Dekle has objectively presented."

Daniel W. Stowell

"Abraham Lincoln's participation in the case of People v. Armstrong has become the stuff of legend. Often studied but rarely understood, the 'Almanac Trial' as it has been presented often obscures more than it reveals about Lincoln as a lawyer. From a sparse official record, a cornucopia of often-unreliable reminiscences, and fictional accounts in print and on screen, George R. Dekle unravels the many strands of fact, fiction, and assumption that form the public memory of this case. Drawing on his experience as both a defense attorney and a prosecutor, Dekle separates reasonably reliable facts from decades of lore that has veiled the case. His careful examination of the evidence in the Armstrong trial sheds new light on Lincoln's role in this most famous of his thousands of cases."

Sharon Packer

"In his latest book, Bob Dekle proves that he is as much a master storyteller as he is a professor and prosecutor. He sets the stage like a movie director, introducing us to the impoverished widow who sells her meager belongings when she hires a young lawyer to defend her accused son. Along the way, Dekle annotates the history-making tale with legal facts and factoids that only a legal insider would know but that a legal outsider can easily understand."

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