Axes and Ancestry: Lincoln Never Said That

By Thomas F. Schwartz
Illinois State Historian

A popular cable show that highlights the skills and dangers of loggers felling tall trees is “Ax Men.” While modern loggers favor power saws over Abraham Lincoln‟s traditional ax, this ancient tool still is useful in certain instances. Lincoln‟s youth was spent learning how to wield an ax. This skill was necessary to clear land for farming, provide lumber for buildings, and split fence railing to keep livestock either in or out of fields and gardens. Lincoln‟s association with the ax continued until a week before his assassination. He entertained troops at the Depot Field Hospital at City Point, Virginia on April 8, 1865, by picking up an ax and chopping a nearby pile of wood. In some ac-counts, Lincoln allegedly performed a grand finale by taking the ax handle in his right hand and lifting it slowly until it was at a right angle to his body, where he held it for several moments. Lincoln‟s New Salem associates often commented on his strength and agility, which he maintained throughout his life.

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