Early Sangamon County Court
v Truett – March 1838
– October 1838
Sangamon County. Henry
B. Truett was charged with the murder of Dr. Jacob Early. Dr. Early was
shot by Henry B. Truett’s pistol in a confrontation gone awry. Upon
being charged, Truett retained council from Abraham Lincoln and Stephen
Logan. Edward Baker assisted. The State’s Attorney at the time was
Stephen Douglas. Douglas asked David Woodson of the state to assist
Dr. Jacob Early
stopped at the Colonel Spottswood Hotel on a night in mid-March 1838 to
read in the sitting room undisturbed. As he read, a disgruntled Henry
Truett stood by the fireplace and waited for other patrons to leave the
room. Truett had recently received disapproval as a nominee for the
Register of the Land Office at Galena, and had heard Dr. Jacob Early was
the author of this notice. Truett was angry.
questioning, Dr. Early admitted that he was the author of this
disapproval, and then demanded the identity of Truett’s informant. When
Truett refused this information, the doctor recalled his previous
confirmation and stated he would only answer again when Truett revealed
his source. Truett called him a damned liar. Dr. Early insisted that he
would not hear such abuses against himself, however, Truett’s insults
continued. Dr. Early rose from his seat in the sitting room and raised
his chair up in a clear sign of attack against Truett. Truett retreated
and shot the doctor once in the side.
Lincoln had a very
interesting role as the defense in this trial. First, he was an
inexperienced litigator, yet was granted full responsibility for the
defense in Truett’s case. He knew the defendant, the murdered
physician, and at least 5 of the jurors. This is particularly
interesting considering that “in making the jury, 20 persons [were]
challenged peremptorily and 300-400 for cause”. Lincoln designed the
case around a plea of self-defense on Truett’s behalf. The raised chair
of Dr. Early Jacobs indicated his intent to attack, which Truett
defended himself against with a single shot.
The trial of Henry B.
Truett for murder took 3 days. After evidence was heard, the jury
retired for approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes before returning a
not-guilty verdict based on Truett’s plea of self defense. Lincoln was
successful. The People v Truett case is one which helped build his
reputation in the early years of his career in Sangamon County.
Lincoln Library, Springfield IL Microfilm collection, March & Oct 1838
Illinois State Journal.
Researcher: Savannah Little
People v Anderson
Sangamon County, IL. Jane Anderson and Theodore Anderson were charged
with the murder of George Anderson, husband to Jane and uncle to
Theodore. George Anderson was found dead behind his house. He was
allegedly beaten with a club and potentially poisoned with strychnine.
Theodore Anderson retained
Abraham Lincoln as his defense attorney. He and Jane were represented by
a team of attorneys also including: William Campbell, Benjamin Edwards,
Thomas Lewis, Stephen Logan, John Rosette, and John Stuart. Both
defendants pleaded not guilty. The defense team designed their case to
acquit Theodore based on his legitimate alibi. For Jane, the defense
interviewed dozens of witnesses who testified to her loving,
affectionate relationship with her husband.
George Anderson had a
longtime stomach ailment that required medication and frequent house
calls from local doctors Fowler and Lord. These two doctors offered
testimony in regards to George’s medical condition for an entire day on
Monday, November 25, 1856. Establishing George’s ailment helped account
for the strychnine found in his system on the night of his untimely
After the defense team
effectively accounted for the poison, they worked on establishing the
good relationship between husband and wife. Almost every witness on
November 26, 1856 testified to the affection and love between Jane
Anderson and her husband. Jane was described by someone saying, “Her
character was good; she was . . . of a quiet, kind and affectionate
disposition”. A story from a local storekeeper illustrated Jane in the
same light as he explained that Jane would not buy a new silk dress
while her husband had been so ill. Jane told the storekeeper at the time
that any money she had would go toward improving her husband’s health.
Theodore had spent the
evening of George Anderson’s death walking around Springfield with some
friends, and was seen by many. All who saw him testified that his alibi
was honest. On December 1, 1856, the Illinois State Register printed:
Acquitted – The argument in
the case of Jane and Theodore Anderson, charged with murder of George
Anderson in this city in May last, was closed about 9 o’clock on
Saturday night, and the case submitted to the jury. After some hours
delay, the jury returned a verdict of ‘not guilty’ and the prisoners
were released from custody.
Information Accessed: http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=140064
& Lincoln Library, Springfield IL Microfilm collection, Nov 1856
Illinois State Register.
Researcher: Savannah Little
People v Harrison
– July 1859 – September 1859
Simeon “Peachy” Quinn Harrison was charged with the
murder of Greek Crafton after a brawl in Pleasant Plains, Illinois on
July 16, 1859. In the heat of the fight, Harrison stabbed Crafton and
killed him. After voluntarily surrendering himself to the Sheriff on
August 1, 1859, Harrison retained council from Abraham Lincoln and
William Herndon. Other members of the defense team were Shelby Cullom,
Milton Hay, and Stephen Logan. For the state were Norman Broadwell,
Isaac Cogdall, Benjamin Edwards, John McClernand, John Palmer, and James
This trial moved rapidly and was a very high
profile case for Lincoln. 75 witnesses were subpoenaed to trial. 3
witnesses testified to the infliction of wounds by Harrison, who was
first attacked by Crafton. Other witnesses testified to previous ill
blood between the two men, speaking particularly about threats of
Crafton to whip Harrison, and of Harrison to kill Crafton if he battered
him. The prosecution attempted to “exclude as evidence the threats made
by Crafton” on September 1, 1859, however, the presiding judge ruled in
favor of the defense and permitted the evidence to be used in court.
Although he had lost to Lincoln in the 1846
Congressional election, Reverend Peter Cartwright played a key role as a
witness for the defense in this case. Cartwright testified that on his
death bed, Greek Crafton “absolved Harrison from blame, and blamed
himself for the difficulty and its sad result”. Crafton also claimed to
Reverend Cartwright that he forgave Harrison. These sentiments were
repeated by one other witness, yet rebutted by Dr. Million, a witness
for the prosecution who claimed Crafton said otherwise.
Lincoln used the testimony of Reverend Peter
Cartwright and the circumstances of the incident – the fight between
Grafton and Harrison – to form a case around a plea of self-defense.
The jury found Harrison not guilty, and Lincoln earned yet another
victory in the courtroom.
Information Accessed: http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=140154
& Lincoln Library Microfilm Collection, Springfield, IL, August -
September 1859 Illinois State Register.
Researcher: Savannah Little
The Lincoln Log - A daily
Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln
llinois State Archives
Margaret Cross Norton Building
Springfield, IL, 62756
People v. Anderson & Anderson
November of 1856
Someone beat George Anderson with a club and possibly poisoned him with
strychnine. Witnesses found him dead behind his house. The state's
attorney indicted Jane Anderson, George Anderson's wife, and Theodore
Anderson, George Anderson's nephew, for murder. Theodore Anderson
retained Lincoln. Both Jane Anderson and Theodore Anderson pleaded not
guilty. The jury found them not guilty.
People v. Harrison
August of 1859
Harrison and Crafton got into a fight in which Harrison pulled a knife
and stabbed Crafton. Crafton died a few days later, and the state's
attorney indicted Harrison for murder. Harrison retained Lincoln and
Herndon and pleaded not guilty by reason of self-defense. Rev. Peter
Cartwright, who lost to Lincoln in the 1846 Congressional election,
testified that Crafton, on his death bed, took responsibility for the
fight and forgave Harrison. The jury found Harrison not guilty.
Researcher: Savannah Little