Was Lincoln as truly “physical,” as much of a “he-man,” as the image suggests?

1860 Read more from
Chapter Lincoln’s Election, Southern Secession: 1860 to April 1861

Lincoln was always composed of opposites, or contrasts. Blessed with outstanding physical strength, he was also notoriously cerebral and could fall into complete lassitude for hours at a time. In youth, he had indeed been an outstanding wrestler; given the length of his arms, he could hold off, then throw, almost any opponent. He had also split plenty of wood in his youth: nearly all Western boys did. Whether he actually split any true “rails” is debatable, but when a handful of middle-aged men brought rails to the convention and claimed Lincoln had split them thirty years earlier, it was irresistible, both to the political handlers and then the general public. No previous president—not even Andrew Jackson—ever built so much political capital based on one good story, and none would do so again until Theodore Roosevelt capitalized on his “charge up San Juan Hill” during the Spanish-American War.


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