Lincoln-Shields Duel

A member of the Illinois State Legislature at the time, Lincoln criticized Illinois Auditor James Shields' method of collecting taxes. Pretending to be a widow from the "Lost Townships," Lincoln wrote a series of letters to the editor of the Sangamon Journal making satirical allusions to Shields. Mary Todd and her friend Julia Jayne joined in the ruse by writing a letter containing vicious personal attacks, calling Shields a fool and liar. Shields challenged Lincoln to a duel when he learned of Lincoln's complicity in the letter writing. Feeling the entire situation ludicrous, Lincoln nonetheless followed custom and chose an island across the river from Alton as the site for the duel on September 22, 1842, with "Calvary broadswords of the largest size" as the weapons of choice. As Lincoln's long arms swung the broad- sword at a branch on a nearby willow tree, Shields wisely decided to settle the disagreement like gentlemen. The site marker can be found along the riverwalk, across from the Riverfront Amphitheater, looking out on the Mississippi River.

Visitor Information

Address: 1 Henry Street Alton, IL 62002