Among the interesting reminiscences told regarding the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates which took place during the Senatorial campaign of 1858, is an incident related by George W. Hartman of San Bernardino, who was a personal acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln.
In those days there were no halls In that part of the country large enough in which to hold the political meetings, so the gatherings were held out-of-doors. On the occasion to which we refer the debate was held in a sugar grove near Rushville, Schuyler County, Illinois, and people traveled forty and fifty miles to attend it. Some came with ox teams, others in "one-hoss shays," and still others walked fifteen and twenty miles and remained overnight.
As was the custom, a torchlight procession immediately preceded the debate, each party lining up with its respective candidate in the lead. The Douglas contingent was accompanied by half a dozen bands, each consisting of a fife and a drum, playing "Yankee Doodle."
Mr. Hartman marched with Lincoln's followers, just a few feet behind the statesman.
"Abe, when you run for President I'll vote for you," he called to the man in front, and Abe Lincoln responded, "Good for you."
The procession moved on to the meeting place and Stephen Douglas opened the meeting. After he had finished with his speech he climbed out of the farm wagon which was being used as a stage and came and sat down directly in front of Lincoln. According to Mr. Hartman, the most impressive part of the debate was the significant moment when Abe Lincoln pointed his long bony finger at Stephen Douglas and repeated his famous slogan, "Stephen, you know that a nation cannot function and long survive one-half free and one-half slave."
In 1864 Mr. Hartman enlisted with the Kansas Cavalry in defense of the Union. The following year, while he was stationed with the Kansas troops at Fort Lincoln, De Vall's Bluff, Arkansas, he cast his first Presidential ballot, voting for the man to whom he had made his boyish promise six years beforehand.
By H. F. S.
Los Angeles Times, Sunday, February 8, 1925