12. William Walker to William H. Herndon.
Havana, June 3d 1865
Your favor duly recieved. I am Glad you have undertaken the task of Writing the life of President Lincol for Publication I did once know all about the Case as Armstrong but no doubt many things occured that have been forgotten. In the Summer of 1857 — at a Camp Meeting in the South East portion of Mason County a man by the name of Metzker was Murdered. Two men were charge with the offence. James H Norris, & Wm. D. Armstrong both of whom were Indicted at the Fall Term of our Court of that Year. Norris was tried & convicted of Man-Slaughter Sent to the Penitentiary for Eight years. Armstrong took a Change of venue to Cass County and up to this time I had Conducted the defence — In the Spring of 1858 — Armstrong at the Cass Court was put on his trial Then Mr Lincoln first appeared in the Case. I had preserved the Evidence adduced on the trial of Norris. this Mr. Lincoln Scrutinised Closely and verry Soon was fully posted in regard to the Case. The testimony Showed that the Decd together with a large number of others were off Some distance Say half mile from the place of worship, where some wagons with provisions & Liquors, were stationed At one of these waggons, The difficulty occurred. The main witness Swore that he saw Norris Strike Metzker across the back of the head with Some large Stick, resembling a neck yoke of a waggon, and that Armstrong Struck Decd with what appeared to be a Slung-shot, about the face, and that the parties clinched & fell to the ground, — Metzker lived one or two days. The witness who testified to this Stood off 10 or 15 paces, from the parties in the night about Eleven O clock. On Examination Decd Showed fracture of the Skul at the back & base of the Brain, and also an other fracture at or near the inner Corner of one Eye, which fracture occasion the most irritation, Either of which was shown would produce death. I Examined the witness & when through Mr.Lincoln, would tel me what to ask, having refference to the testimony of some witness on the Norris trial. we made or Showed numerous Contradictions. Thus we showed by an other witness that the man, who pretended to have Seen all the dificulty had not been on the ground at all that night. Mr Lincoln made the closing argument for the defence. He Spoke Slow, and Carefully reviewed the whole testimony, picked it all to pieces, and Showed, that the man though kiled had not recived his wounds at the place or time named by the witness, but afterwards and from the hands of Some one Els. He told of his kind feelings toward the Mother of the Prisoner, a widow, That she had been kind to him when he was young, lone, & without friends. The last 15 minutes of his Speech, was as eloquent as I Ever heard, and Such the power, & earnestness with which he Spoke, that jury & all, Sat as if Entranced, & when he was through found relief in a gush of tears I have never Seen, Such mastery
Exhibited over the feelings and Emotions of men, as on that occasion. The Boy was acquitted — none of that sickning thing occured on his acquittal that Some writer has mentioned the old Lady came to the Parlor, where Mr L — & the Judge & Some others were Sitting & took Mr L — by the hand and with Streaming Eyes Said God would bless him & his Children, because he had been kind to the widow & orphan. The work he done was the result of his large kind hort, his reward the Consciousness that he had done his duty — Should these facts be of any assistance — use them as you please.
Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2150 - 51; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:334 — 36
1. On August 29, 1857, Metzker, Norris, and Armstrong were involved in a fight; Metzker was injured and died on September 1.
2. Armstrong's slung-shot was a lead weight wrapped in a leather pouch and attached to thongs.