Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: Outran the Jack-Rabbit

When the Union forces were routed in the first battle of Bull Run, there were many civilians present, who had gone out from Washington to witness the battle. Among the number were several Congressmen. One of these was a tall, long-legged fellow, who wore a long-tailed coat and a high plug hat. When the retreat began, this Congressman was in the lead of the entire crowd fleeing toward Washington. He outran all the rest, and was the first man to arrive in the city. No person ever made such good use of long legs as this Congressman. His immense stride carried him yards at every bound. He went over ditches and gullies at a single leap, and cleared a six-foot fence with a foot to spare. As he went over the fence his plug hat blew off, but he did not pause. With his long coat-tails flying in the wind, he continued straight ahead for Washington.

Many of those behind him were scared almost to death, but the flying Congressman was such a comical figure that they had to laugh in spite of their terror.

Mr. Lincoln enjoyed the description of how this Congressman led the race from Bull’s Run, and laughed at it heartily.

“I never knew but one fellow who could run like that,” he said, “and he was a young man out in Illinois. He had been sparking a girl, much against the wishes of her father. In fact, the old man took such a dislike to him that he threatened to shoot him if he ever caught him around his premises again.

“One evening the young man learned that the girl’s father had gone to the city, and he ventured out to the house. He was sitting in the parlor, with his arm around Betsy’s waist, when he suddenly spied the old man coming around the corner of the house with a shotgun. Leaping through a window into the garden, he started down a path at the top of his speed. He was a long-legged fellow, and could run like greased lightning. Just then a jack-rabbit jumped up in the path in front of him. In about two leaps he overtook the rabbit. Giving it a kick that sent it high in the air, he exclaimed: ‘Git out of the road, gosh dern you, and let somebody run that knows how.’

“I reckon,” said Mr. Lincoln, “that the long-legged Congressman, when he saw the rebel muskets, must have felt a good deal like that young fellow did when he saw the old man’s shot-gun.”