In January 1863, Abraham Lincoln borrowed The Atlantic Monthly, Jan-June 1861 from the Library of Congress. It is unclear whether he had read them in whole or part previously or whether he read them cover-to-cover upon borrowing them that month. If he did, he would have been treated to an incredible range of prose and poetry. For example, the January 1861 issue contained the first-ever publication of Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The April 1861 issue is a treasure trove for lovers of literary realism. In addition to a first-person account of the situation in Charleston, South Carolina including the lead up to the Battle of Fort Sumter and a piece by Charles Francis Adams, Jr. the grandson of President John Quincy Adams, on the cotton industry and slavery, the April issue contained the first-ever (albeit anonymous) printing of the groundbreaking short-story, Life in the Iron Mills, by Rebecca Harding Davis.
The piece on Fort Sumter contains the following bit of dialogue, which reportedly transpired between the journalist, John William DeForest, and one of his interviewees:
“Why do you venture on this doubtful future?” I asked of one gentleman … “Your great grievance is the election of Lincoln?”
“Is Lincoln considered here to be a bad or dangerous man?”
“Not personally. I understand that he is a man of excellent private character, and I have nothing to say against him as a ruler, inasmuch as he has never been tried. Mr. Lincoln is simply a sign to us that we are in danger, and must provide for our own safety.”
“You secede, then, solely because you think his election proves that the mass of the Northern people is adverse to you and your interests?”
“So Mr. Wigfall of Texas hit the nail on the head, when he said substantially that the South cannot be at peace with the North until the latter concedes that slavery is right?”
“Well,—I admit it; that is precisely it.”