As a young man, Lincoln stood out from the crowd, tall and lanky at six feet four inches. He arrived in New Salem and landed a job as a clerk in a general store. Soon thereafter, Lincoln started to make a name for himself, successfully wrestling the town bully and amazing most of his neighbors with his strength and ability to split rails and fell treesa survival skill that he developed as a child of the American frontier. In small towns during that era, the general store was a meeting place, and thus Lincoln grew to know the community well. He delighted people with his wit, intelligence, and integrity. For the less literate citizens of New Salem, Abes ability to read and write was invaluable. He quickly became a popular member of the town, endearing himself to the locals as a good natured and bookish young man.
Six months after his arrival in town, Abe let his ambitions get the best of him. He announced his candidacy for a seat in the Illinois state legislature, declaring himself as an independent candidate. A few weeks after throwing his hat in the ring, the Black Hawk War broke out, and Lincoln volunteered to fight Indians. His fellow volunteers elected him the temporary captain of their company, an honor that he valued more than his nomination for the presidency, and off they marched to war. It was a thirty day stint, and when it was up, Lincolnhaving seen no military actionsigned on for another twenty days, and then again for a third term of thirty days. In his last duty, he served as a private in the Independent Spy Corps, which unsuccessfully tried to track down Chief Black Hawk in southern Wisconsin. As a soldier, Lincoln saw no action in the war, but his tour of duty prevented him from campaigning for office.
Back home in New Salem, Lincoln resumed his campaign for the legislature, but there was too little time left before the election for him to make himself known throughout the large district. Although he won 277 of the 300 votes in New Salem, he lost in the county, coming in eighth in a field of thirteen. Thereafter, he refocused his energies on studying law on his own, arguing cases before the local justice of the peace even before passing the state bar exam in 1836, and getting his license in 1837. Lincoln also participated in Whig political functions, serving as secretary in the partys meetings.
Despite his political leanings, Abe attracted attention from leaders of the time. Democratic President Andrew Jackson appointed Lincoln postmaster of New Salem, even though Lincoln had supported National Republican candidate Henry Clay in the 1832 presidential election that reelected Jackson. Democrats allowed Lincolns appointment probably because no local Democrat wanted the job, and, additionally, his determination to avoid partisan posturing made him acceptable to almost everyone in New Salem. To supplement his meager pay of $55 per year, Abe chopped wood, split rails, worked as a county deputy surveyor, and handled routine legal work for small fees.