Abraham Lincoln's Most Famous Case
The Almanac Trial
by George R. Dekle, Sr.
April 2014, 223pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3049-5
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3050-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

What role did the Almanac Trial play in Lincoln becoming president?

Dispelling common myths and misunderstandings, this book provides a fascinating and historically accurate portrayal of the 1858 Almanac Trial that establishes both Lincoln's character and his considerable abilities as a trial lawyer.

Even after the mythical elements are removed, the true story of Abraham Lincoln and the Almanac Trial is a compelling tale of courtroom drama that involves themes of friendship and loyalty. Abraham Lincoln’s Most Famous Case: The Almanac Trial sets the record straight: it examines how the dual myths of the dramatic cross-examination and the forged almanac came to be, describes how Lincoln actually won the case, and establishes how Lincoln’s behavior at the trial was above reproach.

The book outlines three conflicting versions of how Lincoln won the Almanac Trial—with a dramatic cross-examination; with an impassioned final argument; or with a forged almanac—and then traces the transformation of these three stories over the decades as they were retold in the forms of campaign rhetoric, biography, history, and legal analysis. After the author exposes the inaccuracies of previous attempts to tell the story of the trial, he refers to primary sources to reconstruct the probable course of the trial and address questions regarding how Lincoln achieved his victory—and whether he freed a murderer.


  • Written from the highly informed and experienced perspective of a veteran criminal trial lawyer who has investigated, prosecuted, and defended hundreds of murder cases
  • Presents accurate information gathered from the most significant letters, statements, and interviews of the participants in the trial and cites the actual court record, allowing readers to distinguish fact from myth and lore
  • Explains how a fictional account of the trial came to be believed as fact and proves that the myth of the forged almanac was a libel invented by those who sought to profit from the lie
  • Appeals to Lincoln scholars and trial lawyers as well as any reader with an interest in American history or true crime
George R. Dekle, Sr. has been a legal skills professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law since 2006. For 30 years previous he served as an assistant state attorney, investigating and prosecuting hundreds of homicide cases. His previous work includes Praeger's The Last Murder: The Investigation, Prosecution, and Execution of Ted Bundy; Prosecution Principles: A Clinical Handbook; and The Case against Christ: A Critique of the Prosecution of Jesus. Dekle is also coauthor of Cross-Examination Handbook: Persuasion, Strategies, and Techniques.


"Dekle provides a unique and fascinating examination of the celebrated Almanac trial. As a retired prosecutor, he utilizes his years of legal experience to weigh the known testimony and evidence, and brilliantly undertakes a cross-examination of the competing historiography of the past 150 years. The reader will be exposed to new insights, and will assuredly be won over to his side. It will forever be very difficult when considering the Almanac Trial to argue against the solid case that Dekle has objectively presented."—Ron J. Keller, Professor of History and Director of the Lincoln Heritage Museum, Lincoln College

"Engrossing. Reads like an engaging mystery. Dekle, through meticulous scholarly research and with a novelist’s style, unscrambles the conflicting accounts of Lincoln’s famous Almanac murder trial in this endeavor to uncover the true story." —Ronald H. Clark, Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, Seattle University School of Law

"Abraham Lincoln’s participation in the case of People v. Armstrong has become the stuff of legend. Often studied but rarely understood, the Almanac Trial as it has been presented often obscures more than it reveals about Lincoln as a lawyer. From a sparse official record, a cornucopia of often-unreliable reminiscences, and fictional accounts in print and on screen, George R. Dekle unravels the many strands of fact, fiction, and assumption that form the public memory of this case. Drawing on his experience as both a defense attorney and a prosecutor, Dekle separates reasonably reliable facts from decades of lore that has veiled the case. His careful examination of the evidence in the Armstrong trial sheds new light on Lincoln’s role in this most famous of his thousands of cases."—Daniel W. Stowell, Director and Editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln

"In his latest book, Bob Dekle proves that he is as much a master storyteller as he is a professor and prosecutor. He sets the stage like a movie director, introducing us to the impoverished widow who sells her meager belongings when she hires a young lawyer to defend her accused son. Along the way, Dekle annotates the history-making tale with legal facts and factoids that only a legal insider would know but that a legal outsider can easily understand."—Sharon Packer, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
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