John Jay Hardin (January 6, 1810 – February 23, 1847) was a U.S. Representative and militia general from Illinois.
Born in Frankfort, Kentucky, the son of Martin D. Hardin, Hardin pursued classical studies and was graduated from Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky, where he studied law. He was admitted to the bar in Kentucky in 1831 and commenced practice in Jacksonville, Illinois. He served in the Illinois Militia during the Black Hawk War of 1832. He was brigadier general in command during the Illinois Mormon War in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1844. He later attained the rank of major general. He was appointed prosecuting attorney of Morgan County in 1832. He served as member of the Illinois House of Representatives 1836–1842. His son Martin Davis Hardin was born in 1837, and his daughter Ellen Hardin Walworth was born in 1832.
He was co-editor/founder of the Illinoisan newspaper in Jacksonville in 1837. He was credited with helping to avert a duel between Abraham Lincoln and State Auditor James Shields. In February 1844, Harding was present on the USS Princeton when one of its guns exploded, and he helped manage the aftermath of the disaster, staying on the ship for nearly a week.
Hardin was elected as a Whig to the Twenty-eighth Congress (March 4, 1843 – March 3, 1845). Despite large popularity in his district, he was not a candidate for renomination in 1844. It has been suggested that Hardin's premature death helped Lincoln's rise to prominence in Illinois politics.
Despite being an unabashed Whig, Hardin was a fervent supporter of the Mexican-American War that was advocated by James K. Polkand many expansionist Democrats. During the war, he recruited the First Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, of which he was commissioned colonel. On February 23, 1847, he was killed at the Battle of Buena Vista, Mexico, after attempting to lead a charge against a Mexican battery. The outpouring of grief over his death was immense, and Hardin's funeral procession was attended by 15,000 people. He was interred in City Cemetery (East), Jacksonville, Illinois. Hardin County, Iowa, was named in honor of the Colonel and his legacy.
John J. Hardin
One of Abraham Lincoln’s political colleagues in Illinois, Kentuckian John J. Hardin, prevented the future president from fighting a duel.
Hardin, a cousin to Mary Todd Lincoln and the son of a U. S. senator, was born in Frankfort in 1810. After practicing law in Jackson, Illinois, Hardin became a leading Whig politician, serving in the Illinois legislature and Congress.
In September 1842, Lincoln’s political rival James Shields was angry about a newspaper article that Lincoln reputedly wrote. Shields challenged Lincoln to a duel and Lincoln chose to fight with broadswords. Before the fight, however, Hardin intervened. He knew the duelists, and, according to one newspaper account, he “appeared on the scene, called both d----d fools, and by his arguments addressed to their common sense, and by his ridicule on the figure that they, two well grown, bearded men, were making there, each with a frog sticker [sword] in his hand, broke up the fight.”
Hardin and Lincoln soon became political rivals. In 1843, both sought their district’s Whig nomination to Congress. Lincoln withdrew, and Hardin won the seat. Hardin, Lincoln, and another candidate agreed to take turns running for that office, and Lincoln was annoyed when Hardin again announced his candidacy. The crafty Lincoln tried to remove Hardin by having him nominated for governor, but Hardin refused. In the end, Hardin withdrew as a candidate.
When the Mexican War erupted, Hardin became colonel of the 1st Illinois Regiment. He was killed on February 23, 1847, at the battle of Buena Vista. With his death Lincoln lamented, “We lost our best Whig man.”
Currier and Ives print of the Death of Col. John J. Hardin: Of the 1st regiment Illinois volunteers, 1847
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division