Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 130.
But instead of disappointment, the prevailing mood seemed to be surprise. Although Douglas had carefully targeted his attacks by appealing to the worst fears of undecided Whigs, the remarkable fact of the day was how well Lincoln had done. “I can recall only one fact the debates,” one survivor of the audience said to Ida Tarbell four decades later, “that I felt so sorry for Lincoln while Douglas was speaking, and then to my surprise I felt so sorry for Douglas when Lincoln replied.” Even Lincoln sounded a little taken aback. He wrote Joseph Cunningham, the editor of the Urbana Union, “Douglas and I…crossed swords here yesterday; the fire flew some, and I am glad to know I am yet alive.” Robert Hitt remembered that the skeptics who “regarded the setting up of Lincoln” against the Little Giant as “farcical” were “confounded by the first debate” and by “the immense development of Lincoln’s resources.” And once Hitt's transcripts of the debate were published in the Chicago Tribune, and then reprinted across the country, letters began pouring in, asking “who is this new man?...You have a David greater than the Democratic Goliath or any other I ever saw.”