Presidents: Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln is one of our best known Presidents. He had the awesome task of leading the nation through the American Civil War. He was also the first president to be assassinated.

young Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was born into poverty on February 12, 1809 in a one room log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. He was the second child born on Sinking Spring Farm to Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. He was named for his paternal grandfather.

When Abraham was nine, his mother died of milk sickness on October 5, 1818. His eleven year old sister, Sarah, took over running the household. The following year, on December 2, 1819, Thomas Lincoln married Sarah “Sally” Bush Johnston, a widow with three children. Abraham would grow very close to his stepmother.

On January 20, 1828, his sister, Sarah, died in childbirth.

Lincoln was mainly self educated in his formative years. From a young age, Abraham Lincoln, enjoyed reading, but was not a big fan of physical labor. He was tall for his age and grew to be strong, athletic, and “adept with an axe”. He gained a reputation for his wrestling matches.

Abraham Lincoln

After moving to New Salem, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln met Ann Rutledge. The two developed a relationship, but were never formally engaged. Ann died of typhoid fever on August 25, 1835 at the age of 22.

He had a short relationship with a woman named Mary Owens before it ended during the 1830s.

In 1832, Lincoln and a partner bought a small general store in New Salem, Illinois. The business struggled and Lincoln eventually sold his share. In March, his political career began by campaigning for the Illinois General Assembly. Later that year he served as captain during the Black Hawk War.

He later served as New Salem’s postmaster, county surveyor and later became a lawyer. Of his learning method, Lincoln stated: “I studied with nobody”.

In 1834, he won election to the Illinois state legislature as a Whig. Two years later he was admitted to the bar.

In 1840, he became engaged to Mary Todd. They had met in Springfield, Illinois the following Christmas. The engagement was broke off the next year, but they became reacquainted later on. They were married on November 4, 1842. It is said that while preparing for the wedding, when Lincoln was asked where he was going, he said “To hell, I suppose.”

The couple would go on to have four sons together. Robert Todd Lincoln was born in 1843 and Edward Baker Lincoln in 1846.

In 1846, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He supported Zachary Taylor for president in 1848. He declined a position on the Oregon Territory.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln returned to working as a lawyer for the next sixteen years. His most noticeable accomplishment was challenging the credibility of an eyewitness in 1858.

His son, Eddie Lincoln died on February 1, 1850, probably from tuberculosis. Another son, Willie Lincoln was born on December 21, 1850. Thomas “Tad” Lincoln was born on April 4, 1853.

In late 1854, Lincoln ran for the U.S. Senate. He lost, but became instrumental in helping form the new Republican Party. When he was nominated for the U.S. Senate in 1959, he delivered his House Divided Speech, based on the Biblical passage Mark 3:25.

In 1858, he and Senator Stephen Douglas held famous debates over the issue of slavery. At a speech he gave in February 1860, held him gain notoriety. Historian David Donald described the speech as a “superb political move for an unannounced candidate.

In 1860 Lincoln described himself : “I am in height, six feet, four inches, nearly; lean in flesh, weighing, on an average, one hundred and eighty pounds; dark complexion, with coarse black hair, and gray eyes.”

The Republican’s began to support Lincoln as “The Rail Candidate”. He would go on to garner the nomination for the Republican party as a nominee for the

presidency. He was elected on November 6, 1860.

President Abraham Lincoln

With Lincoln’s election, secession became evident from the southern states. By the time he took office on March 4, 1860, six southern states had succeeded and formed the Confederate States of America.

Both Abraham Lincoln and James Buchanan refused to recognize the Confederacy. Attempts at compromise failed. Lincoln made the following appeal to the people of the South in his inaugural address, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies … The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Union troops at Fort Sumter. These are considered the first shots of the Civil War. Historian David Donald concludes that, “His repeated efforts to avoid collision in the months between inauguration and the firing on Ft. Sumter showed he adhered to his vow not to be the first to shed fraternal blood. But he also vowed not to surrender the forts. The only resolution of these contradictory positions was for the confederates to fire the first shot; they did just that.”

Abraham Lincoln

On April 15, 1861, Lincoln called on all states to send troops to help recapture forts, “preserve the Union” and protect Washington. Abraham Lincoln responded to the crisis wielding powers as no other president before him.

After the Battle of Fort Sumter, Lincoln realized the importance of taking immediate executive control of the war and making an overall strategy to put down the rebellion. Lincoln painstakingly monitored the telegraphic reports coming into the War Department headquarters. He kept close tabs on all phases of the military effort, consulted with governors, and selected generals based on their past success. In terms of war strategy, Lincoln articulated two priorities: to ensure that Washington was well-defended, and to conduct an aggressive war effort that would satisfy the demand in the North for prompt and decisive victory.

Due to the war, Lincoln left Secretary of State, William Seward, and Senator Charles Sumner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to oversee most diplomatic matters.

On February 20, 1862, his son Willie Lincoln died of a fever.

Lincoln understood that the Federal government’s power to end slavery was limited by the Constitution, which before 1865,

Abraham Lincoln

committed the issue to individual states. On June 19, 1862, endorsed by Lincoln, Congress passed an act banning slavery on all federal territory. On September 22, 1862, The Emancipation Proclamation was issued and put into effect on January 1, 1863.

Frederick Douglass once observed of Lincoln: “In his company, I was never reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color”.
The Battle of Gettysburg, the ¬†battle with the most casualties during the Civil War, occurred in July 1863. On November 19, 1863, Lincoln gave his 272 word speech, the Gettysburg Address. This speech became the “most quoted speech in American history”. Lincoln concluded that the Civil War had a profound objective: a new birth of freedom in the nation.

In 1864, Lincoln sought re-election. Lincoln wrote and signed a pledge that, if he should lose the election, he would still defeat the Confederacy before turning over the White House: He won re-election. His second inauguration was held on March 4, 1865.

On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy, surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse. This act officially ended the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln

On the night of Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Abraham and Mary Lincoln attended a play, Our American Cousin, at Ford’s Theatre. While watching the play, an actor, John Wilkes Booth, entered the book and shot President Lincoln. It is said that Lincoln had a bill on his desk to sign into law what would become known as the secret service.

The President was moved across the street to the Petersen House where he remained in a coma before dying the next morning at 7:22 am. On his April 15, 1865 death, Secretary of War Stanton saluted and said, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

President Abraham Lincoln laid in state in the Capitol Rotunda until April 21st. He was then taken by train back to Springfield, Illinois for burial. He is buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. The country was left in shock and deep grief, after a long, drawn out war.

Many historians debate, that if Lincoln had lived, if he would have been able to unite the hurting country throughout reconstruction,

Abraham Lincoln, it is evident how much the Civil War aged him

better than his successors.

Abraham Lincoln is consistently ranked as one of the top three, if not often the number one, president in various polls. The other two in the top three are George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Countless memorials, artifacts, photos {even on our currency} and places named for President Lincoln now remain. In 1922, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C.




16th President of the United States
(March 4, 1861 to April 15, 1865)Nicknames: “Honest Abe”; “Illinois Rail Splitter”Born: February 12, 1809, in Hardin (now Larue) County, Kentucky
Died: April 15, 1865, at Petersen’s Boarding House in Washington, D.C.

Father: Thomas Lincoln
Mother: Nancy Hanks Lincoln
Stepmother: Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln
Married: Mary Todd (1818-1882), on November 4, 1842
Children: Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926); Edward Baker Lincoln (1846-50); William Wallace Lincoln (1850-62); Thomas “Tad” Lincoln (1853-71)

Religion: No formal affiliation
Education: No formal education
Occupation: Lawyer
Political Party: Republican

  • Elected to Illinois State Legislature, 1834
  • Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1847-49

  • 1861-1865
    • The Civil War
  • 1861 Fort Sumter: Attack on Fort Sumter occurred in April 12, 1861 when Confederates under General Pierre Beauregard opened fire, marking the start of the Civil War (1861 – 1863)1861 The remaining 4 states in the South Secede – Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia1862 September 17, 1862: The Battle of Antietam of was fought, the bloodiest single day battle in the history of America.

    1862 September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that changed the war aims of the Union.

    1863 January 1: The Emancipation Proclamation – The war to preserve the Union now becomes a revolutionary struggle for the abolition of slavery.

    1863 July 3: The Battle of Gettysburg – a important Union victory but incurred massive casualties

    1863 November 19: Lincoln makes his famous Gettysburg Address and dedicates a portion of the Gettysburg battlefield as a national cemetery.

    1864 February 17, 1864: Sinking of the Confederate Submarine, the Hunley

    1864 Abraham Lincoln is re-elected president

    1865 April 3: Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as President for his second term
    1865 April 9: The Surrender of Appomattox. General Robert E. Lee surrenders his Confederate Army to General Ulysses S. Grant
    1865 Abraham Lincoln’s Reconstruction policy – the Ten Percent Plan providing ways to re-unify the nation.
    1865 March 3, 1865: The Freedmen’s Bureau is established to to help emancipated slaves (freedmen)
    1865 April 14, 1865 – Assassination of Abraham Lincoln: President Lincoln takes his wife to Ford’s Theater to see the play “Our American Cousin”. John Wilkes Booth, a confederate sympathizer, shoots the president in the head.
    1865 April 15: President Abraham Lincoln dies at 7:22 in the morning.

1809 February 12: Abraham Lincoln is born in Nolin Creek in Kentucky. His humble home was a one room log cabin

1811 The Lincoln family move to a 230 acre farm near Sinking Spring.

1816 December: The Lincoln family move to Indiana.

1817 February: Legend states that Abraham shot a wild turkey but hated the experience and never hunted again.

1818 October 5: The death of his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln

1819 December 2: Thomas Lincoln marries a widow, Sarah Bush Johnston who becomes stepmother to Abraham Lincoln

1830 March: The Lincoln family move to Illinois
First political speech of Abe in favor of improving navigation on the Sangamon River.

1831 Abe settles in New Salem, Illinois working as a clerk in the village store

1832 March: Abe becomes a candidate for Illinois General Assembly
April: The Black Hawk War and Abe enlists
August 6: Abe loses election
Abe and William Berry become partners and purchase a village store in New Salem.

1833 The store fails and leaves the partners in debt
Abe is appointed Postmaster of New Salem
October: Abe is appointed Deputy County Surveyor.

1834 August 4: Lincoln is elected to the Illinois General Assembly
Abe starts to study law
Abe meets Ann Rutledge

1835 January: The death of William Berry and Abe’s debt increases to $1000
August 25: Ann Rutledge dies from fever
Becomes leader of the Whig Party

1836 August 1: Re-elected to the Illinois General Assembly
September 9: Lincoln receives his law license
Starts to court Mary Owens

1837 April 15: Moves Springfield
Establishes as a law partner of John T. Stuart
His proposal to Mary Owens is declined

1838 August 6: Re-elected to the Illinois General Assembly

1839 Practises as a lawyer on the 8th Judicial Circuit in Illinois
December 3: Admission to United States Circuit Court
Meets Mary Todd at a Christmas dance.

1840 June: Abe presents his first case before the Illinois Supreme Court
August 3: Re-elected to the Illinois General Assembly
Mary Todd accepts his proposal of marriage and the couple become engaged

1841 January 1: Abe breaks off his engagement to Mary Todd
Suffers from depression
March 1: Establishes new law partnership with Stephen T. Logan

1842 Abe resumes his courtship with Mary Todd
September: Challenged to a sword duel by James Shields over the publication of letters which taunted the Democrat Shields
September 22: Duel averted by an explanation of letters
November 4: Abe marries Mary Todd in Springfield

1843 Abe fails to get Whig nomination for U.S. Congress
August 1: Robert Todd Lincoln is born to Abe and Mary

1844 December: Abe sets up his own law practice and dissolves partnership with Logan

1846 March 10: Edward Baker Lincoln is born
May 1: Nominated as Whig candidate for U.S. Congress
August 3: Abe is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

1847 The Lincoln family moves to a boarding house in Washington, D.C.
December 22: Presents resolutions to President Polk about U.S. hostilities with Mexico.

1848 January 22: Gives a speech against war policy regarding Mexico

1849 March 31: Abe leaves politics to practice law in Springfield

1850 February 1: The death of Edward Baker Lincoln
Lincoln resumes his role in the 8th Judicial Circuit gaining a reputation as an outstanding lawyer and earning the nickname of ‘Honest Abe’
December 21: William Wallace Lincoln (Willie) is born.

1853 April 4: Thomas (Tad) Lincoln is born.

1854 Abe is elected to Illinois legislature but declines the seat in an attempt to become a U.S. Senator.

1855 Fails in his quest to become a U.S. Senator.

1856 May 29: Assists in the formation of the new Republican party of Illinois
Abe campaigns in Illinois for John C. Fremont the Republican presidential candidate

1857 June 26: Speech against the Dred Scott decision which ruled that Dred Scott must remain a slave

1858 June 16: Nominated as Republican senator from Illinois to oppose the Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.

1859 Illinois legislature choose Democrat Stephen A. Douglas for the U.S. Senate defeating Lincoln

1860 March 6: Speech on slavery in New Haven, Connecticut
May 18: Nominated to be the Republican candidate for President of the United States
November 6: Abraham Lincoln is elected as 16th U.S. president
December 20: South Carolina secedes from the Union shortly followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.

1861 February 11: Leaves Springfield for Washington
March 4: President Lincoln delivers his First Inaugural Address
April 12 Attack on Fort Sumter – Confederates under General Pierre Beauregard open fire marking the start of the Civil War
For details of the career of President Lincoln and the progress of the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865 click Civil War Timeline

1865 March 17: A kidnap plot by John Wilkes Booth fails when Lincoln fails to arrive as expected at the Soldiers Home
April 9: General Robert E. Lee surrenders his Confederate Army to General Ulysses S. Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House in Virginia
April 14: President Lincoln and his wife Mary go to Ford’s Theater to see the play “Our American Cousin” . During the third act of the play John Wilkes Booth shoots the president in the head at approx 10:13 p.m.
April 15: President Abraham Lincoln dies at 7:22 in the morning. Vice President Andrew Johnson assumes the presidency
April 26: John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed in a tobacco barn in Virginia.
May 4: Abraham Lincoln is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, outside Springfield, Illinois.





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