Abraham Lincoln

Statesman, President

16th President of the United States. Under his leadership the Union was preserved. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves in rebelling states. He was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at the close of the war. Abraham Lincoln, arguably the greatest president the United States has seen, was born on February 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Kentucky. He later moved to Illinois with his family and is most identified with that state. Both his parents, Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln (his mother died when Abraham was just 9 years old), were illiterate, but, as a child, Lincoln read as much as possible when not at work on the family farm. His choices of books were slim on the American frontier, but what he did read he learned through and through. In 1828 and again in 1831, Lincoln made two trips down the great Mississippi River on flatboats, exposing the future President to the vastness of the American territory and the importance of the Mississippi River to both commerce and transportation for a large part of the nation. He served in the Illinois militia during the brief Black Hawk War but never saw action. However, he was elected to the rank of Captain. The same year, 1832, Lincoln ran for the Illinois Legislature but lost. He then concentrated on his career as a lawyer.

In 1842, Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd, with whom he would have four children, only of whom would survive to adulthood. He continued to practice law, but, in 1847, politics again called. He ran for a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives, and unlike his first attempt at public office, he won. He served only the one term in the 30th Congress where he opposed and spoke out on the Mexican War, but otherwise had an uneventful and unimpressive term. He returned to Illinois and again concentrated on his legal career, a profession at which he excelled. He ran for the U. S. Senate in 1855 and lost, but ran again in 1858 against Stephen A. Douglas. It was the campaign against Douglas (which he lost) and the debates between the two men that thrust Lincoln onto the national political stage.

In 1860, the still young Republic party nominated Lincoln for the presidency of the United States. He was the second presidential contender in the history of the Republican Party (John C. Frémont ran on the Republican ticket in 1856.) The Democrats, who split along sectional lines, nominated two men: John C. Breckinridge for the Southern Democrats and Stephan A. Douglas for the Northern Democrats. A fourth candidate, John Bell, ran under the banner of the Constitutional Union Party. Lincoln won all the northern states except New Jersey, plus California and Oregon, pulling in180 Electoral College votes and almost 40% of the popular vote. It wasn't bad for a candidate who didn't even appear on the ballot in Southern states. John C. Breckinridge took the South except for Maryland (which went for Bell) with 72 electoral votes and 18% of the popular vote. Stephen Douglas won Missouri and New Jersey, 12 electoral votes, and 29.5% of the popular vote. John Bell won Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee, carrying 39 Electoral College votes and 12.6% of the popular vote.

The election of Lincoln caused great concern in the South, for it was believed that Lincoln, more than any of the other candidates running in 1860, posed a threat to the institution of slavery. No matter what Lincoln said to try and persuade Southerners that he did not want to abolish slavery, they didn't listen. On December 20, just six weeks after Lincoln was elected and three months before he even took office, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Soon thereafter, the other cotton states in the lower South followed suit and left the Union. Between Lincoln's election in November 1860 and his inauguration in March 1861, the situation in the South deteriorated. Union troops were holed up in Forts Sumter and Pickens and state troops throughout the Lower South were seizing federal arsenals and their caches of weapons.

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States. Appointed to his cabinet were many Radical Republicans, including Edwin M. Stanton, Salmon P. Chase, and Charles F. Adams as Minister to Great Britain. Six weeks after the inaugural, Confederate forces under the Command of P. G. T. Beauregard commenced a two-day bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harborthe American Civil War had begun. 

*Lincoln took immediate action due to the events at Fort Sumter, pressing for the recruitment of over five hundred-thousand soldiers, and designating two million U.S. dollars for military purposes. Lincoln also suspended the writ of habeas corpus, allowing the Union to imprison any sympathizer to the confederacy. This decision drew much ire from many civilian, political, and military sources.
While he had some military experience, it was minimal in nature, leading to Lincoln quickly learning military strategies out of necessity. He did however have a penchant for selecting supreme Union military commanders who, while able in their own rights, botched plans for various reasons. The first General appointed by Lincoln, General George McClellan, caused Lincoln much grief with his non-aggressive nature, allowing Confederate General Lee’s forces to retreat without pursuit after the Union victory at the battle of Antietam in the Fall of 1862. Lincoln removed him from command following that battle, and appointed General George Meade in his place.
January 1 of 1863 saw Lincoln issue the first incarnation of the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing southern slaves, except for the ones in the Union states on the border with the Confederacy. Lincoln is noted as stating that his first objective was to save the union, however, emancipation was also a topic that he held in the highest regard. Lincoln also pushed for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibited slavery, and his goal was achieved in the form of the 13th amendment a few years later.
After failing to deal a lethal blow to General Lee’s confederate forces at Gettysburg in the summer of 1863, General Meade was removed from command by Lincoln, and leadership was given to a General who had recently achieved victory in Vicksburg, Mississippi: General Ulysses S. Grant. November of the same year saw Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the national cemetery located there.
In 1864 Lincoln ran for, and won, presidential reelection against former Union General George McClellan. Lincoln stated his plans for reconstructing the South in his inaugural address, saying that it must be accomplished “with malice toward none; with charity for all”. The Confederacy surrendered on April 9, 1865, and on April 11 Lincoln gave a victory speech, giving all in attendance the charge of welcoming back the Confederate States with open arms. Three days later, April 14, 1865, saw the president attend Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. where a sympathizer of the Confederate cause, and well known actor, John Wilkes Booth infiltrated the Presidents box, and assassinated him with a bullet to the back of the head.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, died the following morning.
(*Written hence by Benjamin G. Harvey)
Birth Location: 
Hodgenville, KY
Birth Date: 
Death Location: 
Washington, D.C.
Death Date: