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.