Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln photograph by Alexander Hesler, 1860Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth President of the United States, serving from 1861-1865. He was born on February 12, 1809 near Hodgenville, Kentucky. His father was an itinerant and uneducated farmer. He had a sister who was two years older and a brother who died as a baby.

Lincoln was eight when his father moved the family to the wilds of Indiana and began to clear and farm 160 acres of land in Spencer County. The family lived in a three cornered lean-to for some time. Lincoln’s mother died when he was ten. He never had more than a year of formal schooling as he grew up but he learned to read and loved books.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln went to work as a farm hand and laborer by the age of sixteen. He also worked as a store clerk and ferryboat rower. He was tall and very strong and won local fame as a wrestler. He traveled to New Orleans at the age of nineteen and again at twenty two and his views on the horrors of slavery were fashioned on these trips.

In 1830, Lincoln helped his father move further west to Illinois. By this time, his father had remarried to a widow with three children of her own. She had had a significant influence on Lincoln, pushing him to always better himself and encouraging his reading. Once the family was moved, Lincoln moved away on his own to New Salem, Illinois and took a job in a store. He was instantly popular, with the popularity driven by his physical strength, his agile mind and strong humor. When the Black Hawk war began, he became part of a military company and was elected captain by the men. On his return, he ran for the state legislature but was defeated as the war had kept him away from campaigning.

Lincoln went to law school in Springfield, walking twenty miles back and forth, as there were no law books in New Salem. He supported himself as an assistant surveyor, then from 1833-1836 was the postmaster in New Salem. He ran for the state legislature in 1834 as a member of the new Whig party and won easily. At about this time, he fell in love with Ann Rutledge and was grief-stricken when she died suddenly in 1835.

Lincoln was re-elected in 1836 and also received his license to practice law. As a legislator, he was successful in having the state capital moved to Springfield and in 1839, moved there himself and went into partnership with John Stuart to practice law. He met Mary Todd and they married in 1842. They eventually had four sons, with one dieing in 1850, another in 1861, and a third some years after Lincoln’s death. The fourth son survived and was Secretary of War under Presidents Garfield and Arthur.

Lincoln was elected to the Congress in 1846, at the age of thirty eight. He did not win re-election in 1848 due to this outspoken criticism of the Mexican War, and returned to Springfield to resume his law practice, in which he was renowned as a speaker. His law partner was an abolitionist, but Lincoln’s stand was clear. He hated all aspects of slavery but did not believe that the Federal Government had any rights to interfere with slavery in those states that allowed it.

Lincoln was relatively unknown at a national level but the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 thrust him into the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates and the national spotlight. Douglas was a senator from Illinois and Lincoln challenged him first in terms of his vote then directly in the race for Senate in 1858. In accepting the nomination, Lincoln restated his beliefs about slavery and states rights but went on to say that he believed slavery should be abolished and was very firm in his stance of protecting the Union at all costs against secession. Ultimately, Lincoln got more votes than Douglas, but the Democratic legislature in Illinois appointed Douglas as Senator.

In 1860, Lincoln began to spread his political wings. The debates had been widely reported and he was asked to speak in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. In February 1860, he spoke in New York and his speech was greatly applauded in the press.

In May, Lincoln was nominated as the Republican candidate for President and his old foe Stephen Douglas was nominated by the northern Democrats. Lincoln won the popular vote and the Electoral College. He took office March 4, 1861.

By the time Lincoln took office, seven Southern states had seceded from the Union and others were preparing to do so. In his inaugural address, Lincoln again restated his positions and even more clearly said that no state had a legal right to secede and that he viewed this as insurrectionary and revolutionary and would to go war to maintain the Union. He put the pressure squarely on the Southern states, saying the decision was in their hands.

Lincoln then sought to test the Southern states by reinforcing Fort Sumter, a Federal fort in Charleston, South Carolina. Confederate artillery began a bombardment on April 12, 1861 and two days later the fort surrendered. On April 15, Lincoln called up 75,000 militia to join the regular army and repossess the forts, places, and properties which were seized from the Union. Initially, it did not go well, as exemplified by the battle of Bull Run. Seeking to change tactics, Lincoln proclaimed on September 22, 1862 that unless the rebel states returned to the Union by January 1, 1863, Lincoln would free all of the slaves.

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as promised on January 1, 1863. In July of that year, Union troops defeated Robert E. Lee’s army of Virginia at Gettysburg, PA. More than 7000 troops were killed. Four months later, Lincoln made his famous Gettysburg address as he dedicated a battlefield cemetery. It was written on the back of an envelope as he traveled by train to the site and it had a galvanizing impact on the nation.

In 1864, Lincoln put Ulysees S. Grant in charge of all of the armies. His strategies were extraordinary and soon the tide began to turn. Lincoln was re-elected in November of that year, running against one of his former Generals, George McClellan. He won easily and in his inaugural address, pushed hard for peace and reconciliation.

Lee surrendered to US Grant on April 9, 1865, just a month after Lincoln was inaugurated. Only five days later, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford Theater in Washington. He died the next day and after lying in state at the White House and the Capital, his body was returned to Illinois on a long slow train. Millions of mourners lined the 1700 mile route.

Abraham Lincoln Facts

  • President No.: 16th
  • When did Abraham Lincoln serve? 1861-1865
  • What was Abraham Lincoln’s party? Republican
  • Where was Abraham Lincoln from? Illinois
  • Who was Abraham Lincoln’s wife? Mary Todd Lincoln
  • When was Abraham Lincoln born? February 12, 1809
  • Where was Abraham Lincoln born? Hodgenville, Hardin County, Kentucky
  • When did Abraham Lincoln die? April 15, 1865
  • Where did Abraham Lincoln die? Washington D.C.
  • How did Abraham Lincoln die? The morning after being shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. by John Wilkes Booth, an actor.
  • Which college did Abraham Lincoln attend? Did not attend college, but read at home.
  • What was Abraham Lincoln’s Jobs Before President? Store clerk, rail-splitter, lawyer, Congressman
  • What was Abraham Lincoln’s height? 6 feet 4 inches
  • What was the population when Abraham Lincoln was president? 31,443,321
  • What hobbies did Abraham Lincoln have? Walking, wrestling
  • What pets did Abraham Lincoln have? Horse
  • What transportation did Abraham Lincoln use? Horse and carriage, train
  • How did Abraham Lincoln communicate? Letter, telegram



Abraham Lincoln Inaugural Addresses


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