Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War—its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. In doing so, he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy.
Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a one-room log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky; his family moved to southern Indiana in 1816. Lincoln’s formal schooling was limited to three brief periods in local schools, as he had to work constantly to support his family. In 1830, his family moved to Macon County in southern Illinois, and Lincoln got a job working on a river flatboat hauling freight down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. After settling in the town of New Salem, Illinois, where he worked as a shopkeeper and a postmaster, Lincoln became involved in local politics as a supporter of the Whig Party, winning election to the Illinois state legislature in 1834. Like his Whig heroes, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, Lincoln opposed the spread of slavery to the territories, and had a grand vision of the expanding United States, with a focus on commerce and cities rather than agriculture.
Most Known for:
Lincoln is most famous for leading the country during the American Civil War. His leadership in the North helped the country to remain strong and defeat the South keeping the country united. He also pushed for the freedom of all slaves throughout the nation.
Abraham- The President:
Lincoln served on the Illinois State Legislature for several terms. During that time he studied the law and began to work as a lawyer. He ran for the U.S. Congress in 1845. He won the election and served as a congressman for one term. After serving as congressman he continued to work as a lawyer. Later, Lincoln ran for the U.S. Senate, he did not win but he did gain national recognition for his arguments against slavery during the debates.
In 1860, Lincoln ran for President of the United States. He was a member of the fairly new Republican party which strongly opposed allowing any of the southern states to secede (leave the country). The republicans were also against slavery. They said they would allow for slavery to continue in the southern states, but that it would not be allowed to spread to new U.S. states or territories.
Lincoln won the 1860 election and was inaugurated as president in March of 1861. The southern states did not want Lincoln to be president. They did not agree with his policies. Before he was officially in office, they began to secede (leave the country). The first state to leave was South Carolina, but soon six more states followed and together they formed a new country called the Confederacy. This all happened after Lincoln won the election, but before he took the oath of office.
The Civil War
The Civil War began on April 12, 1861 at Fort Sumter in South Carolina just a month after Lincoln took office. Lincoln was determined to maintain the “Union” of the states. He called for an army from the northern states to defeat the south. What followed was a bloody war that lasted four years and cost the lives of 600,000 Americans. Lincoln faced all sorts of opposition during the war, but managed to hold the country together.
The Emancipation Proclamation
On January 1, 1863 Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This was an order that freed the slaves in the Confederate States. Although not all the slaves were immediately set free, it paved the way for the 13th Amendment which would free all slaves in the United States a few years later.
Today, Lincoln is often remembered for a short speech he gave at Gettysburg on November 1, 1863. It’s called the Gettysburg Address. It was only a few minutes long, but is considered one of the great speeches in American history.
The Civil War Ends
The Civil War finally ended on April 9, 1865 when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Lincoln wanted the country to heal, forgive, and rebuild. He wanted to be generous to the southern states in helping them during the reconstruction. Unfortunately, he would not live to see the country rebuild.
Death of the Legend:
President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at the Ford Theatre in Washington D.C. He died the next day on April 15, 1865.
Fun Facts about Abraham Lincoln
- Honest Abe was the tallest president at 6 feet 4 inches tall.
- He set up a national banking system while he was president. He also established the Department of Agriculture.
- He was known as a gifted storyteller and liked to tell jokes.
- On the day he was shot, Lincoln told his bodyguard that he had dreamt he would be assassinated.
- He was the first president who had a full beard.
- He often stored things like letters and documents in his tall stove-piped hat.