The life of Abraham Lincoln has been the stuff of legend in America for
nearly 150 years. The reasons that have made this so are many, the most important
of which center on Lincoln the common man, "born in a log cabin," who
would later, more than any other single individual, be responsible for saving
Born on February 12, 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky, Lincoln's early life was one of the most modest means. Life was hard for Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, and their children Sarah, Abraham and Thomas. The youngest son, Thomas would die in 1812, and in 1817, after losing title to their land in Kentucky, the Lincolns would head to Indiana for a fresh start. Within two years, Lincoln's mother Nancy would become ill and die. Lincoln's father would later remarry, and Abraham would soon establish a strong bond with his stepmother, Sarah. The Lincoln family continued to be on the move, and in 1830 they established their first homestead in Illinois, the state that would later claim to be the "Land of Lincoln."
It was in Illinois that Lincoln would grow into and become the man that would be president. During the brief "Black Hawk War" of 1832 involving the Sauk and Fox Native American tribes, Lincoln enlisted in a volunteer company of militia and was elected captain. The war would be brief and Lincoln's service would last only about two and a half months. The self-educated Lincoln would take on several jobs, including ferry boat pilot, store clerk, surveyor and postmaster, before coming to his life as a frontier lawyer. It was as a lawyer that Lincoln would gain and hone the skills that would bring him into politics. He served four terms in the Illinois House of Representatives, and one term in Congress, before his famous run for the U.S. Senate in 1858. Lincoln had opened his campaign on June 16, 1858 with a speech that contained some of his most remembered and quoted words:
"'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved- I do not expect the house to fall- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other."During that election, the issue raging across the nation was that of the future of slavery. Lincoln would participate in a legendary series of public debates on this issue with his rival, incumbent Senator Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln argued against slavery, and Douglas advocated allowing its expansion in order to prevent the split of the Union. The seeds of the Civil War, long planted, were continuing to grow. Although Lincoln lost the election, he rose in prominence, and while Douglas won that election, the stage was set for the split in the Democratic Party that would divide that party in the presidential election of 1860.
"Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us to this end dare to do our duty as we understand it."In May 1860 at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Lincoln, the former rail splitter, would win the nomination for president on the third ballot, defeating William H. Seward, the man that had been expected to win the nomination. The fall election was one that had a divided Democratic Party nominating two candidates, Stephen Douglas from the North, and John C. Breckinridge from the South. Further dividing the field was John Bell's nomination by the Constitutional Union Party, the remnants of the Whig and Know-Nothing Parties. While the divided field prevented Lincoln from winning a majority of the popular vote, his 1,865,593 votes and his 180 electoral votes, were more than enough to beat Douglas' 1,382,713 popular and 12 electoral votes, as well as Breckenridge's 848,356 popular and 72 electoral votes, his two nearest competitors.
"My friends- No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feelings of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater that that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be every where for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."On March 4, 1861, Lincoln took the oath of office as President of the very divided "United States of America." Seven states had already declared that they had seceded from the Union, and by May of 1861 four more states, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina, would follow. The government that Lincoln took charge of was in a disastrous state, and out-going President James Buchanan is said to have remarked on his departure from Washington that he was the "last President of the United States." The Union Army was so small, and so lacking in men, material and critical leadership that even the defense of Washington was in doubt. Lincoln, determined not to start the outbreak of hostile action, was deliberate in his action. He ordered volunteers for the army, a blockade of Southern ports, and the resupply of Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. The war that would ultimately kill more Americans than any other, began on April 12, 1861 with the bombardment and eventual capture by Confederate forces of Fort Sumter.
"Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . . testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . . we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . . that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . . by the people. . . for the people. . . shall not perish from this earth."Although the tide of the war had finally turned, and he was resolute in his conviction that saving the Union was absolutely necessary to ensure that the blessings of liberty did not "perish from this earth," the price of war weighed heavily upon President Lincoln. On November 21, 1864, he wrote the following letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby:
Dear Madam- I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully, A. Lincoln."With the war finally coming to an end, Lincoln, who had now been elected to a second term, sought to lead the nation in peace, with liberty for all. On March 4, 1865, he had delivered his Second Inaugural Address , and once again spoke in the legendary Lincoln style. He closed that address with the following remarks:
"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."
|Date of Birth||Occupations||Wife||Children|
|12 Feb 1809||Store clerk
Ferry boat pilot
|Mary Todd||Four Boys|
|Electoral and Popular Votes
|Age When First
Illinois General Assembly
|Number of States
|Electoral and Popular Votes
Time of Death
|Date of Death|
|Does Not Apply
|Does Not Apply
|Himself||15 April 1865|
*Includes the southern states that seceded in the months following Lincoln's election, and prior to his inauguration. In fact, it was the position of the northern states and President Lincoln that once part of the Union, the individual states did not possess the authority to leave. Despite Lincoln's efforts to convince the southern states to remain peacefully in the Union, the dispute led ultimately to the outbreak of the Civil War. The Union was saved, but at a terrible price.
Q1: What major Civil War figure of the Confederacy was born just eight months and nine days before Abraham Lincoln, and about 100 miles from where Mr. Lincoln was born? And the answer is...
Q2: What geographical point of U.S. presidential history does Lincoln's Kentucky birth have? And the answer is...
Q3: Which of the following occupations did the young Abraham Lincoln have in common with George Washington and John Adams, making them the only three presidents to have done this type of work? Is the answer a store clerk, surveyor, or lawyer?
Q4: In 1849, what did Abraham Lincoln become the only President to receive following his invention for lifting riverboats in shallow water? And the answer is...
Q5: In 1861, what long-distance communication was President Lincoln the first person in America to receive? And the answer is...
Go to the page for Abraham Lincoln maintained by the
White House Historical Association.
what the History Channel has to say on President Lincoln?
Well, from this link, you can read the History Channel's biography on our 16th President and see clips from many of the channels engaging documentaries.
Congress established the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission to plan the nationís celebration of the 16th presidentís 200th birthday in 2009. As a federal organization, the ALBC was responsible for reporting its activities and plans to the U.S. Congress.
Here you will find information and links to previous reports published by the commission including details and a copy of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission's Final Report.
Read the Inaugural Addresses of each of our presidents by going to the site maintained by the Bartleby Library.