Abraham Lincoln

16th President of the United States

1861-1865
Republican Party

Vice Presidents
First Term - Hannibal Hamlin
Second Term - Andrew Johnson



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 the Union.

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.

On February 27, 1860, Lincoln delivered an address at the Cooper Institute in New York City. The speech was key to Lincoln's acceptance by the national Republican Party, and dispelling the national party's incorrect notion that he was a "backward" frontier lawyer. Again, the words that Lincoln would tell his contemporaries would become legendary:
"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.

Any joy in victory felt by President-elect Lincoln, would soon fade. Even before Lincoln's inauguration, the states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas would all declare that they were seceding from the Union. On February 11, 1861, it was a somber Lincoln that would leave from his home in Springfield, Illinois to take the oath of office as president. At what is now known as the "Lincoln Depot," he would tell the crowd assembled to see him off to the nation's capitol:
"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.

There would be a great many setbacks, defeats, and tens of thousands of casualties before Lincoln would come to find and foster General Ulysses S. Grant's successful turning of the war's tide. In September of 1862, Lincoln issued the "Emancipation Proclamation," ordering the end of slavery in the states still in rebellion. Lincoln, fearful of losing the support of the border states, and believing that the U.S. Supreme Court would rule as unconstitutional a wider order, did not declare the end of slavery in those states. Knowing that the total and permanent end of slavery must be achieved, Lincoln would later urge Congress to adopt the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery. On November 19, 1863, a war weary President Lincoln stood on a battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. His brief, and yet powerful words, defined our nation's mission then and now:
"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."


On April 14, 1865, President and Mrs. Lincoln attended a performance of the play, "Our American Cousin," at the Ford's Theatre in Washington. Actor John Wilkes Booth, a devoted Confederate sympathizer, fired one gunshot into the back of the head of the President. The assassin then leaped from the President's box onto to the stage and shouted the Latin phrase, "Sic Semper Tyrannis!" (Thus always with tyrants.) The mortally wounded President, who had struggled to preserve the Republic, lingered for several hours, and died at 7:22 a.m. on the following day at the Petersen home across the street from the theatre. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton said upon the passing of the President:

"Now he belongs to the ages."



Date of Birth Occupations Wife Children
12 Feb 1809 Store clerk
Ferry boat pilot
Rail Splitter
Surveyor
Postmaster
Lawyer
Mary Todd Four Boys
       
Prior Military
Service
Offices Held
Before
Presidency
Electoral and Popular Votes
In 1860
Age When First
Inaugurated
Captain
Illinois Militia
Member
Illinois General Assembly

U.S. Congressman
180
Electoral Votes

Popular Votes
1,866,352
52
       
Number of States
When First
Inaugurated
Population
When First
Inaugurated
Electoral and Popular Votes
In 1864
States Admitted
to Union
While President
34* 31,443,321 212
Electoral Votes

Popular Votes
2,216,067
West Virginia
Nevada
       
Offices Held
After
Presidency
Other Main
Activities After
Presidency
President at
Time of Death
Date of Death
Does Not Apply
Assassinated
Does Not Apply
Assassinated
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...


WWW Links Regarding Our Sixteenth President


Go to the page for Abraham Lincoln maintained by the
White House Historical Association.




The Mount Rushmore National Monument was the vision of sculptor John Gutzon Borglum, and stands in the Black Hills of South Dakota on the face of the 6000 foot mountain that bears its name. The carving took place over a fourteen year period from 1927 to 1941.

Borglum is said to have chosen to include Abraham Lincoln as one of the four Presidents honored on the monument because of his role in preserving the union that is the nation.

To see and learn more about this magnificent historic site, go to The Official Mount Rushmore Home Page, maintained by the South Dakota Tourism Bureau, or the National Park Service's Mount Rushmore National Monument Home Page.



The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) has leaped to the forefront of places where the world can learn more about the amazing life and legacy of America's sixteenth and arguably its greatest president. The 200,000 square foot complex is situated in downtown Springfield, Illinois, and with its April 2005 opening, the museum portion of the complex becomes the nation's largest, containing 46,000 square feet of permanent exhibits Ė double the size of their counterpart at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.  As described on the ALPLM site: "Combining impeccable scholarship with brilliant showmanship, the new museum's permanent exhibit galleries carry visitors on twin journeys from a crude, overcrowded Indiana cabin to Ford's Theater and a reproduction of the House Chamber in the Old State Capitol where Lincoln's flag-draped casket lies in state. Along the way, you will be treated to a 250 seat multi-stage and screen presentation ('Lincoln's Eyes'), a stunning holographic theater ('Ghosts of the Library') bringing Lincoln documents and artifacts, literally, to life; a Treasures Gallery housing icons like the Gettysburg Address; and a separate children's area called 'Mrs. Lincoln's Attic.'"

Operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the library not only is home to an extensive collection of original Lincoln documents, it is also home to an extensive collection of materials relating to Illinois history, as well as the state's most extensive archive of microfilmed newspapers. This archive includes newspapers from each of the state's 102 counties dating back as far as 1814.  




The Lincoln Institute concentrates on providing support and assistance to scholars and groups involved in the study of the life of American's 16th President and the impact he had on the preservation of the Union, the emancipation of black slaves, and the development of democratic principles which have found worldwide application. Key among the very impressive features of the institute's site is Abraham Lincoln's Classroom Abraham Lincolnís Classroom. The classroom is a resource for scholars and groups involved in the study of the life of Abraham Lincoln. It features a weekly quiz, maps, political cartoons and commentary, links to web resources and a teachers section. After class, be sure to click on the links to the Lincoln Institute's additional web publications.
Mr. Lincoln's White House Mr. Lincoln and Freedom Mr. Lincoln and Friends Mr. Lincoln and the Founders Mr. Lincoln and New York




Go to the following pages from the National Park Service. The pages provide background and visitor information for the historical sites related to Lincoln that are maintained by the NPS.

  1. The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace is located in western Kentucky. An early 19th century Kentucky cabin, symbolic of the one in which Lincoln was born in 1809, is preserved in a memorial building at this site near Hodgenville, KY.

  2. The Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial is located on the southern Indiana farm where Abraham Lincoln spent fourteen years as a youth, and is the place where his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, is buried.


  3. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is located at 413 South Eighth Street in Springfield, Illinois. The two-story home of Abraham Lincoln, the only home he ever owned. The Lincolns lived in the house from 1844 until his election to the Presidency in 1861. Your can take a virtual look inside the home by going to the
    Lincoln Home Tour.


  4. Visit the The Lincoln Depot, the Springfield railway station where Lincoln said good-byes to his friends and neighbors as he left for Washington and the Presidency.

  5. The Lincoln Memorial, located on the west end of the mall in Washington, D.C., is one of our nation's most noted memorials.





While the great State of Kentucky is indeed the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, and Indiana is the state in which he spent much of his youth, it was in Illinois where he became the man that would later save the Union. Go to the pages below to visit the following additional sites within Illinois, the "Land of Lincoln," honoring the man from the "prairie state."
  1. Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, "about 20 miles northwest of Springfield, is a reconstruction of the village where Abraham Lincoln spent his early adulthood. The six years Lincoln spent in New Salem formed a turning point in his career. From the gangling youngster who came to the village in 1831 with no definite objectives, he became a man of purpose as he embarked upon a career of law and statesmanship."

  2. The Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices State Historic Site"has been restored to appear as it may have looked from 1843 until about 1852, when Abraham Lincoln practiced law from rented offices on the building's third floor."

  3. Take a look at the Lincoln - Douglas Debates of 1858 to learn more about the election for United States Senator from Illinois that Lincoln lost, but during which became a leading national figure.

  4. The Old State Capitol of Illinois is where "attorney Lincoln did some of his most important and precedent-setting legal work in the state supreme court, pleading at least 243 cases in the court's first-floor chambers." It also "played an important role in Lincoln's rise to political prominence." He served there in the state legislature, and it was there on June 16, 1858, "Lincoln began his campaign for the United States Senate against Stephen Douglas by delivering his memorable 'House Divided' speech." After Lincoln's assassination, Representatives Hall in the Old State Capitol served as the final place of viewing for the President prior to his burial. "A crowd estimated at 75,000 filed past to pay their last respects."

  5. Go to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's The Lincoln Legal Papers site. The site deals with the project that has attempted to focus on Lincoln as a practicing attorney. The project also attempts to correct what it sees as a "serious omission in Lincoln historiography," and to "fill the final, large gap in documenting his life and work, and contribute a major new source to the study of American legal history."

  6. Also visit the Illinois State Archives site of Lincoln documents.

  7. The Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site is the final resting place for President Lincoln. "The 117-foot-tall Lincoln Tomb in constructed of granite quarried at Quincy, Massachusetts. Near the entrance is a bronze bust of Lincoln, the work of sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Tomb designer Larkin Mead created the monumental bronze military statues and the statue of Lincoln on the terrace."  John Gutzon Borglum is the same sculptor who created one of America's most impressive historical site, the Mount Rushmore National Monument.




    Dr. Samuel P. Wheeler is the creator and managing editor of LincolnStudies.com, a unique site highlighting research related to the Sixteenth President.





    Go to Abraham Lincoln Online for one of the most comprehensive Lincoln sites on the web. Among the main topic areas at ALO are "Lincoln This Week," the "Lincoln Quiz," "Speeches/Writings," "Historic Places," "Lincoln Resources," and "Lincoln's Thinking." This site is a must see.




    For a detailed timeline of Lincoln's life go to
    The History Place Presents Abraham Lincoln.




    Go to Liberty Online's page on the Sixteenth President.



    Also take a moment and visit the Abraham Lincoln page at the U.S. Department Of Energy's
    Ames Laboratory "Washington, D.C. Sightseeing" website.



    To learn more about Abraham Lincoln's assassination, John Wilkes Booth and the others involved in the conspiracy, visit the following sites on the topic:

  8. R.J. Norton's comprehensive "encyclopedic guide," and the site's related one page summary link.

  9. The Ford's Theatre site maintained by the National Park Service. Shown in the photo to the left is the "President's Box" at the Ford's Theatre, the location where the fatal shot was fired by Booth. Click on that photo to go to this and other photos contained in the Photo Gallery link from the NPS.

  10. The Surratt House Museum documenting how that plantation was involved in the events surrounding the assassination.

  11. Ibis Communications' The Death of John Wilkes Booth site.

  12. The National Archives and Records Administration's District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Blotter listing for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

  13. Read what the New York Times wrote the day after Lincoln's Assassination via Manus Hand's "Dead Presidents Site."

  14. For more pictures and information concerning the "Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln" visit these pages and the related gallery from "Mr. Lincoln's Virtual Library" at the Library of Congress.


Interested 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.

Return to the Chief Executive Club Main Page for fast facts and more about our other presidents.

© 1998,2005,2006, 2009 Thomas J. Lemmer

(This page was last edited on June 14, 2010 by Thomas J. Lemmer)