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Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial

The son of a Kentucky frontiersman, Abraham Lincoln had to struggle to live and learn. Five months before receiving his party’s nomination for President, he sketched his life:

“I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families – second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks.... My father ... removed from Kentucky to ... Indiana, in my eighth year.... It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up.... Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher ... but that was all.”

This is a great portrait of Abraham Lincoln. The president surprised his cabinet on this day (July 22) in 1862 by revealing to them a first draft he had written of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln made extraordinary efforts to attain knowledge while working on a farm, splitting rails for fences, and keeping store at New Salem, Illinois. He was a captain in the Black Hawk War, spent eight years in the Illinois legislature, and as a lawyer rode the circuit of courts for many years. His law partner said of him, “His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest.”

He married Mary Todd, and they had four boys, only one of whom lived to maturity. In 1858, Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for Senator. He lost the election, but in debating with Douglas he gained a national reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President in 1860.

Lincoln thought secession of the South illegal, and was willing to use force to defend Federal law and the Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers. Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within the Union. The Civil War had begun.

This is a dramatic portrait of Abraham Lincoln. It was taken on April 10, 1865 . . . four days before his Assassination. It is interesting to note the look on Lincoln’s face. While four years of Civil War have had a dramatic effect on the facial features of the president, there is a sense of calm and peace on his face in this image . . . as if he knows that he has run a good race, and completed his task.

As President, he built the new Republican Party into a strong national organization. Further, he rallied most of the northern Democrats to the Union cause. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.

Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg: “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 the earth.”

Lincoln won re-election in 1864, as Union military triumphs heralded an end to war. In his planning for peace, the President was flexible and generous, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join speedily in reunion.

The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds.... “

On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, by John Wilkes Booth, an actor who thought he was helping the South. The opposite was the result, for with Lincoln’s death, the possibility of peace with magnanimity died.

President Lincoln died at 7:22 the next morning. Following a funeral at the White House, his casket was viewed by millions as it was carried on a special train back to Illinois. He was buried May 4 in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield.


Personal Life

1809 – Born

Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky to Nancy Hanks Lincoln and Thomas Lincoln.

1811 – Knob Creek

Moves with family to 230-acre farm on Knob Creek.

1816 – Indiana

Briefly attends school with sister in fall. Father, who is involved in suit over title to his land, moves family across Ohio River to southwestern Indiana in December. There they settle in backwoods community along Little Pigeon Creek in Perry (later Spencer) County. Family lives in three-sided shelter for several weeks until log cabin is built.

1818 – Mom Died

On October 5, 1818 at the age of 34, Nancy Hanks Lincoln died of milk sickness. She contracted this disease by drinking contaminated milk from cows that had grazed on the poisonous white-snake root plant. Thomas Lincoln later married Sarah Bush Johnston.

1827 – 1828 – Flatboat

Lincoln works as boatman and farmhand at junction of Anderson Creek and the Ohio River, near Troy, Indiana. In April, Lincoln and Allen Gentry leave Rockport, Indiana, on flatboat headed for New Orleans with cargo of farm produce. The trip becomes Lincoln’s first exposure to the “peculiar institution” of slavery.

1830 – Move to Illinois

In March, moves with family to Illinois, where they settle on uncleared land ten miles southwest of Decatur in Macon County. Makes first known political speech, in favor of improving navigation on Sangamon River, at campaign meeting in Decatur.

1831 – Second Flatboat Trip

Builds flatboat with two others and makes second trip to New Orleans, carrying corn, live hogs, and barreled pork. Returns to Illinois in summer and moves to village of New Salem, northwest of Springfield in Sangamon County (family has moved to Coles County, Illinois). Clerks in general store, where he sleeps in the back, helps run mill, and does odd jobs. Becomes friends with tavern keeper James Rutledge, his daughter Ann, and schoolmaster Mentor Graham. Learns basic mathematics, reads Shakespeare and Robert Burns, and participates in local debating society.

1835 – Ann Rutledge Died

Ann Rutledge dies on August 25 from Typhoid fever at age twenty-two.? Her death devastates Lincoln and leads him into a severe depression.? Three years to the day after her death, an anonymous poem about suicide is published.? Some historians attribute this poem to Lincoln.

1839 – Mary Todd

Becomes acquainted with Mary Todd, 21-year-old daughter of prominent Kentucky Whig banker, sister-in-law of Illinois Whig legislator Ninian W. Edwards.

1842 – Married

After a turbulent relationship over the past three years, Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd on the evening of November 4, 1842. The small ceremony took place at the home of Mary’s sister, Elizabeth Edwards.

1843 – Robert Born

Robert Todd Lincoln, the first son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln was born on August 1, 1843 in Springfield, Illinois.

1844 – Bought Home

The Lincoln family bought their first home in 1844. The home was purchased for $1500 from Dr. Charles Dresser, the reverend who married Lincoln in 1842. This would be the only home Abraham and Mary ever purchased.

1846 – Edward Born

Edward Baker Lincoln, the second son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln was born on March 10, 1846.

1850 – Willie Born and Eddie Dies

William Wallace Lincoln, the third son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln was born on December 21, 1850.

On February 1, 1850 Eddie died. He was only three years old.

1851 – Father Dies

Thomas Lincoln died on January 17, 1851 at the age of 73. Abraham did not attend his father’s funeral. Thomas is buried in Shiloh Cemetery in Charleston, Illinois.

1853 – Tad Born

Named after Lincoln’s father, Thomas Lincoln, the third son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln was born on April 4, 1853. His father nicknamed him “Tad” because Lincoln thought he resembled a tadpole.

1862 – Willie Dies

February 20, 1862, Willie Lincoln died of typhoid fever at the age of eleven years old. Willie was laid in state in the Green Room at the White House until his funeral on February 24, 1862.

1865 – Assassination

At Ford’s Theatre, John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln while attending the play “Our American Cousin” on April 14. An unconscious Lincoln was carried to the home of William Peterson. At 7:22 A.M. the next morning, President Lincoln died.

Professional Life

1832 – Served in Blackhawk War

Lincoln joined a volunteer company at the outbreak of the Blackhawk War. He was elected Captain of the Volunteers. This could be said to be Lincoln’s first campaign and election. He served three months but did not participate in any battles. Lincoln described his experience as a Captain in the Blackhawk War as “a success which gave me more pleasure than any I have had since.”

1834 – Illinois House of Representatives

After an unsuccessful run in 1832, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1834. He received the highest amount of votes cast for any candidate. He served in the Illinois Legislature until 1840, serving four terms.
Elected as a Whig on August 4 to Illinois House of Representatives. Takes his seat on December 1 at capital in Vandalia. Meets Stephen A. Douglas, 21-year-old lawyer active in Democratic party politics.

1836 – Wins Reelection

Wins reelection on August 1. Receives license to practice law on September 9.

1849 – Voted against Slavery and Received Patent

Lincoln voted to exclude slavery from federal territories and abolish slave trade in the District of Columbia. ?In June, Lincoln returned to Washington in pursuit of position as commissioner of the General Land Office. He fails to receive appointment from the new Taylor administration.? Upon his return to Illinois to practice law, Lincoln receives an offer to become secretary and then governor of the Oregon Territory but he declines the appointment.
Applied for patent on device for reducing draft of steamboats in shallow water. Lincoln is the only president with a patent. His invention consisted of a buoyant system to allow boats and vessels to pass over shallow waters or bars.

1856 – Republican Party

Joins in founding Republican Party of Illinois at convention in Bloomington, May 29, and inspires delegates with address that goes unrecorded (later known as the “Lost Speech”).

1858 – “A House Divided”

Serving as a launching point for his unsuccessful campaign for the Senate seat against Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech created a lasting image of the danger of disunion based on slavery, and it rallied Republicans across the North.

1858 – Lincoln – Douglas Debates

On July 24, Lincoln invites Douglas to “divide time” on the same platform for the remainder of campaign. Douglas declines, but agrees to seven debates, which are held on August 21, 27, September 15, 18, and October 7, 13, 15. Lincoln participated in seven debates across the state of Illinois with Stephen Douglas, campaigning for one of the Illinois State Senate seats. The debates started in Ottawa, Illinois on August 21, 1858 and ended in Alton, Illinois at the end of October.

1860 – Elected President

Delivers address on slavery and the framers of the Constitution to audience of 1,500 at Cooper Union in New York City on February 27. Wins nomination for president on the third ballot, May 18, defeating his main rival Senator William H. Seward of New York as well as others.
Lincoln was elected President of the United States on November 6, 1860. His opponents were Stephen Douglas, John Breckinridge and John Bell.

1861 – Inauguration

President Lincoln’s inauguration took place on March 4, 1861. South Carolina and Georgia had already succeeded from the Union and the Civil War seemed inevitable. President Lincoln ended his inauguration speech by asking the South “Shall it be peace or the sword?”

1862 – Emancipation Proclamation

Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation which was his executive order to free slaves of everyone who is in rebellion against the government. President Lincoln would sign the final draft on January 1, 1863.

1863 – Gettysburg Address

On November 9, 1863 President Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address. He spoke for less than three minutes but it became Lincoln’s most famous speech.

1865 – Inauguration & Assassination

The Civil War was at an end when President Lincoln’s second inauguration took place on March 4, 1865.

At 7:22 A.M. on April 15 President Lincoln died and the country mourned its loss.

Source: www.abrahamlincoln200.org

Adapted from the White House biography