Abraham Lincoln was born on 12 February 1809 in a log cabin in rural Kentucky.
Lincoln began his political career and was elected to the Illinois state legislature in 1834 as a member of the Whig Party. He supported the Whig politics of government-sponsored infrastructure and protective tariffs. This political understanding led him to formulate his early views on slavery, not so much as a moral wrong, but as an impediment to economic development. It was around this time that Lincoln decided to teach himself law. He passed the bar in 1837 and moved to Springfield where he met Mary Todd. Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd were married on 4 November 1842.
Lincoln spent his next years practicing law, but in 1858 he decided to challenge Stephen Douglas for his seat in the US Senate. Lincoln’s House Divided speech became the launching point for his unsuccessful campaign for the Senate. Though Lincoln lost the election, he got the attention of National Republican party leaders and won the party’s nomination for President in 1860. In the Presidential Election of 1860, he would again face Stephen Douglas. Stephen Douglas argued that “democracy is compatible with slavery, Lincoln has to undo that idea or he won’t be able to successfully challenge slavery”
Within the first four months of Lincoln becoming President seven states had already seceded from the Union. These states formed the Confederate states. The Confederate states defeated the Union in a battle known as Bull Run, and in one of the bloodiest days of the civil war, the Union was victorious in the Battle of Antietam. This was the time that Lincoln chose to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation. This order freed the slaves in the areas that rebellion was established, but it did not free the slaves in the Union slave states or in the areas that the Union recaptured. At this point, the point of the war completely changed from the preservation of the Union to the abolition of slavery.
On 1 July 1863 came the bloodiest most gruesome battle of the Civil War, with more than 45,000 men killed and wounded. The Confederacy lost two thirds of its entire army with the Union victorious in the Battle of Gettysburg.
Four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy in the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln delivered a speech, known today as the Gettysburg Address, at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Union army were then successful in a battle at Vicksburg. This was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.
Lincoln was re-elected in 1864 in a landslide victory over General George B. McClellan. Not long afterwards, in the early months of 1865, the main Confederate armies surrendered bringing about the effective end of the Civil War. Lincoln explained in his second inaugural address on 4 March 1865: ‘Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the Nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came’.
Reconstruction had already begun but there were those who did not readily accept the outcome of the war. “John Wilkes Booth believed that Lincoln was truly an evil man and Booth believed that by killing him he would be doing a service to both his nation and to his race”. On April 14 1865 Booth shot the President at Forbes Theatre in Washington DC. Lincoln was taken across the street to a boarding house where he died nine hours later.
Lincoln achieved so much in such a difficult time in America’s history. He abolished slavery and truly united the United States of America, and though the character of Abraham Lincoln is to some degree built on myths, the courage and commitment he showed to uniting the Union and abolishing a moral wrong (slavery) ensures that he will be remembered as one of the greatest Presidents in the history of the United States of America.
- Lincoln was an accomplished wrestler. He was defeated only once in about 300 matches, and is enshrined in the Wrestling Hall of Fame.
- Lincoln’s son, Robert Too Lincoln, was saved from getting hit by a train by Edwin Booth, John Wilkes Booth’s brother.
 quoted in Philip Paludan, ‘The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln’.
 John Rhodehamel, Curator, Huntington Library
|Image By Amon T. Joslin (abrahamlincolnphotos.blogspot.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|