|Term of Office:
||March 4, 1861 - April 15, 1865
|Date of Birth
||Sunday, February 12, 1809
|Place of Birth:
||Larue County, Kentucky
|Date of Death:
||Saturday, April 15, 1865
|Place of Death:
Hannibal Hamlin (1861-1865)
Andrew Johnson (1865)
Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 - April 15, 1865) was the
16th (1861-1865) President of the United States, and the first President
from the Republican Party. His accomplishments include successfully restoring
the federal unity of the nation by defeating the secessionist Confederate
States of America and along the way, played in an important role in ending
chattel slavery in the United States.
Born on February 12, 1809, in Kentucky, he moved at a young age to the
area near Springfield, Illinois. He served as a captain in the U.S. Army
during the Black Hawk War. He later tried his hand at several business
and political ventures which all proved unsuccessful. It is widely believed
that Lincoln suffered from bouts of severe depression, a theory supported
by Lincoln's own statements and reports of the young lawyer's spending
days alone in bed. It is also suggested that Lincoln may have suffered
from Marfan syndrome, a disease which results in an elongated figure and
Lincoln eventually married and raised a family with Mary Todd Lincoln,
who had some psychological difficulties of her own and at times required
almost constant attention. Mrs. Lincoln generally disliked politics, and
her tenure as First Lady was marked with some scandal as she spent lavishly
to redecorate the White House and reportedly purchased an inordinate amount
of hats, gloves, and other fashionable items of clothing. Todd's family
were slave owners from Kentucky, and her brother fought for the Confederacy.
First elected to the House of Representatives, Lincoln spent most of
his time in Washington, DC alone and made less than a spectacular impression
on his fellow politicians. During his unsuccessful campaign for the United
States Senate against Stephen A. Douglas, it was Lincoln's well-known gift
of oratory that brought public support to an otherwise unimpressive candidate.
Lincoln debated Douglas in a series of events which represented a national
discussion on the issues that were about to split the nation in two. The
Lincoln/Douglas debates marked Lincoln's presaged the Presidential election
of 1860, in which Douglas and Lincoln were once again opponents.
Shortly after his election, the South made it clear that secession was
inevitable which greatly increased tension across the nation. President-elect
Lincoln survived an assassination attempt in Baltimore, Maryland and on
February 23, 1861 arrived secretly in Washington, DC. The South ridiculed
Lincoln for this seemingly cowardly act, but the efforts at security may
have been prudent. At Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, 1861, the Turners
formed Lincoln's bodyguard, and a sizable garrison of Union troops was
always present, ready to protect the president and the capital from rebel
During his presidency, Lincoln is credited with freeing the slaves with
the Emancipation Proclamation, though this only freed the slaves in areas
of the Confederacy not yet controlled by the Union. However, the proclamation
made abolishing slavery in the rebel states an official war goal which
became the impetus for the enactment of the 13th and 14th Admendments of
the United States Constitution which respectively abolished slavery and
established the federal enforcement of civil rights. During the Civil War
Lincoln held powers no previous president had wielded; he suspended the
writ of habeas corpus and frequently imprisoned Southern spies and sympathizers
He showed tremendous leadership to the Union populace during the war
as evidenced by the Gettysburg
Address, a speech dedicating a cemetery of union soldiers from the
Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. While most of the speakers at the event spoke
at length, some for hours, Lincoln's few choice words resonated across
the nation and across history, defying Linoln's own prediction that "The
world will little note, nor long remember what we say here." While there
is little documentation of the other speeches of the day, Lincoln's address
is regarded as one of the great speeches in history.
The war was a source of constant frustration for the president, and
it occupied nearly all of his time. After repeated frustrations with General
George McClellan, Lincoln made a fateful decision to replace him with a
radical and somewhat scandalous army commander: General Ulysses S. Grant
would apply his military knowledge and leadership talents to bring about
the close of the Civil War.
When Richmond, the Confederate capital, was at long last captured, Lincoln
went there to make a public gesture of sitting behind Jefferson Davis's
desk in Davis's own chair, symbolicaly saying to the nation that the President
of the United States, and the U.S. constitution, held authority over the
entire land. He was greeted at the city as a conquering hero by freed slaves
whose sentiments were epitomized by one admirers quote, "I know I am free
for I have seen the face of Father Abraham and have felt him."
The reconstruction of the Union weighed heavy on the President's mind.
He was determined to take a course that would not permanently alienate
the former Confederate states.
Lincoln met frequently with Grant as the war ended. The two men planned
matters of reconstruction, and it was evident to all that the two men held
one another in high regard. During their last meeting, on April 14, 1865,
Lincoln invited General Grant to a social engagement for that evening.
Grant declined (his wife was not eager to spend time with Mary Todd Lincoln).
Without the General and his wife, the Lincolns left to attend a play
at Ford's theater. The play was Our American Cousin, a musical comedy.
As Lincoln sat in the balcony, John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Southern
sympathizer from Virginia, aimed a single-shot, round-slug pistol at the
President's head and fired. He shouted "Sic semper tyrannis!" (Latin:
"Thus always to tyrants" and Virginia's state motto) and jumped from the
balcony to the stage below, breaking his leg in the process.
Booth managed to limp to his horse and escape, and the mortally wounded
president was taken to a house across the street where he lay in a coma
for some time before he quietly expired.
Booth and several of his companions (some of whom were later shown to
be innocent) were eventually captured and either hanged or imprisoned.
Lincoln's body was carried by train in a grand funeral procession through
several states. The nation mourned a man who, they realized in his absence,
was the savior of the United States and protector and defender of what
Lincoln himself called "the government of the people, by the people, and
for the people."
One of the most respected and beloved presidents, Lincoln has been memorialized
in many city names, notably the capital of Nebraska, with the Lincoln Memorial
in Washington, D.C., and on the U.S. $5 bill and the 1 cent coin.
On February 12, 1892 Abraham Lincoln's birthday was declared to be a
national holiday in the United States.
USS Abraham Lincoln was named in his honor.