Abraham Lincoln, our country’s most influential people, had a great impact on our nation’s history and the way it is today. He played an important role during the American Civil War and especially in preserving the Union. Among American heroes, Lincoln continues to hold a special place in the hearts of U.S. citizens as well as people from other countries. This allure stems from his extraordinary leadership skills, his compassionate nature, and most importantly, his role in putting a halt to slavery. That being said, it would be worth it to delve into Lincoln’s life and find out more about the different stages he went through.
Who is Abraham Lincoln?
Abraham Lincoln, also known as Honest Abe, the Rail-Splitter, or the Great Emancipator, was the 16th president of the United States. He served from 1861 to 1865. He was born on February 12, 1809, near Hodgenville, Kentucky, and faced a tragic death on April 15, 1865, in Washington, D.C.
Abraham Lincoln, the son of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, was born in a one-room cabin -which no longer exists- in the woods nearby Hodgenville, Kentucky. He had two siblings: Sarah, who was older than him, and Thomas who died when he was just an infant. Thomas Lincoln, his father, was a hardy pioneer, but not as wealthy as some of his Lincoln forefathers. So, they lived in relatively poor conditions.
Lincoln’s family moved quite a lot when he was a child. At the age of two, his family moved to Knob Creek Farm, which was close to where they initially lived. Not long after, the family relocated to live in the wilds of Little Pigeon Creek in Indiana after his father was charged with a lawsuit regarding his illegal title to the Kentucky Farm. At Little Pigeon Creek, Thomas built a cabin for his family to live in and later purchased the land on which it stood. Abraham assisted in harvesting the fields and tending to the crops, but he quickly developed a hatred for hunting and fishing.
After that, Abraham faced the most miserable years of his childhood. His mother died on October 5, 1818, allegedly from "milk sickness" caused by drinking milk from cows that had eaten a toxic plant known as snakeroot. As an innocent nine-year-old, he witnessed his mother being buried and then ultimately faced a winter without the comfort of a mother's embrace. However, a year after, his father remarried to a woman called Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, a widow with two daughters and a son called: Matilda, Elizabeth and John. Fortunately, she was a very compassionate and loving stepmom and treated all her children equally. Her relationship with Abraham was very good that he eventually called her his “angel mother”. While no one can replace one’s own mother, Abraham found comfort and safety in his stepmother’s arms.
Moving to Illinois
The family moved to Illinois in 1830, when Abraham was 21 years old. They settled on undeveloped land near Decatur on the north side of the Sangamon River. Abraham worked several jobs there as a postmaster, splitting rails, and transporting goods to New Orleans on a flatboat. Then, during the 1832 Black Hawk War, he volunteered as a soldier and was elected captain of the army unit.
That same year, yearning to be a legislator, Lincoln ran for the Illinois General Assembly but he did not win. However, two years later in 1834, Lincoln was elected and then re-elected three times afterward where he played a key role in the relocation of the state capital to Springfield. But Lincoln did not stop there. He realized that he was fond of the law and started teaching himself by reading about it to become a lawyer. Eventually, he was granted a license to practice law in 1836 as a Whig politician, taking on cases ranging from minor arguments to murder.
Lincoln was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1846, where he delivered the notorious "Spot" speech about his opposition to the U.S. war with Mexico. In 1848, he did not run for reelection to Congress, but his local district elected a Democrat over a Whig for the first time in its history. Then, for the next few years, Lincoln decided to focus on practicing the law to keep on supporting his growing family.
Marriage and Politics
Abraham and Mary Lincoln got married on November 4, 1842. They gave birth to four children: Robert Todd, named for Mary’s father; Edward (Eddie) Baker, William (Willie) Wallace, and Thomas (Tad). Eddie, Willie, and Tad all died early in their lives, while only Robert stayed into adulthood.
Despite the fact that he did not run for office during this period, Lincoln remained involved in the Whig Party. Until the year 1854, where he served as the campaign manager for Richard Yates, who was running for the General Assembly. Lincoln did not want to be re-elected to that body again because he knew that the legislature will elect a new United States Senator to replace James Shields, who had relocated to the Minnesota Territory, and Lincoln desperately wanted to become Senator. He even favored this position over the presidency.
Running for U.S. Senate
Lincoln quit the Whig Party in the mid-1850s to join the newly formed Republican Party. In a race for the United States Senate which he truly wanted in 1858, he faced Senator Stephen Douglas, one of the most prominent politicians in the nation. While Lincoln lost that race, his outstanding success against Douglas in a series of nationally broadcast debates made him a strong candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860.
After being nominated for the presidency on the third ballot at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Abraham Lincoln left his position as a lawyer and focused solely on his campaign. During that time, he stated unequivocally that he opposes slavery and wants to stop it from spreading to the Mexican western cities that were conquered in 1850. As the Democrats split, the Republicans united, and there were only four candidates, Lincoln eventually won enough electoral votes to become the 16th president of the United States.
The Civil War
Three months before Lincoln took office, Southern states started to secede from the United States. That was due to Lincoln’s opposition to slavery and they were concerned about the emergence of this progressive and sectarian group. Even though previous presidents were threatened with secession, they did not see the need to take action and force the seceding states to rejoin the Union. However, when Southern states actually started to secede, Lincoln was hit with the reality that he must take action after the Confederates (Southern states) fired their weapons in the Battle of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, marking the start of the American Civil War on April 12, 1861.
After three years of the ongoing war between the North and South, with over 160,000 Americans deceased and many deadly battles, Lincoln did not expect that he would be reelected for the presidency. However, he won reelection because of the major victory that happened in September when Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman conquered Atlanta, and because Lincoln had allowed soldiers to vote in their camps for the first time in history.
The civil war ended on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant after the Appomattox Court House battle.
After the epic victory in the civil war, Abraham Lincoln decided to celebrate with his wife by watching a comedy called “My American Cousin” in the Ford’s Theater on the night of April 14. That is when the tragic incident happened. During the performance, an actor named John Wilkes Booth, a prominent Confederate follower, crept into the presidential box and shot Lincoln in the head. The president passed away the next morning. The whole nation was in awe and mourning in the upcoming days.
Did You Know?
- Abraham Lincoln is the first U.S. president to be assassinated.
- Lincoln was the only U.S. president that is renowned for holding a patent. He actually designed a system that lifts riverboats off sandbars.
- The last descendant of the Lincoln family died in 1985, ending the Abraham Lincoln family line.
Indeed, the biggest and most important legacy that Abraham Lincoln has left for our nation is the emancipation of slavery. Lincoln’s unique leadership skills during the civil war have made historians certain that he is the greatest U.S. president of all time. Over the years, our country has commemorated Lincoln in different ways. Some of which are establishing the Abraham Lincoln Memorial University at Harrowgate in East Tennessee in 1897 as well as placing Lincoln’s face on the first $5 Federal Reserve Bank Note. Whatever it is that we do to honor Abraham Lincoln, nothing will be enough to describe his eminence in our nation’s history and politics.