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|Top > Society > History > By Region > North America > United States > Presidents > Abraham Lincoln|
Portrait of President Abraham Lincoln (National Archives)
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's Syndrome, a disease which results in an elongated figure and bone structure.
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.
First elected to the Senate, Lincoln spent most of his time in Washington alone and made less than a spectacular impression on his fellow politicians. During his presidential election, it was Lincoln's well-known gift of oratory that brought public support to an otherwise unimpressive presidential candidate. Lincoln debated his opponent in a series of events that are well documented and which represented a national discussion on the issues that were about to split the nation in two. The Lincoln/Douglas debates marked Lincoln's coming of age as a public figure and catapulted him into the White House in the most dire of times.
Shortly after his election, the South made it clear that secession was inevitable. The tension was so great that Lincoln was convinced to arrive in Washington with little fanfare, in effect sneaking into the city. 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 in Washington, ready to protect the president and the capital from rebel invasion.
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.
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 - written on the back of an envelope on the train ride to Gettysburg - 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 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 -- a real irony in light of his own earlier actions.
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 penny. In polls among historians, Lincoln is sometimes rated as one of the great presidents in American history.
President Abraham Lincoln and Tad Lincoln (National Archives)
Mrs. Abraham Lincoln (Mary Todd Lincoln) (National Archives)
Abraham Lincoln, President, U.S with his signature (National Archives)
Abraham Lincoln President, United States, and Cabinet (National Archives)
Emancipation Proclamation - Issued by President Lincoln to free the slaves. 01/01/1863 (National Archives)
President Lincoln, Allan Pinkerton, and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand. (Note: Take a look his stove-pipe hat.) (National Archives)
Message of President Abraham Lincoln nominating Ulysses S. Grant to be Lieutenant General of the Army, 03/01/1864 (National Archives)
Telegram from General William T. Sherman to President Abraham Lincoln announcing the surrender of Savannah, Georgia. 12/22/1864 (National Archives)
Lincoln and his generals after Antietam. 1. Col. Delos B. Sackett, 2. Maj. Montieth, 3. Gen. N.B. Sweitzer, 4. Gen. O. W. Morell, 5. Unknown., 6. Gen. Geo. B. McClellan, 7. Scout Adams, 8. Col. Alexander S. Webb, 9. Gen. G.A. Custer, 10. President Lincoln, 11. Gen. H.G. Hunt, 12. Gen. Fitz John Porter, 13. Pinkerton, 14. Col. Fred Locke, 15. Gen. A.A. Humphreys, 16. Col. Bachelder, Ordnance Officer 5th Corps
Telegram from President Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Lincoln, Responding to her Request for a $50 Draft and News of their Young Son's Pet Goats at the White House, 04/28/1864 (National Archives)
This is the private box in Ford's Theater, Washington, where President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, on the night of April 14, 1865. Stereo card. (National Archives)
President Abraham Lincoln led the United States through its most terrible crisis. At the end of the war, he appealed to people's nobler instincts, speaking words of reconciliation and healing. Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, while attending a performance at Ford's Theater. This police blotter captures the reaction of the officer on duty the night of the assassination. The Washington Metropolitan Police Department was one of several civil and military police groups involved in the investigation.
Ford's Theatre, chair in which President Lincoln was sitting when shot. (National Archives)
Rank: 16th (1861-1865) Followed: James Buchanan Succeeded by: Andrew Johnson Date of Birth February 12, 1809 Place of Birth: Larue County, Kentucky Date of Death: April 15, 1865 Place of Death: Washington, D.C. First Lady: Mary Todd Occupation: lawyer Political Party: Republican Vice President: Hannibal Hamlin (1861-1865 Andrew Johnson (1865)
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