Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a simple log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky to Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Abraham had one sister, Sarah, and a brother, Thomas, who did not live past infancy. In December 1816, the Lincoln family moved to southern Indiana. While the family cleared and worked the land they temporarily lived in a “half-faced camp,” a building made of logs on three sides with one side open. Abraham preferred to read books over the hard physical labor demanded by pioneer life, and read borrowed books when he wasn’t working in the fields.
When Abraham was nine his mother died. A year later, Thomas Lincoln married Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, who already had three children of her own. Sarah treated all of the children equally and encouraged Abraham’s love of learning despite the fact that neither she nor Thomas could read very well.
When Abraham was 21, he and his family moved to New Salem, Illinois. By this time, Lincoln had grown to stand six feet four inches tall. He had a lanky appearance but he was strong and tried his hand at several different jobs. He worked as a flat-boatman, a surveyor, a postmaster, a shopkeeper, and a rail-splitter. He briefly volunteered to serve during the Black Hawk War of 1832. Finally Abraham decided that he wanted to pursue a career in law, so after studying and passing the bar exam in 1836 he became a lawyer. He moved to Springfield, Illinois where there were more career opportunities than in New Salem. Lincoln was a respected and successful attorney, known for being honest and fair. He entered politics as a member of the Whig party and was elected to the Illinois State Legislature four times between 1834 and 1840. In 1847 he served one term in Congress.
On November 4, 1842, Abraham married Mary Todd Lincoln. The Lincolns had four sons: Robert, Edward, William, and Thomas (“Tad”). Only Robert lived to be an adult.
As a Republican, Lincoln ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1858 but lost to his political rival Stephen Douglas, with whom he had engaged in a series of popular debates. Lincoln became well-known for his stance on slavery, publicly opposing the Dred Scott Decision in 1857 and in 1858, he gave his famous “A House Divided” speech.
In 1860 Lincoln became the President, and not long after 11 states seceded from the Union, forming the Confederacy. Following the attack on Fort Sumter, the Civil War began. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which stated that all slaves in the states which had seceded were to be freed. This was a tactical move against the South, as it weakened their economy. Also in 1863, Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg. Lincoln was re-elected in 1864 and in 1865 the Confederacy surrendered, ending the war. Five days later, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater. He died on April 10, 1865.
Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project
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