Born: February 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Hardin County, Kentucky
Lincoln died the morning after being shot at Ford's Theatre in
Washington, D.C. by John Wilkes Booth, an actor.
Married to Mary Todd Lincoln
Lincoln warned the South in his Inaugural Address: "In
your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is
the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you....
You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while
I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it."
Lincoln thought secession illegal, and was willing to use force to defend
Federal law and the Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter
and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers.
Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within
the Union. The Civil War had begun.
The son of a Kentucky frontiersman, Lincoln had to struggle for a living
and for learning. Five months before receiving his party's nomination
for President, he sketched his life:
" I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents
were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families--second families,
perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a
family of the name of Hanks.... My father ... removed from Kentucky to
... Indiana, in my eighth year.... It was a wild region, with many bears
and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up.... Of course
when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read,
write, and cipher ... but that was all."
Lincoln made extraordinary efforts to attain knowledge while working
on a farm, splitting rails for fences, and keeping store at New Salem,
Illinois. He was a captain in the Black Hawk War, spent eight years in
the Illinois legislature, and rode the circuit of courts for many years.
His law partner said of him, "His ambition was a little engine that
knew no rest."
He married Mary Todd, and they had four boys, only one of whom lived
to maturity. In 1858 Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for Senator.
He lost the election, but in debating with Douglas he gained a national
reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President in 1860.
As President, he built the Republican Party into a strong national organization.
Further, he rallied most of the northern Democrats to the Union cause.
On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared
forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.
Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even
larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the military
cemetery at Gettysburg: "that we here highly resolve that these
dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall
have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the
people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Lincoln won re-election in 1864, as Union military triumphs heralded
an end to the war. In his planning for peace, the President was flexible
and generous, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join
speedily in reunion.
The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural
Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington,
D. C.: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness
in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish
the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds.... "
On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre
in Washington by John Wilkes Booth, an actor, who somehow thought he
was helping the South. The opposite was the result, for with Lincoln's
death, the possibility of peace with magnanimity died.