Abraham Lincoln (12 Feb 1809 - 15 April 1865)
President's name: Abraham Lincoln
Birth place: Hodgenville, Kentucky
Parents: Thomas Lincoln (father), Nancy Hanks Lincoln (mother)
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. He preserved the Union during the U.S. Civil War and brought about the emancipation of slaves. He is regarded as one of America's greatest heroes due to both his incredible impact on the nation and his unique appeal. Lincoln's distinctively human and humane personality and historical role as saviour of the Union and emancipator of the slaves creates a legacy that endures.
When young Abraham was 9 years old, his mother died of tremetol (milk sickness) at age 34. Hard work was placed on Abraham at an early age. A few months after Nancy's death, Thomas married Sarah Bush Johnston, a Kentucky widow with three children of her own. She was a strong and affectionate woman with whom Abraham quickly bonded. Though both his parents were most likely illiterate, Sarah encouraged Abraham to read and count. It was while growing into manhood that he received his formal education—an estimated total of 18 months—a few days or weeks at a time. Reading material was in short supply in the Indiana (they were forced to move to Indiana due to land dispute) wilderness. Neighbors recalled how Abraham would walk for miles to borrow a book. He undoubtedly read the family Bible and probably other popular books at that time such as Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrims Progress and Aesop’s Fables.
In his adult years, Abraham Lincoln served a single term in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. His foray into national politics seemed to be as unremarkable as it was brief. He was the lone Whig from the state of Illinois, showing party loyalty but finding few political allies. He used his term in office to speak out against the Mexican-American War and supported Zachary Taylor for president in 1848. His criticism of the war made him unpopular back home and he decided not to run for second term but instead returned Springfield to practice law.
By the 1850s, the railroad industry was moving west and Illinois found itself becoming a major hub for various companies. Abraham Lincoln served as a lobbyist for the Illinois Central Railroad as its company attorney. Lincoln also did some criminal trials. In one case, a witness claimed that he could identify Lincoln's client who was accused of murder, because of the intense light from a full moon. Lincoln referred to an almanac and proved that the night in question had been too dark for the witness to see anything clearly. His client was acquitted.
In 1860, political operatives in Illinois organized a campaign to support Abraham Lincoln for the presidency. On May 18, at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Lincoln surpassed better known candidates such as William Seward of New York and Salmon P. Chase of Ohio. Lincoln's nomination was due in part to his moderate views on slavery, his support for improving the national infrastructure and the protective tariff. In the general election, Lincoln faced his friend and rival, Stephan Douglas, this time besting him in a four-way race that included John C. Breckinridge of the Northern Democrats and John Bell of the Constitution Party. Lincoln received 180 of 303 Electoral votes.
During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln responded to the crisis wielding powers as no other president before him. He distributed $2 million from the Treasury for war material without an appropriation from Congress; he called for 75,000 volunteers into military service without a declaration of war; and he suspended the writ of habeas corpus, arresting and imprisoning suspected Confederate sympathizers without a warrant. Crushing the rebellion would be difficult under any circumstances but the Civil War, with its preceding decades of white-hot partisan politics, was especially onerous. From all directions, Lincoln faced disparagement and defiance. He was often at odds with his generals, his Cabinet, his party and a majority of the American people.
The Union Army's first year and a half of battlefield defeats made it especially difficult to keep morale up and support strong for a reunification the nation. With the hopeful but by no means conclusive Union victory at Antietam on September 22, 1862, Lincoln felt confident enough to reshape the cause of the war from saving the union to abolishing slavery. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which stated that all individuals who were held as slaves in rebellious states "henceforward shall be free." The action was more symbolic than effective because the North did not control any states in rebellion and the proclamation did not apply to Border States.
Gradually, the war effort improved for the North, though more by attrition than by brilliant military victories. But by 1864, the Confederate armies had eluded major defeat and Lincoln was convinced he'd be a one-term president. His nemesis, George B. McClellan, the former commander of the Army of the Potomac, challenged him for the presidency, but the contest was not even close. Lincoln received 55 percent of the popular vote and 212 of 243 Electoral votes. On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Virginia, surrendered his forces to Union General Ulysses S. Grant and the war for all intents and purposes was over.
Reconstruction began during the war as early as 1863 in areas firmly under Union military control. Abraham Lincoln favored a policy of quick reunification with a minimum of retribution. However, he was confronted by a radical group of Republicans in the Senate and House that wanted complete allegiance and repentance from former Confederates. Before a political battle had a chance to firmly develop, Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, by well-known actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. Lincoln was taken from the theater to a Petersen House across the street and laid in a coma for nine hours before dying the next morning. His body lay in state at the Capitol before a funeral train took him back to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois.
With a huge impact that Abraham Lincoln has made, his legacy lives on. His intelligence, sacrifices, selflessness, hard work, dedication and committment to his people has made an ever lasting improvement in their lives.