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Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln November 1863.jpg
Lincoln in November 1863
16th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865
Vice President Hannibal Hamlin (1861 to 1865);
Andrew Johnson (March  — April 1865)
Preceded by James Buchanan
Succeeded by Andrew Johnson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1847 – March 4, 1849
Preceded by John Henry
Succeeded by Thomas Harris
Personal details
Born (1809-02-12)February 12, 1809
Hodgenville, Kentucky, U.S.
Died April 15, 1865(1865-04-15) (aged 56)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Political party Republican and Whig
Height 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
(m. 1842)

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809  – April 15, 1865) was an American politician. He was the 16th President of the United States. He was president from 1861 to 1865, during the American Civil War. Just five days after most of the Confederate forces had surrendered and the war was ending, John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln because he believed Lincoln was a tyrant. Lincoln was the first president of the United States to be assassinated. He has been remembered as the "Great Emancipator" because he worked to end slavery in the United States.


Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Kentucky, United States. His parents were Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. His family was poor. Abraham had one brother and one sister. His brother died in childhood. Lincoln grew up in a small log cabin, with just one room inside. Although slavery was legal in Kentucky at that time, Lincoln's father, who was a religious Baptist, refused to own any slaves.

When Lincoln was seven years old, his family moved to Indiana. Later they moved to Illinois. In his childhood, he helped his father on the farm.

On October 5, 1818, when Abraham was 9, his mother died, leaving Abraham's 11-year-old sister Sarah in charge of the household. His father later married again.

When he was 21, he worked on a flatboat that carried freight. When he was 22 years old, he left home and moved to New Salem, Illinois, where he worked in a general store and as a postmaster. Later, he said that he had gone to school for just one year, but that was enough to learn how to read, write, and do simple math. In 1842, he married Mary Todd. They had four children, but three of them died when they were very young.

In 1851, Abraham's father died at the age of 73.


Lincoln was largely self-educated. His formal schooling was from itinerant teachers. It included two short stints in Kentucky, where he learned to read but probably not to write, at age seven, and in Indiana, where he went to school sporadically due to farm chores, for a total of fewer than 12 months in aggregate by the age of 15. He persisted as an avid reader and retained a lifelong interest in learning. Family, neighbors, and schoolmates recalled that his reading included the King James Bible, Aesop's Fables, John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Despite being self-educated, Lincoln was the recipient of honorary degrees later in life, including an honorary Doctor of Laws from Columbia University in June 1861.

New Salem, Illinois

Honest Abe

Abraham Lincoln was sometimes called Abe Lincoln or "Honest Abe" after he ran miles to give a customer the right amount of change. The nickname "Honest Abe" came from a time when he started a business that failed. Instead of running away as many people would have, he stayed and worked to pay his debt.

Early political career

Lincoln started his political career in 1832 when he ran for the Illinois General Assembly (IGA), but he lost the election. He served as a captain in the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War, a war with Native American tribes. When he moved to Springfield in 1837, he began to work as a lawyer. Soon, he became one of the most highly respected lawyers in Illinois. He rode the circuit of courts for many years. In 1841, he won a court case (Bailey v. Cromwell) in which he represented a black woman who claimed she had already been freed and could not be sold as a slave. In 1847, he lost a case (Matson v. Rutherford) representing a slave owner (Robert Matson) claiming the return of fugitive slaves.

In 1846, Lincoln joined the Whig Party and was elected to one term in the House of Representatives. After that, he ignored his political career and instead worked as a lawyer. In 1854, in reaction to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Lincoln became involved in politics again. He joined the Republican Party, which had recently been formed in opposition to the expansion of slavery. In 1858, he wanted to become a senator and ran against Stephen A. Douglas. Although he lost the senate race, the debates drew national attention to him. The Republican Party nominated him for the Presidential election of 1860.


Thomas Hicks - Leopold Grozelier - Presidential Candidate Abraham Lincoln 1860
A sketch of candidate Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln was chosen as a candidate for the elections in 1860 for different reasons. Among these reasons was that his views on slavery were less extreme than those of other people who wanted to be candidates. Lincoln was from what was then one of the Western states and had a bigger chance of winning the election there. Other older, more experienced candidates had enemies inside the party. Lincoln's family was poor, which added to the Republican position of free labor, which is the opposite of slave labor. Lincoln won the election in 1860 and was made the 16th President of the United States. He won with almost no votes from those living in the South. For the first time, a president had won the election because of the large support he got from the states in the North. During his presidency, Lincoln became well-known because of his large stovepipe hat. He used his tall hat to store papers and documents when he was traveling.

The Civil War

Abraham Lincoln O-55, 1861-crop
The first photographic image of the new president

After Lincoln's election in 1860, seven states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Louisiana) formed the Confederate States of America. When the United States refused to surrender Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, the Confederate Army attacked the fort, beginning the American Civil War. Later, four more states (Arkansas, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina) joined the Confederacy to make a total of eleven Confederate states. While Lincoln was President, he had to rebuild the Union with military force and many bloody battles. He also had to stop the "border states," like Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland, from leaving the Union and joining the Confederacy.

Emancipation Proclamation

With the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln ordered the freedom of all slaves in those states still in rebellion during the American Civil War. However, it did not immediately free all those slaves, since those areas were still controlled by the rebelling states of the Confederacy. Only a small number of slaves already behind Union lines were immediately freed. As the Union army advanced, nearly all four million slaves were effectively freed. Some former slaves joined the Union army after 1862. The Proclamation also did not free slaves in the slave states that had remained loyal to the Union (the federal government of the U.S.). Neither did it apply to areas where Union forces had already regained control, as in Tennessee.

The Proclamation made freeing the slaves a Union goal for the war and put an end to movements in European nations (especially in Great Britain and France) that would have recognized the Confederacy as a separate nation from the Union. Lincoln then sponsored a constitutional amendment to free all slaves. The Thirteenth Amendment, making slavery illegal everywhere in the United States, was passed late in 1865, eight months after Lincoln was assassinated.

Gettysburg Address

During the important Battle of Gettysburg, many soldiers from both sides died. Abraham Lincoln made a famous speech called the Gettysburg Address at the new cemetery for the fallen soldiers. It is one of the most famous speeches in American history.

Second Term and Assassination

Lincoln was re-elected president by a slim margin in 1864 and re-inaugurated on March 4, 1865. Soon afterward, it looked like the Union would win the Civil War. Lincoln proposed terms that would not be harsh on the states that had rebelled. He wanted them to be able to restore self-government. On April 9, 1865, the leading Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, surrendered his armies. On April 11, 1865, Lincoln gave a speech in which he promoted voting rights for black American citizens.

Lincoln assassination slide c1900
Shown in the presidential booth of Ford's Theater, from left to right, are assassin John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Clara Harris, and Henry Rathbone.

During the day on April 14, 1865, Lincoln signed the legislation that created the secret service, the U.S. President's security force. That evening, Lincoln attended a play with his wife, Mary Todd, at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. He had invited Ulysses S. Grant to attend the play with them. As a general, Grant would have brought his own extra military security force, but he did not attend the play because his wife Julia Grant and Mary Todd Lincoln did not get along well.

During the third act of the play, John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor and a Confederate spy from Maryland, entered the presidential box and shot Lincoln at point-blank range and shouted "Sic semper tyrannis" ("Thus always to tyrants"). An unconscious Lincoln was carried across the street to Petersen House. He was placed diagonally on the bed because his tall frame would not fit normally on the smaller bed. He remained in a coma for nine hours before dying the next morning. According to some accounts, at his last drawn breath, on the morning after being shot, he smiled broadly and then expired. Lincoln was the first American president to be assassinated.

Booth escaped but died from shots fired during his capture on April 26.


President Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln had four sons.

  1. Robert Todd Lincoln
  2. Edward Baker Lincoln
  3. William Wallace Lincoln
  4. Thomas "Tad" Lincoln

Only Robert survived into adulthood. Of Robert's children, only Jessie Lincoln had any children (2 - Mary Lincoln Beckwith and Robert Lincoln Beckwith). Neither Robert Beckwith nor Mary Beckwith had any children, so Abraham Lincoln's bloodline ended when Robert Beckwith (Lincoln's great-grandson) died in 1985.


Lincoln, painting by George Peter Alexander Healy in 1869

Lincoln has been consistently ranked both by scholars and the public as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents. He is often considered the greatest President for his leadership during the American Civil War and his eloquence in speeches such as the Gettysburg Address.

Abraham Lincoln quotes

  • “Whatever you are, be a good one.”
  • “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”
  • “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
  • “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
  • “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.”
  • “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”
  • “Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”
  • “You cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

Interesting facts about Abraham Lincoln

  • Abraham Lincoln was born into a poor family in Kentucky. He later moved to Indiana and then Illinois.
  • He earned the name "Honest Abe" because he did not run from failure but stayed to pay the debt he owed.
  • Abraham was a captain in the Illinois Militia that fought in a war against some Native American tribes.
  • Abraham moved to Springfield, Illinois, and became a well-respected lawyer.
  • When Lincoln tried to become a senator, he lost the election, but gained attention and was nominated for the Presidential election in 1860.
  • Abraham Lincoln was America's 16th president during the Civil War.
  • Lincoln ordered that all slaves be set free in the states that were still in rebellion. This was called the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • Abraham Lincoln was elected as President for a second time after his first term of four years was complete.
  • He sponsored adding the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which made slavery illegal everywhere in the United States. The Amendment passed after Lincoln's death.
  • One of the most famous speeches in United States History was given by Abraham Lincoln. It was after the Battle of Gettysburg and it was called the Gettysburg Address.
  • On April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to see a play with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C.
  • He was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth and died the next morning.
  • Abraham Lincoln was the first American President to be assassinated.

Questions kids ask about Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln statue, Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln statue, Lincoln Memorial

Why is Abraham Lincoln important?
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. He Presided over the Civil War. His Emancipation Proclamation freed 20,000 slaves. He was one of the most important people involved in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and other important legislation that pushed the United States towards being a great country.

Who ended slavery?
Slavery was ended in the United States under the Lincoln presidency on December 18, 1865, once the 13th Amendment had been ratified and was officially adopted into the Constitution.

Why was Lincoln murdered?
On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth killed the President because Booth was in support of slavery and wanted the South the same as it was before. He was trying to revive the Confederate cause by eliminating the three most important officials in the United States government, the President, Vice President and the Secretary of State. The president was the only person killed in Booth's plot.

Why is Lincoln considered the greatest president?
Abraham Lincoln is often considered the greatest president for his leadership during the American Civil War and his speeches, such as the Gettysburg Address.

Where is Abraham Lincoln buried?
The Lincoln Tomb is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of their four sons, Edward, William, and Thomas. It is located in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.

Can you visit Abraham Lincoln's grave?
Yes, you can walk around the monument and go inside.

Why was he buried in Springfield?
Even though he was born in Kentucky, Lincoln regarded Illinois as his home. He said "Springfield is my home, and there, more than elsewhere, are my life-long friends."

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See also

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