Abraham Lincoln

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President Abraham Lincoln circa 1863

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) - Born 12 Feb 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Sixteenth President of the United States from 4 Mar 1861 to 15 Apr 1865. Assassinated on 15 Apr 1865, in Washington DC. Buried in Lincoln's Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois.

Early Years

Abraham Lincoln was born on 12 Feb 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln. Nancy died when Abraham was nine and his father remarried 1819 and he became close to his stepmother Sarah. Lincoln struck out on his own at age 22.

Black Hawk War

At the outset of the Black Hawk War Lincoln joined a volunteer Illinois milita company and was elected captain. The war was not expected to last long and enlistments were for short terms, some as short as 20 days so Lincoln's service was a bit disjointed:

Lincoln's Military Service
Dates Rank Unit Notes
22 Apr 1832 - 27 May 1832 Captain 31st Regiment of Militia of Sangamon County, 1st Division
4th Regiment of Mounted Volunteers
Marched to Fort Dixon
Mustered out Fort Johnson (7)
28 May 1832 - 16 Jun 1832 Private Captain Elijah Iles company Mustered in Fort Johnson (7)
Mustered out Fort Wilbourn
17 Jun 1832 - 10 Jul 1832 Private Captain Jacob Early's independent company Mustered in Fort Wilbourn

Political Rise

On his return to New Salem after the war Lincoln served as postmaster and later county surveyor. He decided to become a lawyer and began studying law and was admitted to the bar in 1836. He moved to Springfield, Illinois, and began to practice law. He made a successful run for state office and served four terms in the Illinois House of Representatives.

In 1846, Lincoln was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served one two-year term. At the end of the term he returned to his law practice in Springfield.

His 1858 Senate campaign featured the seven Lincoln–Douglas debates arguably the most famous U.S. political debates. Stephen A. Douglas was re-elected to the U.S. Senate but Lincoln gained a national reputation with his anti-slavery positions. On 27 Feb 1860, New York Republican leaders invited Lincoln to speek at Cooper Union to a group of powerful Republicans who were favorably impressed. In May 1860 the Republican National Convention nominated Lincoln on the third ballot. Northern Democrats nominated Stephen A. Douglas and the slave state Democrats nominated John C. Breckinridge effectively splitting the Democratic vote. Lincoln won the election with northern and western votes and received no support from the south where he was not even on the ballot in several states.

1860 Presidential Election and Secession

The election of Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth president of the United States was the trigger that began the secession of the southern states from the Union. The election was on 6 Nov 1860 and secessionist were determined to have their states leave the Union before he was inaugurated on 4 Mar 1861. Eleven of the fifteen slave states seceded the four that did not seceded, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri and Delaware were hotbeds of secessionist activity. Of the three territories in the south, Arizona Territory and the Indian Territory proclaimed allegiance to the Confederacy.

Secessionist States and Territories
Order State Seceded Back Notes
Lincoln Elected 6 Nov 1860
1 South Carolina 20 Dec 1860 9 Jul 1868
2 Mississippi 9 Jan 1861 23 Feb 1870
3 Florida 10 Jan 1861 25 Jun 1868
4 Alabama 11 Jan 1861 13 Jul 1868
5 Georgia 19 Jan 1861 21 Jul 1868
15 Jul 1870
6 Louisiana 26 Jan 1861 9 Jul 1868
7 Texas 1 Feb 1861 30 Mar 1870
Lincoln Inaugurated 4 Mar 1861
Fort Sumter fired upon 12 Apr 1861
Lincoln's Call for Troops 15 Apr 1861
8 Virginia 17 Apr 1861 26 Jan 1870
9 Arkansas 6 May 1861 22 Jun 1868
10 Tennessee 8 Jun 1861 24 Jul 1866
11 North Carolina 20 May 1861 4 Jul 1868
12 Missouri 31 Oct 1861 Not Considered in Rebellion
13 Kentucky 20 Nov 1861 Not Considered in Rebellion
14 Arizona Territory 16 Mar 1861 Not a State
15 Indian Territory 12 Jul 1861 Not a State

U.S. Civil War

The start of the Civil War came just about a month after Lincoln was inaugurated and brought with it many unforeseen major problems to an administration that was not fully formed.

The first problem Lincoln faced was the army, each officer and enlisted man had a personal decision to make about which side to take and because the army was distributed all over the country, much of it out west along the frontier, it was necessary to transport most of the regular army back to the east coast and replace it with volunteer troops. This problem was exacerbated because the seceding states seized all the federal property and fortifications and forced the garrisons to leave. Of the southern federal forts only a few key coastal fortifications managed to stay in federal hands. Key among them were Fort Pickens in Florida and Fortress Monroe in Virginia. The whole of the Texas federal garrisons were surrendered to the state and all the troops expelled in one effort. Regular officers with southern ties were suspect until they declared themselves and it was difficult to create positions and promote officers until loyalties were determined. The same problem existed with the civilian appointees and employees of the new administration and it was several months before things began to get sorted out.

The second problem Lincoln faced was the vulnerability of Washington DC itself to attack from Virginia and perhaps Maryland. This vulnerability was made clear by initial Confederate victories in Virginia. At the start of the war only a single fort, Fort Washington, guarded the city. Lincoln's army solved this by building in 1861 a ring of 68 fortifications and 93 prepared artillery positions connected by 20 miles of rifle pits around the city. Tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of artillery pieces were deployed in these defenses to protect the city. Lincoln himself observed the only direct attack on the city on 12 Jul 1864 from one of these forts, Fort Stevens, and had to be cautioned to keep his head down as bullets were striking people around him (there were 279 casualties at Fort Stevens that day). He was possibly the only sitting president to come under direct enemy fire and Mrs. Lincoln was with him that day. The Confederate attack was unsuccessful and the enemy withdrew. Had the Confederates captured Washington DC it is quite possible that the North would have sued for peace and the nation would have remained divided.

The third problem was manpower. Lincoln realized this from the very first and initiated the call up of state volunteer troops. He clearly did not understand the magnitude of manpower required or how long the war would take so the initial call ups were too few and the enlistment contracts too short. As the war progressed and the battlefield losses began to mount it was more difficult to raise volunteer regiments and the draft became a dreaded reality. Lincoln had to balance the manpower requirements against the unpopularity of the conscription. He was not always successful and the New York City draft riots in 1863 remain as the largest riot/uprising in US history outside of the war itself. The draft riots were put down only after the military arrived and the draft was delayed.

The fourth problem was leadership and Lincoln spent much of the first half the war looking for generals who would fight and who could win. He found the leader he needed in General Ulysses S. Grant and Grant's choices of subordinates like General William T. Sherman. Lincoln and Grant developed a strategy for winning the war and Grant executed that strategy bringing the war to an end with his defeat of General Robert E. Lee and the surrender at Appomattox Court House on 9 Apr 1865.

During the war Lincoln, through his actions, exhibited a degree of involvement and concern for the nation that elevated his stature among the people and he was reelected in 1864 to a second term. Chief among these actions was the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves and his insistance that the Union be preserved precluding any compromise settlement. His eloquent speech after the great battle at Gettysburg put the war into a context that people could understand and helped to explain the great human cost.

His personal involvement in the actual conduct of the war was enabled by the introduction of the military telegraph. He was known to camp out at the War Department Telegraph office during major battles reading the dispatches and communicating directly with the field commanders. At Gettysburg, when General Hooker proposes going around Lee's advancing army to capture Richmond, Lincoln reminds Hooker by telegraph that "Lee's army, and not Richmond is your true objective point." General Grant and Lincoln communicated directly by telegraph and Grant once remarked that "The President has more nerve than any of his advisers." The telegraph enabled Lincoln and Grant to develop and carry out the strategy that won the war. Lincoln sent just under 1,000 telegraph messages during his presidency and with the received messages they document a hands-on war-time president.

President Lincoln and his family spent June to November in the Old Soldiers' Home three miles from the White House. He rode daily to the White House to conduct official business and returned in the evening. Along the way Lincoln and his cavalry escort passed by the camps, hospitals and cemeteries that were constant reminders of the ravages of war. Along the way were also the camps for freed blacks and Lincoln used his time at the home to formulate and publish the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on 22 Sep 1862. He last visited the home on 13 Apr 1865 the day before his assassination.

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, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. (Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address, 4 Mar 1865)


The war effectively ended on 9 Apr 1865 and President Lincoln was assassinated five days later on 14 Apr 1865 while attending a play at Ford's Theater, in Washington DC. The assassin was John Wilkes Booth, a noted actor of the day and southern sympathizer, who entered the presidential box and fired a single shot at the back of Lincoln's head. The bullet mortally wounded Lincoln and he was carried from the theater to a nearby home here he died at 7:22 am on 15 Apr 1865. Booth escaped from the theater after jumping onto the stage from the presidential booth. He was caught and killed 12 days later in a Virginia barn. Booth's eight co-conspirators were rounded up and tried at what was then the Washington Arsenal, four of the eight were hanged there including the only woman, Mary Surratt. The other four were given prison terms.

After lying in state at both the White House and the Capitol Rotunda, Lincoln's body was transported back to Springfield, Illinois in a funeral train draped in black. The train took a round-about route stopping in several places for services. On arrival in Springfield the body was placed in Oak Ridge Cemetery later moved to Lincoln's Tomb in that cemetery.

Father: Thomas Lincoln (1778-1851)

Mother: Nancy Hanks Lincoln (1784-1818)


  • Mary Todd (1818-1882) married 13 Dec 1818, born 13 Dec 1818, died 16 Jul 1882


  • Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926) born 1 Aug 1843, died 26 Jul 1926
  • Edward Baker Lincoln (Eddie) (1846–1850) born 10 Mar 1846, died 1 Feb 1850
  • William Wallace Lincoln (Willie) (1850–1862) born 21 Dec 1850, died 20 Feb 1862
  • Thomas Lincoln (Tad) (1853–1871) born 4 Apr 1853, died 15 Jul 1871

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