Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He was the son of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, and he was named for his paternal grandfather. Thomas Lincoln was a carpenter and farmer. Both of Abraham’s parents were members of a Baptist congregation that had separated from another church due to opposition to slavery. When Abraham was 7, the family moved to southern Indiana. Abraham had gone to school briefly in Kentucky and did so again in Indiana. He attended school with his older sister, Sarah (his younger brother, Thomas, had died in infancy).
In 1818 Nancy Hanks Lincoln died from milk sickness, a disease obtained from drinking the milk of cows which had grazed on poisonous white snakeroot. Thomas Lincoln remarried the next year, and Abraham loved his new step-mother, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln. She brought 3 children of her own into the household. As Abraham grew up, he loved to read and preferred learning to working in the fields. This led to a difficult relationship with his father who was just the opposite. Abraham was constantly borrowing books from the neighbors.
In 1828, at 19, he helped take a flatboat down the Ohio River to New Orleans. There Lincoln saw for the first time slaves being sold in the marketplace. Lincoln would work to end slavery for the rest of his life. The next year Lincoln made a second flatboat trip to New Orleans. Afterwards he moved to New Salem, Illinois, where he lived until 1837. While there he worked at several jobs including operating a store, surveying, and serving as postmaster. He impressed the residents with his character, wrestled the town bully, and earned the nickname “Honest Abe.
Lincoln, who stood nearly 6-4 and weighed about 180 pounds, saw brief service in the Black Hawk War, and he made an unsuccessful run for the Illinois legislature in 1832. He ran again in 1834, 1836, 1838, and 1840, and he won all 4 times. (Lincoln was a member of the Whig Party; he remained a Whig until 1856 when he became a Republican). Additionally, he studied law in his spare time and became a lawyer in 1836. In Springfield in 1839 Lincoln met Mary Todd. Three years later they were married and over the next 11 years had 4 children: Robert (1843-1926), Edward (“Eddie”) 1846-1850, William (“Willie”) 1850-1862, and Thomas (“Tad”) 1853-1871.
Lincoln became a successful attorney, and the family bought a home in 1844. In 1846 Lincoln ran for the United States House of Representatives and won. While in Washington he became known for his opposition to the Mexican War and to slavery. He returned home after his term and resumed his law practice more seriously than ever. Early in 1851 Lincoln’s father died. Lincoln’s declining interest in politics was renewed by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. He made an unsuccessful bid for the U. S.
Senate but received some support for the Republican Vice-Presidential nomination in 1856. Also in 1856 Lincoln gave his famous Lost Speech. He opposed the Dred Scott decision in 1857 and gave his famous “House Divided” Speech on June 16, 1858. Additionally, he engaged in a series of debates with Stephen A. Douglas in 1858. Lincoln was against the spread of slavery into the territories but was not an abolitionist. Douglas won the Senatorial race, but Lincoln gained national recognition. In 1860 he furthered his national reputation with a successful speech at the Cooper Institute in New York.
Although William Seward was the pre-convention favorite for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1860, Lincoln won on the 3rd ballot. With Hannibal Hamlin as his running mate, Lincoln was elected the 16th President on November 6, 1860, defeating Douglas, John Bell, and John C. Breckinridge. In February of 1861 the Lincolns left by train for Washington, D. C. The President-elect was now wearing a beard at the suggestion of an 11 year old girl. Lincoln was sworn in on March 4. After Lincoln’s election, many Southern states, fearing Republican control in the government, seceded from the Union.
Lincoln faced the greatest internal crisis of any U. S. President. After the fall of Ft. Sumter, Lincoln raised an army and decided to fight to save the Union from falling apart. Despite enormous pressures, loss of life, battlefield setbacks, generals who weren’t ready to fight, assassination threats, etc. , Lincoln stuck with this pro-Union policy for 4 long years of Civil War. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. This was Lincoln’s declaration of freedom for all slaves in the areas of the Confederacy not under Union control.
Also, on November 19, 1863, Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address which dedicated the battlefield there to the soldiers who had perished. He called on the living to finish the task the dead soldiers had begun. In 1864 Ulysses S. Grant was named general-in-chief of the armies of the United States. The South was slowly being worn down. Lincoln was re-elected as President with Andrew Johnson as his running mate. Lincoln defeated the Democrat George McClellan on November 8, 1864. On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant. Two days later Lincoln addressed a crowd outside the White House.
Among other things, he suggested he would support voting rights for certain blacks. This infuriated a racist and Southern sympathizer who was in the audience, John Wilkes Booth, who hated everything the President stood for. John Wilkes Booth, born May 10, 1838, was an actor who performed throughout the country in many plays. He was the lead in some of William Shakespeare’s most famous works. Additionally, he was a racist and Southern sympathizer during the Civil War. He hated Abraham Lincoln who represented everything Booth was against. Booth blamed Lincoln for all the South’s ills.
He wanted revenge. In the late summer of 1864 Booth began developing plans to kidnap Lincoln, take him to Richmond (the Confederate capital), and hold him in return for Confederate prisoners of war. By January, 1865, Booth had organized a group of co-conspirators that included Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlen, John Surratt, Lewis Powell (also called Lewis Paine or Payne), George Atzerodt, and David Herold. Booth also met with Dr. Samuel Mudd, both in Maryland (where Mudd lived) and Washington, and he began using Mary Surratt’s boardinghouse to meet with his co-conspirators.
On March 17, 1865, the group planned to capture Lincoln who was scheduled to attend a play at a hospital located on the outskirts of Washington, but the President changed plans and remained in the capital. Thus, Booth’s plot to kidnap Lincoln failed. Booth’s plans changed from kidnapping to assassinating, and on the morning of Friday, April 14, Booth dropped by Ford’s Theatre and learned that the President and General Grant were planning to attend the evening performance of Our American Cousin. He held one final meeting with his co-conspirators.
He said he would kill Lincoln at the theatre (he had since learned that Grant had left town). Atzerodt was to kill Vice-President Andrew Johnson at the Kirkwood House where Johnson resided. Powell was assigned to kill Secretary of State William Seward. Herold would accompany Powell. All attacks were to take place at the same time, 10:15 P. M. that night. Booth hoped the resulting chaos and weakness in the government would lead to a comeback for the South.
The Presidential party arrived at Ford’s at about 8:30 P. M. Armed with a single shot derringer and a hunting knife, Booth arrived at Ford’s at about 9:30 P. M. Joseph Burroughs, a boy who worked at the theatre, held his horse in the rear alley. Booth went to a nearby Saloon for a drink. He then entered the front of Ford’s Theatre around 10:07 P. M. Slowly he made his way toward the State Box where the Lincolns were sitting with Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone. Lincoln’s bodyguard, John Parker of the Metropolitan Police Force, had left his post. At about 10:15 P. M. Booth opened the door to the State Box, shot Lincoln in the back of the head at near point-blank range, and struggled with Rathbone. Booth stabbed Rathbone in the arm and jumped to the stage below.
When he hit the floor he snapped the bone in his left leg just above the ankle. Many in the theatre thought he yelled “Sic Semper Tyrannis” (Latin for “As Always to Tyrants”). Mrs. Lincoln screamed, Booth flashed his knife at the audience, and he made his way across the stage in front of more than 1,000 people. Everything happened so fast no one had time to stop him. Booth went out the back door, climbed on his horse, and escaped from the city. None of Booth’s co- conspiritors killed the targets, but back in Washington Lincoln never regained consciousness and passed away at 7:22 A. M. on the morning of April 15.
Booth and Herold departed from Dr. Mudd’s during the afternoon of April 15 and traveled south. Federal authorities caught up with them at Garrett’s farm near Port Royal, Virginia, early in the morning of April 26. Hiding in a barn, Harold gave up. Booth refused, so the barn was set on fire. Booth still didn’t come out and was shot to death by Sergeant Boston Corbett. Corbett had not been under orders to do this. Booth’s body was searched, and a diary was among the things found. Booth’s remains were returned to Washington where positive identification was made and an autopsy performed.
Within days Booth’s co-conspirators were arrested by the government. They were tried by a military tribunal, and all were found guilty. Mrs. Surratt, Powell, Atzerodt, and Herold were all hanged on July 7, 1865. Dr. Mudd, O’Laughlin, and Arnold were given life terms in prison. Edman “Ned” Spangler, a Ford’s stagehand who was convicted of helping Booth escape from the theatre, received a sentence of 6 years in prison. The convictions of Mary Surratt and Dr. Mudd have been hotly debated throughout the years. John Surratt escaped to Canada and then to Europe.
He was captured abroad and was tried in 1867 in a civil court. The trial ended with a deadlocked jury, and Surratt went free. O’Laughlen died in prison ( Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas near Key West) in 1867. Dr. Mudd, Arnold, and Spangler were all ardoned by President Andrew Johnson early in 1869. Famous Quotes of Abraham Licoln “I have not permitted myself, gentlemen, to conclude that I am the best man in the country; but I am reminded, in this connection, of a story of an old Dutch farmer who remarked to a companion once that ‘it was not best to swap horses while crossing streams’.
The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, “Reply to Delegation from the National Union League” (June 9, 1864), p. 384. “Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally. ” The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VIII, “Speech to One Hundred Fortieth Indiana Regiment” (March 17, 1865), p. 361. “The probability that we may fall in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me.
The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume I, “Speech on the Sub-Treasury” (in the Illinois House of Representatives, December 26, 1839), p. 178. “Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today. ” The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Notes for a Law Lecture” (July 1, 1850? ), p. 81. “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. ”
The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, “Reply to Loyal Colored People of Baltimore upon Presentation of a Bible” (September 7, 1864), p. 542. “Property is the fruit of labor… property is desirable… is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built. ”
The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, “Reply to New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association” (March 21, 1864), pp. 259-260. “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. ” Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862. “My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything.
Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell. “