Abraham Lincoln: A Brief Biography

Abe Lincoln's Yarns and Stories
(Henry Neil, 1901)

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a small cabin near Hogenville, Kentucky. His father, Thomas Lincoln, was a carpenter and farmer, and his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, was a seamstress. Lincoln also had an older sister, Sarah.

When Abraham was seven years old, his family settled in the Indiana wilderness. Shortly thereafter, his mother died of milk sickness. Lincoln’s father remarried to widow Sarah Bush Johnston, bringing her and her three children to live at the Lincolns' Coles County cabin.

Although Abraham and his sister Sarah attended school in both Kentucky and Indiana, he was largely self-educated. He was an avid reader, a trait likely inherited from his mother, who read the Bible to the Lincoln children before her death. Abraham's preference for reading allegedly caused a rift between him and his father, who felt the boy should help with farming chores.

In the Boyhood of Lincoln
(D. Appleton and Co., 1986)

As a young man, Lincoln worked as a businessman, surveyor, and postmaster. He briefly served in the Black Hawk War of 1832. Eventually, Lincoln built a successful legal practice and turned his attention to politics. He was elected to the Illinois legislature in 1834, and subsequently won three consecutive bids for reelection. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846.

In the midst of his political climb, Lincoln met Mary Todd, a socialite descended from a prominent Kentucky family. The two were married on November 4, 1842. Between 1843 and 1853, the Lincolns had four sons: Robert, Edward, William, and Thomas. Only Robert survived childhood.

He Knew Lincoln
(McClure, Phillips and Co., 1908)

Lincoln was elected President of the United States on November 6, 1860 in the midst of volatile political conflict between the North and South over slavery and states’ rights. By his March inauguration, the South had seceded from the Union. By April, the Civil War had begun.

Throughout the war, Lincoln served as Commander in Chief of the Union Army. On January 1, 1863, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves. His non-war initiatives included the Homestead Act, National Banking Act, and Railroad Act, and making Thanksgiving an official holiday.

On 11 April 1865, two days after Lee's surrender, Lincoln gave a speech addressing Southern reconstruction and voting rights for freed slaves. It would be his last public address. Infuriated by this speech and hoping to rejuvenate the failing South, John Wilkes Booth shot the president during a Good Friday production of “Our American Cousin” at Ford's Theater. Lincoln died the next day, 15 April 1865. He was buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield.

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