Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States of America, serving from March 1861 through April 1865, until he was assassinated. He presided over the Civil War and freed the slaves in the US. Despite facing the deaths of his loved ones, and many failures in running for office, Abraham Lincoln has become one of the most important presidents in US history. His face is on the penny and the $5 bill.
Lincoln was born on the frontier in 1809, in Kentucky. Lincoln was passionate about education as a child, though he was mostly self-taught. He was also very tall and athletic. When Lincoln was still a child, his mother died and his sister died soon after. When he came of age, his family moved to Illinois, but he decided to break out on his own and went to New Orleans where he saw the horrors of slavery.
He returned to Illinois, to a town called New Salem, and married Mary Todd, though the first woman he was engaged had died of typhoid fever. He served briefly in the Illinois Militia during a war against the Native Americans. He also started his political career in New Salem by campaigning for the Illinois General Assembly... and losing. He taught himself to practice law, and ran for the Illinois House of Representatives in 1834. This time he succeeded, serving for four terms. In 1846, he was elected to the US House of Representatives for two years.
In 1850, Lincoln lost two of his children to disease. He had become a very good lawyer, and gained his nickname, 'Honest Abe', because he treated his clients fairly. In 1854 ran for the US Senate as a Whig, one of the dominant political parties at the time, but lost. The following year, he helped set up the Republican Party, which strongly opposed slavery.
He ran for Senate again, this time as a Republican. One of his famous speeches includes the line that 'a house divided cannot stand.' He saw that the country was being torn apart on the issue of slavery, with the Southern states pushing for more and more slavery, and the Northern states being against it. He believed that the Democrats, who were pro-slavery, were messing up the founding value of 'all men are created equal.' He lost the race for Senate, but had gained a lot of followers along the way.
In 1860, he gained enough supporters to run for U.S. President, and began to campaign. His youth on the frontier was used as a part of the campaign to make him seem rugged. Lincoln was openly anti-slavery, but made clear during the campaign that he did not want to eliminate it from the South, only to stop it expanding into new states. He did this because he was worried the South might secede.
He was elected in 1860 and though he tried to compromise with the Southern states, they seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. Just a year later, the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, which rallied much of the remaining Union around Lincoln.
Lincoln personally managed the war and hand-picked all his generals. If they failed, he was not afraid to fire them and appoint new ones. At first, he merely wanted to reunite the country, but in 1863 he issued the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment, freeing all slaves in the United States. That same year he gave his Gettysburg Address, his most famous speech.
Lincoln was re-elected in 1864 as the war was still raging. He saw that the war was ending and started planning for Reconstruction, or a period of post-war healing. However, this was cut short in 1865, just five days after the Confederates surrendered and Lincoln was assassinated. He was shot in the back of the head in a theater by John Wilkes Booth, an actor who hated Lincoln and was pro-slavery.
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