(February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865)

Abraham Lincoln, nicknamed "Honest Abe," was a self-taught lawyer, state legislator, U.S. congressman (1847-1849), and the 16th President of the United States (1861-1865).

Lincoln was born in 1809 in a log cabin located in Hardin County, Kentucky. Unlike most of his predecessors, Lincoln’s parents came from undistinguished Virginia families; moreover, his family attended a Separate Baptists church, which distinctly opposed alcohol, dancing, and slavery. Although originally from Kentucky, Lincoln grew up in the wild, frontier region of Indiana and therefore never obtained a formal education. Nevertheless, he managed to teach himself to read and write by the time he came of age. In his early twenties, Lincoln undertook a wide variety of jobs. But after serving in the Black Hawk War of 1832 as a captain, Lincoln turned to politics, unsuccessfully campaigning for the Illinois General Assembly.

In 1834, Lincoln embarked on his second political campaign and this time he proved triumphant, being elected to the Illinois state legislature. It was during this time that he decided to become a lawyer and started reading law books to achieve that goal. Soon thereafter, in 1837, he was admitted to the bar and he moved to Springfield, Illinois, to begin his law practice. While in Springfield, Lincoln met and married Mary Todd, the daughter of a wealthy Kentucky family; they had four boys, only one of whom survived into adulthood. Lincoln devoted the next few years to his legal career, but in 1846 he returned to politics as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving only one term (1847-1849). After another brief period out of the political limelight, Lincoln resurfaced once more to run against Stephen A. Douglas for Senator in 1858. Although he lost the election, the series of debates that took place throughout the campaign enabled Lincoln to obtain the national reputation that he needed in order to win the Republican presidential nomination in 1860.

Ever since the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, Lincoln had become highly vocal about his opposition to slavery and its expansion to the newly acquired American territory. Thus, as soon as Lincoln won the presidential election of 1860, South Carolina and six other southern states seceded from the Union, declaring themselves the Confederate States of America. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Union troops at Fort Sumter, marking the beginning of the Civil War. The battle was long and bloody, lasting from 1861 to 1865, but with Lincoln’s strong leadership, the Union proved victorious in the end—the Thirteenth Amendment was passed by Congress on January 13, 1865, and the Confederate Army surrendered to Union forces on March 28, 1865. Unfortunately, Lincoln’s triumph was short-lived as he was assassinated on April 14, 1865, at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. by well-known actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth.


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