Image from Library of Congress
From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, was born to Thomas and Nancy (Hanks) Lincoln on February 12, 1809, near Hodgenville, Kentucky, on the south fork of the Nolin River. His earliest recollections were of the nearby Knob Creek farm where his family moved in 1811. Like several generations of Lincolns and Hankses before them, young Abe and his parents and his older sister, Sarah, kept moving west, first to Indiana and then to Illinois. The Lincolns left Kentucky for Indiana in 1816 when Abe was seven years old. He later recalled that his father decided to cross the Ohio River partly because Kentuckians were slaveholders and partly as a result of his difficulty in securing land titles in Kentucky.
Kentucky continued to play an important role in Lincoln's life, however. His wife, his law partners, and his closest friend, Joshua Speed , were all from Kentucky, and his political mentor was Henry Clay. As president (1861- 65), Lincoln often noted how essential Kentucky and her Ohio River border were to Union victory during the Civil War . On occasion he visited the state to spend time with his in-laws in Lexington and at the Speed estate, Farmington, outside Louisville.
In 1837 Lincoln settled in Springfield, Illinois, to practice law. There he met Mary Todd from Lexington, and they married in 1842. Their four sons -- Robert, Edward, William, and Thomas -- were born in Springfield between 1843 and 1853. Only Robert survived to maturity.
Even while Lincoln was alive, it was difficult to uncover details about his past, and after he was assassinated his image became distorted by myths. There is little doubt, however, that he stood six feet, four inches tall and weighed about 180 pounds. There is ample evidence that he possessed a rare western style of humor. Although his formal schooling lasted only a year, he gained -- mostly by reading -- an unusual facility in the English language. An introspective, moody man, he often used his skill as a storyteller to advantage. As he traveled the Illinois legal circuit, he also developed a political ability that later confounded his opponents.
A loyal Whig, Lincoln gained a statewide reputation as an Illinois legislator. In 1846 he was elected to a term in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from March 4, 1847, to March 3, 1849, but his opposition to the Mexican War proved so unpopular that he was not nominated for a second term. Believing that he had no political future, he returned to full-time law practice and became, for the first time, financially independent. When Lincoln denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and the possibility of slavery's extension into the territories, his stand drew him into the national arena again. He reluctantly left the dying Whig party to join the new Republican party in 1856. When he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1858 against Stephen A. Douglas, their debates on slavery catapulted Lincoln to national recognition. He lost the Senate election, but the Republicans nominated him for the presidency in 1860.
Lincoln defeated Douglas as well as two other candidates and was inaugurated as president of the United States on March 4, 1861. Seven southern states had already seceded and four others soon followed. The Civil War began the following month, and Lincoln's struggle to save the Union dominated his entire presidency. As the conflict deepened, Lincoln resorted to martial law, conscription, emancipation, and a scorched-earth policy. He turned his hard- won political skills to handling his cabinet and generals and winning reelection in 1864. His second inaugural address and his Gettysburg address are his most notable speeches.
As a war president, Lincoln overcame many obstacles. He was an outsider who offended professional politicians with his informal western manners. Union setbacks early in the war convinced many Republicans in Congress that Lincoln was a poor leader. The Radical Republicans, especially critical, pressured Lincoln to make emancipation of slaves a war goal long before he was ready to do so. They charged Lincoln with favoring the conservative wing of the party, whereas conservatives complained that Lincoln was too much influenced by the Radicals. In fact, Lincoln skillfully kept lines of communication open with both wings of the party. He wisely picked some of his most vocal critics, like Salmon P. Chase, to serve in his cabinet. Lincoln is most often remembered for his humanitarianism, but many historians contend that his political shrewdness was more impressive.
Although he had little military experience, Lincoln also distinguished himself as commander in chief of the army and navy. He made plenty of mistakes, but he nevertheless developed a keen insight into strategy, urging his generals to put constant pressure on the Confederacy's defensive line until they could find a weak spot. He recognized early that he had numbers and resources on his side, and took full advantage of them. He had trouble dealing with some of his generals, but eventually he found Ulysses S. Grant to attack the Confederate forces with relentless determination until Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, on April 9, 1865.
Lincoln's plan for Reconstruction favored the prompt restoration of Southern states to the Union, but he lived only a short time after Lee's surrender. He was shot while attending Ford's Theatre in Washington and died the following day, Good Friday, April 15, 1865. A funeral railroad car carried his body slowly back by the same route he had followed on his way to Washington four years earlier. He is buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.
HELEN B. CROCKER, Entry AuthorSelected Sources from UK Libraries:
Whipple, Wayne. The Story-life of Lincoln; a Biography Composed of Five Hundred True Stories Told by Abraham Lincoln and His Friends, Selected from All Authentic Sources, and Fitted Together in Order, Forming His Complete Life History. Memorial Ed., Issued to Commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Lincoln's Birth; Illustrated with 150 Engravings .... ed. Philadelphia: J.C. Winston, 1908. Print.
B L638WH, Special Collections Research Center - Biography Collection
Fleming, Thomas J. The Living Land of Lincoln : A Celebration of Our 16th President and His Abiding Presence ... in Photographs. New York: Reader's Digest, 1980. Print.
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Lincoln, Abraham, John G. Nicolay, and John Hay. Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln. New and Enl. ed. S.l.]: Lincoln Memorial U, 1894. Print.
E457.91 1905, Young Library - 4th Floor
Miller, Francis Trevelyan, Edward Bailey. Eaton, Mathew B. Brady, Alexander Gardner, and Abraham Lincoln. Portrait Life of Lincoln : Life of Abraham Lincoln, the Greatest American, Told from Original Photographs Taken with His Authority during the Great Crisis through Which He Led His Country--treasured among the 7000 Secret Service War Negatives in the Brady-Gardner Collection at Springfield, Massachusetts, and in Private Collections, Valued at $150,000, Collected by Edward Bailey Eaton. Springfield, Mass. ; New York ; Chicago: Patriot Pub., 1910. Print.
E457.6 .M64 1910 copy 3, Special Collections Research Center
Lincoln, Abraham, and United States. President. Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865; Chronology, Documents, Bibliographical Aids. Dobbs Ferry [N.Y.: Oceana Publications, 1970. Print. Oceana Presidential Chronology Ser.
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Harkness, David James, and R. Gerald McMurtry. Lincoln's Favorite Poets. 1st Ed.]. ed. Knoxville: U of Tennessee, 1959. Print.
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Hamilton, Charles, and Lloyd Ostendorf. Lincoln in Photographs; an Album of Every Known Pose. 1st Ed.]. ed. Norman: U of Oklahoma, 1963. Print.
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Burlingame, Michael. The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln. Urbana: U of Illinois, 1994. Print.
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White, Ronald C. The Eloquent President : A Portrait of Lincoln through His Words. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 2005. Print.
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Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Print.
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Shenk, Joshua Wolf. Lincoln's Melancholy : How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print.
E457.2 .S47 2005, Young Library - 4th Floor