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Abraham Lincoln
16th U.S. President
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865.
Born: February 12, 1809, Hodgenville, KY
Height: 6′ 4″
Spouse: Mary Todd Lincoln (m. 1842–1865)
Children: William Wallace Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln, Tad Lincoln, Edward Baker Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, a self-taught Illinois lawyer and legislator with a reputation as an eloquent opponent of slavery, shocked many when he overcame several more prominent contenders to win the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1860. His election that November pushed several Southern states to secede by the time of his inauguration in March 1861 and the Civil War began barely a month later. Contrary to expectations, Lincoln proved to be a shrewd military strategist and a savvy leader during what became the costliest conflict ever fought on American soil. His Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1863, freed all slaves in the rebellious states and paved the way for slavery’s eventual abolition while his Gettysburg Address later that year stands as one of the most famous and influential pieces of oratory in American history. In April 1865, with the Union on the brink of victory, Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed by the Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth; his untimely death made him a martyr to the cause of liberty and Union. Over the years, Lincoln’s mythic stature has only grown, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest presidents in the nation’s history.
A WARTIME PRESIDENT
In the general election, Lincoln again faced Douglas, who represented the Northern Democrats; Southern Democrats had nominated John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky while John Bell ran for the brand new Constitutional Union Party. With Breckenridge and Bell splitting the vote in the South, Lincoln won most of the North and carried the Electoral College. After years of sectional tensions, the election of an antislavery northerner as the 16th president of the United States drove many southerners over the brink, and by the time Lincoln was inaugurated in March 1861 seven southern states had seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. After Lincoln ordered a fleet of Union ships to supply South Carolina’s Fort Sumter in April, the Confederates fired on both the fort and the Union fleet, beginning the Civil War. Hopes for a quick Union victory were dashed by defeat in the Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), and Lincoln called for 500,000 more troops as both sides settled in for a long conflict.

While the Confederate leader Jefferson Davis was a West Point graduate, Mexican War hero and former secretary of war, Lincoln had only a brief and undistinguished period of service in the Black Hawk War (1832) to his credit. He surprised many by proving to be a more than capable wartime leader, learning quickly about strategy and tactics in the early years of the Civil War, and about choosing the ablest commanders. General George McClellan, though beloved by his troops, continually frustrated Lincoln with his reluctance to advance, and when McClellan failed to pursue Robert E. Lee’s retreating Confederate Army in the aftermath of the Union victory at Antietam in September 1862, Lincoln removed him from command. During the war, Lincoln drew criticism for suspending some civil liberties, including the right of habeas corpus, but he considered such measures necessary to win the war.

EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION AND GETTYSBURG ADDRESS
Shortly after the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on January 1, 1863, and freed all of the slaves in the rebellious states but left those in the border states (loyal to the Union) in bondage. Though Lincoln once maintained that his “paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery,” he nonetheless came to regard emancipation as one of his greatest achievements, and would argue for the passage of a constitutional amendment outlawing slavery (eventually passed as the 13th Amendment after his death in 1865).

Two important Union victories in July 1863–at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania–finally turned the tide of the war. General George Meade missed the opportunity to deliver a final blow against Lee’s army at Gettysburg, and Lincoln would turn by early 1864 to the victor at Vicksburg, Ulysses S. Grant, as supreme commander of the Union forces. In November 1863, Lincoln delivered a brief speech (just 272 words) at the dedication ceremony for the new national cemetery at Gettysburg. Published widely, the Gettysburg Address eloquently expressed the war’s purpose, harking back to the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence and the pursuit of human equality. It became the most famous speech of Lincoln’s presidency, and one of the most widely quoted speeches in history.

VICTORY AND DEATH
In 1864, Lincoln faced a tough reelection battle against the Democratic nominee, the former Union General George McClellan, but Union victories in battle (especially William T. Sherman’s capture of Atlanta in September) swung many votes the president’s way. In his second inaugural address, delivered on March 4, 1865, Lincoln addressed the need to reconstruct the South and rebuild the Union: “With malice toward none; with charity for all.”

As Sherman marched triumphantly northward through the Carolinas, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9. Union victory was near, and Lincoln gave a speech on the White House lawn on April 11, urging his audience to welcome the Southern states back into the fold. Tragically, Lincoln would not live to help carry out his vision of Reconstruction. On the night of April 14, the actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth slipped into the president’s box at Ford’s Theatre in Washington and shot him point-blank in the back of the head. Lincoln was carried to a boardinghouse across the street from the theater, but he never regained consciousness and died in the early morning hours of April 15.