Abraham Lincoln: 16th President: Freer of Slaves

Updated on December 13, 2019
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

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Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President from 1861-1863, is known as one of the greatest Presidents America has ever had. Only six weeks into his presidency, the Civil War began. It ended a few short years later just days before his assassination. His love for all people and what he accomplished while he was in office, caused many to admire him.

Lincoln was born of modest means on February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. His family was poor and lived in a log cabin that had a dirt floor. His father was a carpenter who never learned to read or write, but that did not stop Lincoln from striving for greatness.

At age 8, he moved to Indiana, and two years later, his mother, Nancy Hanks, passed away. His older sister Sarah and he were very pleased when his father became remarried to Sarah Johnson. She was a kind woman who had three children of her own. She encouraged young Abe to excel in his studies. He loved her so much; he referred to her as the "best friend in this world."

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Lincoln's Career Life

Lincoln did not have a lot of experience in politics, but he did have a big heart for people and America. He had many different jobs in his life, including a farmhand, grocery clerk, and rail-splitter. It was through one of his odd jobs, that caused him to become passionately against slavery. While he was working as a deckhand on a flatboat, he saw several black people chained and being whipped and beaten as they floated down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This image was never forgotten and would shape his presidency.

In 1836, Lincoln successfully received his license to practice law. He rode on horseback, trying cases at various villages alongside other lawyers. His debating skills became quite adept.

Eleven years later, he was elected to Congress as part of the dying Whig Party. After a short period, he quit politics and returned to work as a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, where he and his wife Mary Todd had four sons.

In 1855, he returned to the political arena, where he spoke against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which was written by the Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas under Buchanan. The act stated that the Western territories would be allowed to have slavery if they voted on it. Lincoln strongly felt that slavery should end and did not want to see any more states or territories allow slavery.

This passion eventually caused him to leave the Whig party and join the anti-slavery Republican Party, where he decided to run for the Illinois Senate. Although he lost the spot for Senator to Douglas, his ability to debate caught the attention of many people. Two years later, in 1860, he was nominated for the Presidency and won.

Signing the Emancipation Proclamation


President During the Civil War and Freer of Slaves

Many were very fearful when they found out that anti-slavery speaker Abraham Lincoln had become President. They knew their legal right to own slaves was going to be challenged, especially once he gave his Inaugural Address, in which he stated:

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.... You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.

This caused an uprising, and within six weeks after his inauguration, the Civil War began.

Seven states had seceded and joined the Confederate States. Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, where they captured the fort and shot down the flag. The very next day, Lincoln took quick action, inevitably beginning the Civil War by calling 75,000 volunteers to retake the fort as well as other Confederate lands.

Throughout the Civil War, he tried to keep the morale of the country up. He did so through many of his speeches, including one notable one when he dedicated the military cemetery at Gettysburg:

that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

In the early years of the Civil War, the Union was defeated repeatedly. The war raged on for four years; then, on January 1, 1863, Abe issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The emancipation proclamation gave freedom to three million blacks in the South, further inflaming conflict. By 1863, the Union began to get their footing, and they began to win more battles.

Due to his great success as a leader, Lincoln was reelected in 1864. At this point, many knew the war was close to coming to an end. Lincoln urged Americans not to take vengeance against the South. He also encouraged Southerners to set their weapons aside and rejoin the Union peacefully.

In his Second Inaugural Address, he stated, "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds..." As a memory, not just to this great man, but the peace we want to uphold, those who built the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. made sure to have this great wisdom inscribed there. True to these words, April 9, 1865, the Confederates surrendered, and the North won the battle. Peace was reinstated in the United States.

Where Was He Assassinated

On April 14, 1865, just five days later, Lincoln and his wife attended Ford's Theater in Washington on Good Friday. An actor John Wilkes Booth angered by the end of the Civil War and in a last-ditch effort to help the South, shot President Abraham Lincoln in the head. The following day Lincoln died. Despite Booth's intentions, Lincoln's death magnified our nation's need for peace, and the country became more resolute against the slavery issue.

Although his life was cut short in tragedy, his memory continues. Many still think of him as a great president, even though many during his time strongly disagreed with him.

Excerpt from the History Channel

Fun Facts

  • He worked chopping rails for fences.
  • Was the tallest president at 6'4".
  • His mother died when he was young, and his father remarried. He referred to his stepmother as the "best friend in this world."
  • The Civil War began six weeks after his inauguration and ended less than a week before his assassination, ending his presidency.


Basic Facts

February 12, 1809 - Kentucky
President Number
Whig (1834–1854) Republican (1854–1865) National Union (1864–1865)
Military Service
Illinois Militia
Wars Served
Black Hawk War
Age at Beginning of Presidency
52 years old
Term of Office
March 4, 1861 - April 15, 1865
How Long President
4 years
Hannibal Hamlin (1861–1865) Andrew Johnson (1865)
Age and Year of Death
April 15, 1865 (aged 56)
Cause of Death
Gun Shot

Lithograph of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

From left to right: Henry Rathbone, Clara Harris, Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, and John Wilkes Booth.
From left to right: Henry Rathbone, Clara Harris, Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, and John Wilkes Booth. | Source

List of American Presidentws

1. George Washington
16. Abraham Lincoln
31. Herbert Hoover
2. John Adams
17. Andrew Johnson
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Thomas Jefferson
18. Ulysses S. Grant
33. Harry S. Truman
4. James Madison
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
5. James Monroe
20. James Garfield
35. John F. Kennedy
6. John Quincy Adams
21. Chester A. Arthur
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
7. Andrew Jackson
22. Grover Cleveland
37. Richard M. Nixon
8. Martin Van Buren
23. Benjamin Harrison
38. Gerald R. Ford
9. William Henry Harrison
24. Grover Cleveland
39. James Carter
10. John Tyler
25. William McKinley
40. Ronald Reagan
11. James K. Polk
26. Theodore Roosevelt
41. George H. W. Bush
12. Zachary Taylor
27. William Howard Taft
42. William J. Clinton
13. Millard Fillmore
28. Woodrow Wilson
43. George W. Bush
14. Franklin Pierce
29. Warren G. Harding
44. Barack Obama
15. James Buchanan
30. Calvin Coolidge
45. Donald Trump


  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Abraham Lincoln. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/abrahamlincoln
  • Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.
  • U.S. Presidential Fun Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/history/presidential-fun-facts/#geo-washington.jpg

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Angela Michelle Schultz


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      • Venkatachari M profile image

        Venkatachari M 

        3 years ago from Hyderabad, India

        Very interesting and informative article. He has been a great President with all good qualities.


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