Abraham Lincoln helped keep the country together during the Civil War and ended slavery in the United States

He was born in a log cabin and went to school for less than one year. But despite his humble background, Abraham Lincoln became one of the great presidents of the United States. As the 16th president, Lincoln ended slavery and held the nation together during the Civil War, America’s biggest and bloodiest crisis.

People often remarked on Lincoln’s striking looks. He was tall and thin with long arms and large hands. Lincoln wore a type of tall hat that looked like a stove pipe. Sometimes, he carried important papers under his hat. When Lincoln was running for president, he grew a beard after a young girl suggested it.

Abraham Lincoln

As the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln helped keep the country together during the Civil War and ended slavery in the United States. Remembered for his honesty, compassion, and strength of character, Lincoln remains one of the most respected presidents in American .


Abraham Lincoln was born on the Kentucky frontier in 1809. Lincoln shared a one-room log cabin with his sister and parents. It had one door, one window, and a dirt floor. In 1816, the family moved to nearby Indiana. Lincoln’s mother died soon after.

Lincoln helped his father with the hard work on his family’s homestead. He dug wells, built pigpens, chopped down trees, and split fence rails. By the age of 19, he had grown tall and lean. He was a good wrestler and a fast runner.

There were few schools on the frontier. With so much work to do at home, there was little time for schooling. Lincoln mostly educated himself by reading borrowed books and newspapers.


Lincoln’s family moved to Illinois in 1830. He found a job in the town of New Salem as a store clerk. In 1834, Lincoln won election to the Illinois State Legislature. It was the beginning of his political career.

Lincoln moved to Springfield, the state capital, and began to study law. He soon became a licensed attorney. In 1846, Lincoln won election to the U.S. House of Representatives. After his term in Congress ended, he became a respected lawyer in Illinois.

In Springfield, Lincoln met and married Mary Todd. She was born to a Kentucky slaveholding family. The couple had four boys. Three of the boys died before they reached adulthood. The children’s deaths brought the Lincolns much sorrow.


In Congress, Lincoln had opposed the spread of slavery beyond the Southern states. Then, in 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The act created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. It said the new territories could decide for themselves if they wanted slavery. This outraged Lincoln, and he began to speak out often against slavery.

In 1858, Lincoln ran for the U.S. Senate. His opponent was Senator Stephen A. Douglas, the author of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In a series of famous debates, the two men argued over whether slavery should be allowed in Kansas and Nebraska. Douglas argued for slavery and Lincoln argued against it.

Lincoln lost that election to Douglas. But the debates earned him a national reputation. The Republican Party, which opposed slavery, chose Lincoln as its presidential candidate in the election of 1860.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln ran for a seat in the United States Senate. He took a stand against slavery in a series of debates against his opponent. Lincoln did not win that election, but he was chosen to be a presidential candidate in 1860.


Lincoln campaigned against the spread of slavery. But he also said he would not outlaw slavery in the South. In 1860, Lincoln was elected president of the United States.

After Lincoln’s victory became clear, Southern states began to secede, or leave, the Union. Many people in these states owned slaves. They believed Lincoln was attacking their way of life. The states that seceded formed the Confederacy. The states that did not secede—generally Northern states—became known as the Union.

Abraham Lincoln

As the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln helped keep the country together during the Civil War and ended slavery in the United States. Remembered for his honesty, compassion, and strength of character, Lincoln remains one of the most respected presidents in American history.

Nov. 6, 1860:

Abraham Lincoln is elected president of the United States (also known as the Union). Because of Lincoln’s views against slavery, some Southern states threaten to withdraw from the Union. In December 1860, South Carolina becomes the first state to withdraw.


Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy as separate from the rest of the country. Tensions between the Confederacy and the Union grew. The crisis exploded in April 1861. Confederate soldiers attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War had begun.

Most people in the North believed the war would be brief. But the South raised a good army and won the first battles. The Union Army soon had to draft men to fight. The war became unpopular in the North. Riots against the army broke out in several cities.

Feb. 8, 1861:

After they withdraw from the Union, seven Southern states form the Confederate States of America (also known as the Confederacy). For president of the Confederacy, they choose Jefferson Davis, the former U.S. senator of Mississippi. Four more states soon join the Confederacy.

March 4, 1861:

Lincoln is sworn in as the 16th president of the United States. In his first speech to the nation, he tries to convince the Southern states that they have no reason to leave the Union. He says he does not intend to prevent slavery in states where it already exists.

July 21, 1861:

Confederate forces in Virginia win the first major battle of the Civil War—the First Battle of Bull Run (also known as the First Battle of Manassas). The Confederate victory convinces President Lincoln to prepare the Union for a long and costly war.

The Confederate general Thomas J. Jackson, earned the nickname “Stonewall” for holding his line of men firm, like a stone wall, during the First Battle of Bull Run.

April 12, 1861:

The Civil War begins when Confederate troops attack Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. In response, Lincoln begins to call up troops in the Union and orders a blockade of all ports in the South to prevent supply ships from entering and leaving.

February 1862:

Union general Ulysses S. Grant captures Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in western Tennessee. These are the first major Union victories of the war.

General Grant, shown here, becomes known for his toughness on the battlefield. His determination convinces President Lincoln to select him as commander of all the Union forces in March 1864.

Aug. 29-30, 1862:

Confederate forces overpower Union troops in the Second Battle of Bull Run (also known as the Second Battle of Manassas) in Virginia. Union troops are forced out of the state. Confederate general Robert E. Lee, shown here, then attempts a major invasion of the North.

Sept. 17, 1862:

After Confederate general Lee invades the North, he meets resistance from Union forces under General George McClellan in Maryland. Fierce fighting breaks out, and more than 20,000 men are killed, wounded, or missing after the first and only day of battle. The Battle of Antietam (also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg) is remembered as the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War—and in all of U.S. history.

Jan. 1, 1863:

President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. It declares all slaves in the Confederacy “forever free.” It does not free slaves in the slave states that stayed in the Union. Also, many slaves in the South cannot gain their freedom right away because of the war.

May 19, 1863:

Union general Grant attacks the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. On July 4, the Confederate forces defending the city surrender. This gives the Union control over the Mississippi River, which passes through the middle of the Confederacy.

July 1-3, 1863:

Confederate general Lee attempts a major invasion of the North. His forces meet Union troops near the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and they fight a fierce three-day battle. Lee pulls back his men, and the Union claims a victory. The battle marks an important turning point in the Civil War. It is the last time Confederate troops try to invade the North.


In January 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation freed all the slaves in the rebellious states.

The Emancipation Proclamation hurt the Confederacy. It deprived the South of the slave labor it needed to grow food for the Confederate Army. It helped prevent the South from winning allies in Europe, where slavery was seen as wrong. Many freed slaves joined the Union Army.


In November 1863, Lincoln spoke at the dedication of a national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. One of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles had been fought at Gettysburg.

The main speaker at the dedication spoke for two hours. Lincoln spoke afterward. It took him just two minutes to give the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln’s famous speech begins with the words “Four score and seven years ago ….” In the speech, Lincoln tied the Union war effort to the principles of American democracy.


Despite Lincoln’s efforts, the Civil War continued. None of Lincoln’s generals seemed able to defeat the South.

In early 1864, Lincoln put General Ulysses S. Grant in charge of Union forces. “At last,” Lincoln said, “a general who will fight.” Grant’s victories on the battlefield helped Lincoln win reelection later that year.

Under Grant, the Union Army finally defeated the rebellious South. The most powerful Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, surrendered his army to Grant in Virginia in April 1865. The Civil War was over.


Five days after the Civil War ended, Abraham and Mary Lincoln attended a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. During the play, an actor and Southern sympathizer named John Wilkes Booth crept up behind the president and shot him. Lincoln died the following morning.

Lincoln’s coffin was put on a special train and sent back to Springfield, Illinois, for burial. Thousands of people lined the route to view Lincoln’s coffin and mourn his death.

Young Lincoln Reading life

Abraham Lincoln had very little schooling, like many children who lived on the frontier. But he had a strong desire to learn, and he read books at night by the light of the fire in his family’s cabin.

1 George Washington 1789-1797 John Adams

2 John Adams 1797-1801 Thomas Jefferson

3 Thomas Jefferson 1801-1809 Aaron Burr (1801-1805)
George Clinton (1805-1809)

James Madison 1809-1817 George Clinton (1809-1812) Elbridge Gerry (1813-1814)

5  James Monroe 1817-1825  Daniel D. Tompkins

6 John Quincy Adams 1825-1829 John C. Calhoun

7 Andrew Jackson 1829-1837 John C. Calhoun (1829-1832)
Martin Van Buren (1833-1837)

8 Martin Van Buren 1837-1841 Richard M. Johnson

9 William Henry Harrison 1841 John Tyler

10 John Tyler 1841-1845 (no vice president)

11 James Knox Polk 1845-1849 George M. Dallas

12 Zachary Taylor 1849-1850 Millard Fillmore

13 Millard Fillmore 1850-1853 (no vice president)

14 Franklin Pierce 1853-1857 William R. King (1853)

15 James Buchanan 1857-1861 John C. Breckinridge

16 Abraham Lincoln 1861-1865 Hannibal Hamlin (1861-1865)
Andrew Johnson (1865)

17 Andrew Johnson 1865-1869 (no vice president)

18 Ulysses Simpson Grant 1869-1877 Schuyler Colfax (1869-1873)
Henry Wilson (1873-1875)

19 Rutherford Birchard Hayes 1877-1881 William A. Wheeler

20 James Abram Garfield 1881 Chester A. Arthur

21 Chester Alan Arthur 1881-1885 (no vice president)

22 Grover Cleveland 1885-1889 Thomas A. Hendricks (1885)

23 Benjamin Harrison 1889-1893 Levi P. Morton

24 Grover Cleveland 1893-1897 Adlai E. Stevenson

25 William McKinley 1897-1901 Garret A. Hobart (1897-1899)
Theodore Roosevelt (1901)

 26 Theodore Roosevelt 1901-1909 Charles W. Fairbanks (1905-1909)

 27 William Howard Taft 1909-1913 James S. Sherman (1909-1912)

28 Woodrow Wilson 1913-1921 Thomas R. Marshall

29 Warren Gamaliel Harding 1921-1923 Calvin Coolidge

30 Calvin Coolidge 1923-1929 Charles G. Dawes (1925-1929)

31 Herbert Clark Hoover 1929-1933 Charles Curtis

32 Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1933-1945 John N. Garner (1933-1941)
Henry A. Wallace (1941-1945)
Harry S. Truman (1945)

33 Harry S. Truman 1945-1953 Alben W. Barkley (1949-1953)

34 Dwight David Eisenhower 1953-1961 Richard M. Nixon

35 John Fitzgerald Kennedy 1961-1963 Lyndon B. Johnson

36 Lyndon Baines Johnson 1963-1969 Hubert H. Humphrey (1965-1969)

37 Richard Milhous Nixon 1969-1974 Spiro T. Agnew (1969-1973)
Gerald R. Ford (1973-1974)

38 Gerald Rudolph Ford 1974-1977 Nelson A. Rockefeller

39 James Earl Carter 1977-1981 Walter F. Mondale

40 Ronald Reagan 1981-1989 George H. W. Bush

41 George H. W. Bush 1989-1993 Dan Quayle

42 William Jefferson Clinton 1993-2001 Albert Gore, Jr.

43 George W. Bush 2001- Dick Cheney

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