Abraham Lincoln History and Biography

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Abraham Lincoln Homepage

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President Abraham Lincoln Biography

President Abraham Lincoln
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President Lincoln

16th President of the United States of America
1861-1865
(February 12, 1809 - April 15, 1865)

President Abraham Lincoln
Born: February 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Hardin County, Kentucky.
Died: April 15, 1865. Lincoln died the morning after being shot at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., by John Wilkes Booth, an actor.

President Abraham Lincoln
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Abraham Lincoln family tree and genealogy

President Abraham Lincoln Echoes Northern Sentiment:
 
President Lincoln warned the South in his Inaugural Address: "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."
 
Lincoln thought secession illegal, and was willing to use force to defend Federal law and the Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers (Lincoln's Call For Troops). Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within the Union. The Civil War had begun.
 
As President, he built the Republican Party into a strong national organization. Further, he rallied most of the northern Democrats to the Union cause. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.

President Abraham Lincoln
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(U.S. President Rankings)

Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg (commonly referred to as "The Gettysburg Address"): "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."
 
Lincoln won re-election in 1864, as Union military triumphs heralded an end to the war. In his planning for peace, the President was flexible and generous, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join speedily in reunion. The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.: "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.... "
 
On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington by John Wilkes Booth, an actor, who somehow thought he was helping the South. The opposite was the result, for with Lincoln's death, the possibility of peace with magnanimity died.

President Abraham Lincoln
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Abraham Lincoln quotes

(Sources and related reading below.)

Recommended Reading: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (944 pages) (Simon & Schuster). Description: The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can't help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln's leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln's political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. Continued below...

These men, all accomplished, nationally known, and presidential, originally disdained Lincoln for his backwoods upbringing and lack of experience, and were shocked and humiliated at losing to this relatively obscure Illinois lawyer. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration--Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general--he ultimately gained their admiration and respect as well. How he soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin's fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods. Ten years in the making, this engaging work reveals why "Lincoln's road to success was longer, more tortuous, and far less likely" than the other men, and why, when opportunity beckoned, Lincoln was "the best prepared to answer the call." This multiple biography further provides valuable background and insights into the contributions and talents of Seward, Chase, and Bates. Lincoln may have been "the indispensable ingredient of the Civil War," but these three men were invaluable to Lincoln and they played key roles in keeping the nation intact.

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Recommended Viewing. Abraham Lincoln-His Life & Legacy (2009) (A&E) (4 DVDs) (516 minutes). Description: Join HISTORY in a celebration of our nation's sixteenth president. This comprehensive four-DVD set presents a complex portrait of a man who many consider to be our greatest commander-in-chief, but who considered himself "the loneliest man in the world." Bringing to life the tumultuous times in which Lincoln led his country, some of his finest Civil War moments, and his final hours, HISTORY examines the Lincoln legacy in a modern context. Continued below…

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: HIS LIFE AND LEGACY is the ultimate tribute to the ultimate president and includes the following seven documentaries:

* Lincoln

* Investigating History: Lincoln: Man or Myth

* Man, Moment, Machine: Lincoln and the Flying Spying Machine

* Conspiracy?: Lincoln Assassination

* High Tech Lincoln

* Sherman's March

* The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth

* Includes seven documentaries: Lincoln, Investigating History: Lincoln Man or Myth, Man Moment Machine: Lincoln and the Flying Spying Machine, Sherman's March, The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth, Conspiracy? Lincoln Assassination, High Tech Lincoln

* History in the Making: Lincoln: behind-the-scenes featurette

* Full-length documentary: Sherman's Total War Tactics

* History in the Making: Sherman's Total War: behind-the-scenes featurette

 

Recommended Reading: Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief (Hardcover). Description: Author James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize Winner and bestselling Civil War historian, illuminates how Lincoln worked with—and often against— his senior commanders to defeat the Confederacy and create the role of commander in chief as we know it. Though Abraham Lincoln arrived at the White House with no previous military experience (apart from a couple of months spent soldiering in 1832), he quickly established himself as the greatest commander in chief in American history. James McPherson illuminates this often misunderstood and profoundly influential aspect of Lincoln’s legacy. In essence, Lincoln invented the idea of commander in chief, as neither the Constitution nor existing legislation specified how the president ought to declare war or dictate strategy. In fact, by assuming the powers we associate with the role of commander in chief, Lincoln often overstepped the narrow band of rights granted the president. Good thing too, because his strategic insight and will to fight changed the course of the war and saved the Union. Continued below...

For most of the conflict, he constantly had to goad his reluctant generals toward battle, and he oversaw strategy and planning for major engagements with the enemy. Lincoln was a self-taught military strategist (as he was a self-taught lawyer), which makes his adroit conduct of the war seem almost miraculous. To be sure, the Union’s campaigns often went awry, sometimes horribly so, but McPherson makes clear how the missteps arose from the all-too-common moments when Lincoln could neither threaten nor cajole his commanders to follow his orders. Because Lincoln’s war took place within our borders, the relationship between the front lines and the home front was especially close—and volatile. Consequently, Lincoln faced enormous challenges in exemplary fashion. He was a masterly molder of public opinion, for instance, defining the war aims initially as preserving the Union and only later as ending slavery— when he sensed the public was at last ready to bear such a lofty burden. As we approach the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth in 2009, this book will be that rarest gift—a genuinely novel, even timely, view of the most-written-about figure in our history. Tried by War offers a revelatory portrait of leadership during the greatest crisis our nation has ever endured. How Lincoln overcame feckless generals, fickle public opinion, and his own paralyzing fears is a story at once suspenseful and inspiring.

 

Recommended Reading: Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (Simon & Schuster Lincoln Library). Description: The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation "a new birth of freedom" in the space of a mere 272 words. His entire life and previous training and his deep political experience went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece. Continued below...

By examining both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew, and reveals much about a president so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln desired to change the world and…how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns, and how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken.

 

Recommended Reading: A. Lincoln: A Biography, by Ronald C. White Jr. (Hardcover). Description: Everyone wants to define the man who signed his name “A. Lincoln.” In his lifetime and ever since, friend and foe have taken it upon themselves to characterize Lincoln according to their own label or libel. In this magnificent book, Ronald C. White, Jr., offers a fresh and compelling definition of Lincoln as a man of integrity–what today’s commentators would call “authenticity”–whose moral compass holds the key to understanding his life. Continued below…

Through meticulous research of the newly completed Lincoln Legal Papers, as well as of recently discovered letters and photographs, White provides a portrait of Lincoln’s personal, political, and moral evolution. White shows us Lincoln as a man who would leave a trail of thoughts in his wake, jotting ideas on scraps of paper and filing them in his top hat or the bottom drawer of his desk; a country lawyer who asked questions in order to figure out his own thinking on an issue, as much as to argue the case; a hands-on commander in chief who, as soldiers and sailors watched in amazement, commandeered a boat and ordered an attack on Confederate shore batteries at the tip of the Virginia peninsula; a man who struggled with the immorality of slavery and as president acted publicly and privately to outlaw it forever; and finally, a president involved in a religious odyssey who wrote, for his own eyes only, a profound meditation on “the will of God” in the Civil War that would become the basis of his finest address. Most enlightening, the Abraham Lincoln who comes into focus in this stellar narrative is a person of intellectual curiosity, comfortable with ambiguity, unafraid to “think anew and act anew.” A transcendent, sweeping, passionately written biography that greatly expands our knowledge and understanding of its subject, A. Lincoln will engage a whole new generation of Americans. It is poised to shed a profound light on our greatest president just as America commemorates the bicentennial of his birth. About the Author: Ronald C. White, Jr., is the author of two bestselling books on Abraham Lincoln: The Eloquent President and Lincoln’s Greatest Speech, a New York Times Notable Book. White earned his Ph.D. at Princeton and has lectured on Lincoln at hundreds of universities and organizations, and at Gettysburg and the White House. He is a Fellow at the Huntington Library and a Visiting Professor of History at UCLA. He lives with his wife, Cynthia, in La Caņada, California.

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