A century and a half later the name of Abraham Lincoln Conjures up a legendary resonance to all those who hear it. It is a name spoken with reverence not only across the length and the breath of America but world wide.
This celebrated national hero, heralded as Walt Whitman’s "Captain" was indeed worthy of all the respect and regard that the land of prairies bestowed on him life based on handwork and conviction Lincoln’s life was a ABRAHAMjourney from the log cabin to the White House. Taking up cudgels against Slavery, during his term as President of the United States, he ended this inhumane activity through the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Thus, giving the United States its unique blend of colossal breath and unity and an unchallenged position on the world map.
Abraham Lincoln descended from a family that were pioneers in moving west with the expanding country from Massachusetts through Pennsylvania to Virginia. They were wandering farmers who cleared the frontier of its wilderness and cultivated farms to give it character. After development the wander lust once again taking hold of them propelled them to other wilder pastures. Abraham Lincoln's father Thomas Lincoln followed the tradition of his ancestors and lived a full life as a frontier man moving from place to place. He developed as a skilled carpenter and never was in want of the necessities of life. Lincoln recollecting his father said that he, "even in childhood was a wandering boy labor boy, and grew up literally without education. He never did more in the way of writing than to bunglingly sign his own name.” Abraham’s mother I Nancy was an illiterate woman from a poor Virginia family. She I I signed her name with an X.

early life

On 12 February, 1809, in a log cabin on a farm south of Nolin Creek near what is now called Hodgenville, Kentucky Abraham Lincoln was born. He had an elder sister Sarah. Abraham Lincoln was only two when the family moved to another farm on nearby Knob Creek. Hunting, fishing, farming and household chores took up most of the time and there was hardly any time left to play. Life was hard. Due to confused administration and arbitrary justice Thomas Lincoln lost the title to his farmland. Disappointed in 1816, the Lincolns decided to move to Indiana where the land was surveyed and sold by the federal government.
In 1818 tragedy struck of the family. The raging epidemic at the time called ‘milk-sick’ struck Abraham’s mother who died. The lack of immediate medical attention as the nearest doctor was miles away.
The following year Lincoln journeying to Elizabeth town married Sarah bush Johnson, a widow with three children and a former sweetheart of Lincoln.
The Lincoln children once took to her. Abe become very attached to this step mother and referred to her as ; my angel mother’. Her arrival brought order to the chaos of the Lincoln household. She understood the importance of education and tried her best to educate these children in an environment that did not cater for mental development of its me inhabitants. The physically demanding farm life made it difficult op to spare Abraham for school life. But whenever time afforded Lincoln attended the ABC school. Such schools were held in log cabins where the teachers knew little more than the children themselves. According to Lincoln, “no qualification was ever ex required of a teacher beyond reading, writing, and ciphering, de to the Rule of Three." Lincoln had less than one year of formal education in his entire life that too in fits and starts.
To the education given in the log cabin schools and to the n: unflagging encouragement given by his stepmother to learn - w Abraham learnt to read, write and do simple arithmetic quite early in life. His own interest in learning aided his quest for knowledge. He was able to read classical authors like Aesop, John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe as well as William Grimshaw's History of the United States (1820) and Mason Locke Weem's Life and Memorable Actions of George Washington (about 1800). The biography of the father of the nation left a lasting impression on Abraham who tried to emulate the ideals of this great man.
Young Lincoln grew to be a tall lad of about 6ft 4in. His long muscular body gave him an awkward appearance, though he had remarkable strength that came from hard labour. His father commenting on his appearance once said, "He looked i as if he had been rough-hewn with an axe and needed smoothing with a jackplane.” His early education and inherent intelligence gave him a way with words. His rustic humour and his ability to mimic made him a popular figure at the general store in nearby Gentryville. His easy congeniality was infectious. A neighbour affectionately recalled. "Abe was awful lazy, he ' would laugh and talk and crack jokes and tell stories all the 'time."
Lincoln's keen wandering mind looked for things to do that were beyond the humdrum of farming life. He found this opportunity when he was employed to ferry passengers and baggage to riverboats waiting midstream. At the age of 19 he was hired by a merchant James Gentry to take a cargo-laden flatboat down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. He thus experienced his first contact with the world outside the narrow defines of farming life.
Another ‘milk sick' epidemic threatened to rage Indiana in 1830. The Lincoln family moved west to Illinois. Near what is now called Decatur, Illinois the Lincolns settled at a junction of woodland and prairie on the north bank of Sangamon. Lincoln together with his father built a log cabin for the family and fenced in 4 hectares of land to grow corn. He even hired himself to the other settlers to split rails.


It was here that Lincoln first attended a political rally. He was also coerced into speaking on behalf of the candidate. His first exposure to public speaking. A witness recalled that at first Lincoln was frightened but warmed up and eventually made the best speech of the day!
In 1831 Lincoln was hired by a Kentucky trader and speculator Denton Offutt. Lincoln along with his stepbrother and a cousin had to build a flatboat and take it down the Mississippi river with a load of cargo. Here was the first time Lincoln saw a slave auction that had a long lasting impact on his life. Seething with rage he said, "If l ever get a chance to hit this thing, I'll hit it hard.” This early acquaintance with inhumane, terribly wrong practices parading as 'right' made Lincoln such a strong advocate for the abolishing of slave trade in America. His compassionate heart made him aware of the wretchedness of the system and made him a rightful candidate in emancipation of slaves
Offutt much impressed with Lincoln's uprightness and his diligence hired him as a clerk in general store in New Salem. Lincoln earned 15$ a month plus the use of the store for sleeping. Lincoln's good humour, integrity and intelligence won him a place in the hearts of the people. His ability to take on the local ruffian in a local wrestling match carved a respectable position for him amongst the youth. His duties as a storekeeper provided ample time to read. Sprawled on the counter, book in hand and roiling off every now and then to serve a customer became a common sight. He improved his grammar by studying books on the subject. He discovered a new love for poetry and avidly read Robert Burns and William Shakespeare.
The store was also place for informal chit-chat. Lincoln would entertain his customers with the latest information from the newspaper who were in addition to hearing the news were only too delighted to hear him talk. Lincoln also joined the local debating society. A member had this reaction to Lincoln's first debate:“A perceptible smile at once lit up the face of the audience, for all anticipated the relation of some humorous story. But he opened up discussion in splendid style, to the infinite astonishment of his friends. . . . He pursued the question with reason and argument so pithy and forcibly that all were amazed."


James Rutledge the owner of a local tavern suggested a career in politics to the young Lincoln. Lincoln also came in contact with the attractive daughter of the tavern owner. Though much attracted to her charm and good nature he did not pursue his suit for she was said to be already engaged to a certain New Yorker called McNeil.
As a logical consequence, Lincoln decided to run for a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. In the meanwhile Lincoln found himself out of a job as the store he was working in went bankrupt. But the Black Hawk rebellion came just in time. Lincoln enlisted as a volunteer to quell the rebellion of the Native American Sauk and Fox led by their chief Black Hawk. His popularity made him head the company he was enlisted in. When his term expired, he reenlisted as a private. Though he saw no actual fighting, Lincoln was very proud of his career in the army.
In 1832 he contested for the Illinois seat. He was defeated. He then opened a general store with an acquaintance William Berry. But Berry misused the profits and in a few months they were running in a loss. Berry died in 1835, leaving Lincoln responsible for debts amounting to 1100$. It took Lincoln several months/years before he cleared these debts. He then began a short stint as the Postmaster at New Salem which earned him $60 a year plus a percentage of receipts on postage. He even became the deputy surveyor of Sangamon County.
Lincoln contested the legislative elections in 1834 and was elected. He was reelected in 1836, 1838 and 1840. At this time he heard that Ann Rutledge had been jilted in love. She was sick and before dying had asked to see Lincoln. Legend has that Ann was the one love of his life and that he never actually got over this loss. His later bouts of melancholy have been attributed to this loss. In the meanwhile Lincoln continued to study law and in 1836 he was admitted to the bar as a licensed attorney. He moved to Springfield.
By certain unknown circumstances Lincoln became engaged to a Kentucky girl called Mary Owens. But the engagement broke, much to Lincoln‘s relief it is believed. Later Miss Owens is said to have said, "i thought Mr. Lincoln was deficient in those little links that make up the chain of a woman's happiness." On 4th November1842 he married another Kentucky girl, Mary Todd. She was high strung and a member of the local aristocracy. A week after the wedding he wrote, “Nothing new here, except my marrying, which to me is a matter of profound wonder.‘ His wife's whimsical, vain ways were a definite contrast to the sweet natured Ann Rutledge. Their marriage always beset by arguments could never be termed as "well matched“, except for their sharing of ambition. Mary played a key role in aiding and supporting her husband‘s political career. The Lincoln's had four boys out of which only Richard Todd Lincoln reached adulthood.
Though still a practicing lawyer, Lincoln stove to achieve his political ambitions. He began to look beyond the statehouse to the seat in the US Congress. In 1843, he wrote to a fellow politician, "Now if you should hear anyone say that Lincoln don’t want to go to Congress, I wish you as a personal friend of mine, would tell him you have reason to believe he is mistaken. The truth is I would like to go very much." Lincoln sought the nomination for the US representative, for the Seventh Congressional District in 1842 and.1844. He received it in 1846. He defeated the Democratic candidate, the Methodist preacher Peter Cartwright, in the election of November 1846. In 1847 he went to Washington.
The question of slavery always haunted Lincoln. He became a forceful spokesman for anti slavery and in faith introduced the bill for the abolition of slavery 'in the District of Columbia, during the second session. The bill was rejected and Lincoln returned to Illinois disappointed. He was not reelected the following term.
The bombardment of Fort Sumter, by the Carolinians was a testing time for Lincoln. Using the language and authority of militia act of 1795, he declared that in seven states the federal laws were opposed. He asked the remaining loyal states for 75,000 militia for three months tenure. The Civil War had begun. By virtue of a constitutional clause he was the Commander in Chief of the US Army and Navy. He said, "I suppose i have a right to take any measure which may subdue the enemy.” His most competent general during the war was Ulusses. S. Grant who drank whiskey and fought like a lion. In characteristic dry humour Lincoln asked, "Do you know what brand of whiskey l’d like to send a barrel to each of my other generals."
In 1854, denouncing the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Lincoln attacked Stephen. A. Douglas, a democrat and the supporter of the act. For Lincoln slavery was both a moral and a political issue. Highlighting the sheer injustice of the Act, he said, "It is said that the slaveholder has the same political right to take his Negroes to Kansas, that a freeman has to take his hogs or his horses. This would be true if Negroes were property in the same sense that hogs and horses are. But is this the case? It is notoriously not so." in autumn that year Lincoln was elected to the legislature but lost the United States Senate seat.
Secession from the Union of the Southern slave owning states was becoming a burning issue. In 1858, the Republican Party gaining momentum declared Lincoln as “our first and only choice” for US Senator. Lincoln was defeated. But by May 1860, Lincoln's speeches in New York had gained him a national reputation. He was nominated as a candidate for presidency. He was elected and on 4th March 1861, Lincoln took over the office of the President of the United States. In the winter of 1861 the Union became involved with Great Britain in the Trent Affair. The Confederacy sent James Murray Mason and John Slidell to Britain and France to support the Southern cause. When aboard the British ship Trent, the ship was stopped and searched by a Union naval captain, Charles Wilkes and the two southerners were taken prisoners. Britain demanded an apology and midst much ado Lincoln complied and apologized. He thus averted war with Britain. The Civil War continued to rage through Lincoln's first term at office. He was nominated for the second term and was reelected.
At first Lincoln had believed in gradual emancipation. But gradually he came to believe in complete emancipation. His views on anti slavery were clear. To him slavery was incompatible with American democracy. He said, "When the  white man governs himself, that is self-government ;but when he governs another man, why then my ancient faith teaches i me that “all men are created equal, and that there can be no moral right in connection with the man’s making a slave of another."
General Lee of the Confederate surrendered and the war came to an end with the Union flag raised high over Fort Sumter on 14th April to the thundering guns. Lincoln though an adversary respected Lee's total commitment to a cause and his enviable soldiering. Paying tribute to the photograph of this hero of the Southern states he said, “it is a good face, the face of a noble brave man. I am glad the war is over at last."


The aftermath of war saw Mrs. Lincoln plunging into much awaited hectic social activity. She cruised through the social scene making up for lost time. The war had offered little opportunity to parade as the first lady. An evening at the Ford Theater was arranged to see Laura Keen in a play, "Our American Cousin". The Lincoln‘s arrived and took their place in the flag draped box. Tired and exhausted after the grueling hours of wartime America, the piece of entertainment must have been a good change for the Lincoln's -to begin with. The nightmare began when softly into the box came a dark shadow. Shooting the President at point blank range the man disappeared into the folds of darkness. Midst smoke and uproar the wounded President was rushed to a house street and immediate medical attention followed. At 7 o’clock in the morning the next day he was declared dead.

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