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President Abraham Lincoln Timeline






Feb. 12

Born in Hardin (now LaRue) County Kentucky



Family moves to Indiana


Oct. 5

Mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, dies


Dec. 2

Father marries Sarah Bush Johnston



Family moves to Illinois


late July

Arrives in New Salem


April - July

Serves in Black Hawk war


Aug. 6

Defeated for legislature in first political race


Aug 4

Elected to State Legislature



Begins studying law


Aug. 2

Re-elected to state legislature



Receives law license


March 3

First public declaration against slavery


April 15

Moves to Springfield, joins law partnership with
John T. Stuart


Aug. 6

Re-elected to legislature


Aug. 3

Re-elected to legislature



Engaged to Mary Todd; breaks engagement



Forms legal partnership with Stephen T. Logan


Nov. 4

Marries Mary Todd


Aug. 1

Son Robert Todd Lincoln born



Forms legal partnership with William Herndon


March 10

Son Edward Baker (Eddie) Lincoln born


Aug. 3

Elected to Congress


Dec. 3-March 4

Serves in Congress


Feb. 1

Son Eddie dies


Dec. 21

Son William Wallace (Willie) Lincoln Born


Jan. 17

Father, Thomas, dies


April 4

Son Thomas (Tad) Lincoln born


Aug. 26,

Delivers first speech against the Kansas-Nebraska Act


Nov. 7

Elected to the legislature; resigns to seek U.S. Senate seat


Feb. 8

Defeated for Senate


Feb. 22

Affiliates with Republican party


June 19

Finishes second in balloting for Republican vice-presidential nomination



Campaigns for Republican ticket


March 6

Dred Scott Decision


June 16

Nominated for senator by Republican convention


Aug. 21-Oct. 15

Lincoln-Douglas debates


Nov. 4

State election foreshadows defeat for Senate


Jan. 5

Defeated for senator


May 18

Nominated for president


Nov. 6

Elected president


Dec. 20

South Carolina secedes



Opposes compromise



Six remaining states of the Deep South secede


Feb. 11

Leaves Springfield to go to Washington


March 4



April 12

Fort Sumter bombarded


April 15

Calls for 75,000 volunteers


April 19

Institutes blockade


April 27

Suspends writ of habeas corpus in Maryland


July 21

Battle of Bull Run


July 26

McClellan takes command of the army at Washington


Sep. 12

Revokes Fremont's emancipation proclamation


November 1

Appoints McClellan commanding general


Feb. 20

Son Willie dies



Peninsula Campaign


May 19

Revokes Hunter's emancipation proclamation


June 26-July 2

Seven Days' Battles


July 12

Meets with border state representatives


July 22

Circulates draft of emancipation proclamation to cabinet


July 23

Names Halleck general-in-chief (serves until March 9, 1864)


Aug. 30

Second Battle of Bull Run


Sept. 17

Battle of Antietam


Sept. 22

Issues preliminary Emancipation Proclamation


Sept. 24

Suspends write of habeas corpus throughout the North



Democrats gain in fall elections


Nov. 5

Removes McClellan from command


Jan. 1

Issues final Emancipation Proclamation


Jan. 25

Hooker appointed commander of the Army of Potomac


May 6

Vallandigham arrested


June 7

Black troops fight at Battle of Milliken's Bend


June 28

Names Meade commander of the Army of Potomac


July 1-3

Battle of Gettysburg


July 4

Vicksburg captured


July 13-16

New York City draft riots



Democrats suffer severe defeats in state elections


Nov. 19

Gettysburg Address


Dec. 8

Announces reconstruction program


March 9

Names Grant commanding general



Grant's offensive in Virginia


June 8



July 4

Pocket-vetoes Wade-Davis bill


Sept. 2

Sherman captures Atlanta


Nov. 8



Jan. 31

Thirteenth Amendment passes Congress


March 4

Second inauguration


April 9

Lee surrenders


April 10

Photograph taken (which turns out to be the last)


April 11

Last speech on reconstruction


April 14

Shot at Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth; dies the next morning


May 4

Burial in Springfield

Recommended Reading: Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President's War Powers, by James F. Simon (Simon & Schuster). Publishers Weekly: This surprisingly taut and gripping book by NYU law professor Simon (What Kind of Nation) examines the limits of presidential prerogative during the Civil War. Lincoln and Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney saw eye to eye on certain matters; both, for example, disliked slavery. But beginning in 1857, when Lincoln criticized Taney's decision in the Dred Scott case, the pair began to spar. They diverged further once Lincoln became president when Taney insisted that secession was constitutional and preferable to bloodshed, and blamed the Civil War on Lincoln. In 1861, Taney argued that Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus was illegal. This holding was, Simon argues, "a clarion call for the president to respect the civil liberties of American citizens." Continued below...

In an 1862 group of cases, Taney joined a minority opinion that Lincoln lacked the authority to order the seizure of Southern ships. Had Taney had the chance, suggests Simon, he would have declared the Emancipation Proclamation unconstitutional; he and Lincoln agreed that the Constitution left slavery up to individual states, but Lincoln argued that the president's war powers trumped states' rights. Simon's focus on Lincoln and Taney makes for a dramatic, charged narrative—and the focus on presidential war powers makes this historical study extremely timely.

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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 and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (Simon & Schuster) (February 5, 2008) (Hardcover). Description: In 1858, Abraham Lincoln was known as a successful Illinois lawyer who had achieved some prominence in state politics as a leader in the new Republican Party. Two years later, he was elected president and was on his way to becoming the greatest chief executive in American history. What carried this one-term congressman from obscurity to fame was the campaign he mounted for the United States Senate against the country's most formidable politician, Stephen A. Douglas, in the summer and fall of 1858. Lincoln challenged Douglas directly in one of his greatest speeches -- "A house divided against itself cannot stand" -- and confronted Douglas on the questions of slavery and the inviolability of the Union in seven fierce debates. As this brilliant narrative by the prize-winning Lincoln scholar Allen Guelzo dramatizes, Lincoln would emerge a predominant national figure, the leader of his party, the man who would bear the burden of the national confrontation. Continued below... 

Of course, the great issue between Lincoln and Douglas was slavery. Douglas was the champion of "popular sovereignty," of letting states and territories decide for themselves whether to legalize slavery. Lincoln drew a moral line, arguing that slavery was a violation both of natural law and of the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence. No majority could ever make slavery right, he argued. Lincoln lost that Senate race to Douglas, though he came close to toppling the "Little Giant," whom almost everyone thought was unbeatable. Guelzo's Lincoln and Douglas brings alive their debates and this whole year of campaigns and underscores their centrality in the greatest conflict in American history. The encounters between Lincoln and Douglas engage a key question in American political life: What is democracy's purpose? Is it to satisfy the desires of the majority? Or is it to achieve a just and moral public order? These were the real questions in 1858 that led to the Civil War. They remain questions for Americans today.


Recommended Reading: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. Description: It hardly seems possible that there is more to say about someone who has been subjected to such minute scrutiny in thousands of books and articles. Yet, Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln manages to raise fresh and morally probing questions, challenging the image of the martyred 16th president that has been fashioned carefully in marble and bronze, sentimentalism and myth. Continued below...

In doing so, DiLorenzo does not follow the lead of M. E. Bradford or other Southern agrarians. He writes primarily not as a defender of the Old South and its institutions, culture, and traditions, but as a libertarian enemy of the Leviathan state. DiLorenzo holds Lincoln and his war responsible for the triumph of "big government" and the birth of the ubiquitous, suffocating modern U.S. state. He seeks to replace the nation’s memory of Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator” with the record of Lincoln as the “Great Centralizer.”

Recommended Reading: Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe. Description: While many view our 16th president as the nation’s greatest president and hero, Tom Dilorenzo, through his scholarly research, exposes the many unconstitutional decisions of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln Unmasked, a best-seller, reveals that ‘other side’ – the inglorious character – of the nation’s greatest tyrant and totalitarian. A book that is hailed by many and harshly criticized by others, Lincoln Unmasked, nevertheless, is a thought-provoking study and view of Lincoln that was not taught in our public school system.


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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