Introduction and Early Life
Today, Abraham Lincoln is seen as one of the greatest presidents of all time. He is seen as one of the most inspiring and marbles figures in American history. Yet, these were not his intentions. Lincoln was born in a cabin in Kentucky. He mainly spent most of his youth taking products by boat to New Orleans. In 1830, his family moved to Illinois and at that time he entered a career in the military, politics, and law. Lincoln then affiliated himself with the Whig Party and after several failed attempts to enter Congress (one in which he famously debated Democratic incumbent senator Stephen A. Douglas) he joined as a Republican. In 1860, he had become a leading national figure, despite being mainly regulated to state politics, and ran for the Republican nomination.
The Presidential Election of 1860
The union was in chaos. Four major political parties rose up in the election of 1860. After three ballots at their convention in Chicago, the Republican Party nominated Lincoln over New York Senator William H. Seward. Meanwhile, the Democrats were divided between the compromise wing of the party and the pro-slavery wing of the party. It could be well said that the Democratic nominee, Stephen Douglas, had not won the nomination at all. This was because after 57 ballots at the convention, the Democrats just gave up and nominated Douglas, who had been in the lead on the final ballot, but had not won a majority of delegates. This outraged southern Democrats who nominated their own candidate, John C. Breckinridge, President James Buchanan's vice president. Adding more confusion, a new political party made up of strong Whigs and Know Nothings held their own convention. After two ballots at their convention in Baltimore, Maryland, the new Constitutional Union Party nominated veteran politician John Bell over Sam Houston, the governor of Texas. In the 1860 presidential election it was clear that the country was deeply divided.
Northerners favored Lincoln, southerners favored Breckinridge, and in the middle, Douglas and Bell were getting support. When the results came in, Lincoln won with 180 electoral votes and 39.8% of the popular vote (despite not getting a single vote in ten southern states). Breckinridge came in second with 72 electoral votes and 14.3% of the popular vote. Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee voted for Bell giving him 39 electoral votes and 12.6% of the popular vote. Despite having 21.5% of the popular vote, Senator Douglas and the northern Democrats only won 12 votes in the electoral college (all from Missouri). Lincoln had won and the south was outraged.
The Civil War Begins
When Abraham Lincoln entered the presidency, he hoped to preserve the union, but slowly the war would drive him to make a radical change in the country. On the day he entered office, he received a letter from the commander of Fort Sumter. The commander told the president that he could not hold on if he did not receive supplies. Lincoln decided to send them, but before they arrived, the Confederacy led by President Jefferson Davis opened fire on the fort. After the bombardment, more states left the union and now eleven states were in the Confederacy. Two other states, Missouri and Kentucky, were on the fence and were called border states. To extend his authority in this incredible emergency, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and blockaded all southern ports and increased the size of the army. He now had to deal with the military who was commanded by the same man who led it in the Mexican War and ran for president in 1852; Winfield Scott. In 1861, Scott was 74 years old, incredibly overweight, and had numerous health problems. He eventually developed the Anaconda Plan which was to strangle the south through a blockade. Eventually, Scott was removed. Lincoln hoped to replace him with Robert E. Lee, but begin from Virginia, Lee joined the south. So the command of the Union army went to George B. McClellan. Scott would retire and die in 1866.
Meanwhile, Lincoln's shrewd calculating had baited the south into starting the war by firing on Fort Sumter. Now battles were raging all along the USA-CSA border. In order to gain military experience, Lincoln went to the Library of Congress and read books on military strategy. However, the president was not prepared for dealing with his generals. While the CSA seemed to have decent generals, the USA generals were rather mediocre and eventually General McClellan was removed from his duty. However, Lincoln would go through several generals that had to take command of the Army of the Potomac, the Union force stationed in the eastern United States. Then, in February 1862, Lincoln dealt with personal tragedy when his 11 year old son Willie died of typhoid. Dealing with such tragedy, Lincoln and his wife made a summer home out of an asylum for wounded soldiers nearby Washington D.C. and this made Lincoln a commuter for a fourth of his presidency. He then returned to the Civil War and worked usually all day (sometimes all night), seven days a week to steer the Union to victory.
As 1862 rolled on the, the CSA and the USA battled at Shiloh, Bull Run, and Antietam. After Antietam, (which took place on September 17, 1862) Lincoln was encouraged by it and his Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. This freed all the slaves in the southern states. However, the Emancipation Proclamation did not win battles and the war was continued. To major battles ended on the same day. At the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863, Confederate general Robert E. Lee lost to Union troops in the turning point of the war. On that same day, Union general Ulysses S. Grant won the Siege of Vicksburg. The siege helped in cutting off CSA communications along the Mississippi River. In the 1864 presidential election, Lincoln faced Democratic opponent and former general, George B. McClellan. McClellan and the northern Democrats believed in preserving the Union, but not ending slavery.However, Lincoln's support from soldiers and the Union victory at the Battle of Atlanta gave him the victory in the election. He won by a landslide with 212 electoral votes and 55.0% of the popular vote to McClellan's 21 electoral votes and 45.0%. Lincoln was the first president to win a second term since Andrew Jackson in the 1832 presidential election.
Ending the War
On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate army to the Union commander Ulysses S. Grant. The Civil War was nearly over. During his last speech, he talked about giving fair terms to the south and calling for the nation to heal itself. He also had further plans for the former slaves. He hoped to return them to their homeland that they were stolen from. In other words, he wanted to transport all slaves back to Africa. This was similar to James Monroe's plan for slavery. On Good Friday, 1865, the Lincolns attended Ford's Theater to see the comedy "Our American Cousin". Among the actors was a man named John Wilkes Booth. While he was off stage, Booth went into Lincoln's box and shot him.
Lincoln was not the only victim. Booth had targeted Ulysses S. Grant, but he had left town. Two of Booth's men went to Secretary of State William Seward's house. While one man waited outside, the other entered in the house saying he had medicine for Seward. Chaos followed in the house as he attacked hacked at Seward's faced. Luckily for the secretary of state, he was in bed and wore a mechanism to keep his jaw intact after a carriage incident. The blade from the assassin did tear Seward's skin, but did not enter his head because of the mechanism. As this occured, another man was sent to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson, but he lost his nerve and decided to drink at a bar. The whole plan was supposed to be a changing of the guard, but only the president was killed.
Booth tried to escape as fast as he could, but had injured his ankle when he lept from the balcony onto the stage. He quickly limped to his horse and galloped south with another accomplice. Eventually, Booth was held up in a barn and was killed over a week later. All of his allies who took part in the assassination were either jailed or executed. The body of Abraham Lincoln was loaded onto a train that would it to Illinois. Lincoln's body would be buried in Sprinfield's Oak Cemetery. Thirty million people watched the train pass by to pay their last respects to the president who had so dramatically changed the country.
Abraham Lincoln is mainly seen as one of the greatest heroes in American history. He entirely transformed the presidency and himself during the Civil War. He truly gave everyone the potential of having liberty and justice, which was denied to the slaves. The Civil War was the greatest crisis in American history and Lincoln guided the Union to victory. Some say that he went too far. Many libertarians argue that he was in fact on of the worst presidents for his actions of not letting the south secede (which has been debatable subject ever since the Civil War ended) and suspending habeas corpus. Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln remains one of the most important figures in American history.