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A Timeline of Abraham Lincoln



The sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) was born in Kentucky and studied law in Illinois, earning the nickname “Honest Abe” for his upright moral character. In 1858, he ran for U.S. Senate against Stephen A. Douglas, catapulting him to national fame even though he lost the race. He was elected to the presidency in 1860, just before the Civil War began. Lincoln did not accept the secession of the Confederacy, declaring the states to be in a state of rebellion. Assassinated in 1865, Lincoln would be remembered as a great wartime leader who was deeply devoted to maintaining the national union. His Gettysburg Address of 1863 is one of the most quoted speeches in American history.

1809: February 12, Born in Kentucky.

1834: August 4th, elected to the Illinois House of Representatives as a representative for Sangamon County.

1836: August 1st, Lincoln elected to the Illinois legislature again.

1838: January 27th, Lincoln gives address to the Springfield Young Men’s Lyceum on “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions.”

1838: August 6th, Lincoln elected to the Illinois legislature for the third time.

1842: November 4th, Lincoln and Mary Todd are married.

1846: August 3rd, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

1854: October 16th, Lincoln gives Peoria speech on his opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

1857: June 26th, Lincoln gives speech in Springfield, IL, against the Dred Scott decision.

1858: June 16th, Lincoln gives his “House Divided” speech in Springfield, IL, to the Illinois State Republican Convention after accepting the Republican nomination to run against Stephen A. Douglas for his U.S. Senate seat.

1860: February 27th, gives Cooper Union address on slavery and the founders of the Constitution in New York, New York.

1860: May 18th, wins Republican nomination for president.

1860: November 6th, Lincoln elected as 16th President of the United States and first Republican President.

1860: December 20th, South Carolina secedes from the Union in response.

1861: February 9th, The South sets up the Confederate States, and elects Jefferson Davis their president. By this time, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas had already seceded. They would soon be followed by Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina in the next three months.

1861: March 4th, Lincoln’s inauguration, gives First Inaugural Address.

1861: April 12th, Confederates fire on Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War.

1861: April 15th, President Lincoln calls forth “the Militia of the several States of the Union to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand.” He also convenes Congress to meet in extra session on July 4th.

1861: July 4th, Lincoln’s war message communicated to Congress as an official government document.

1862: August 22nd, Lincoln writes “I would save the Union” response letter to the New York Tribune editorial. It was published on August 25th.

1863: January 1st, Lincoln issues the final Emancipation Proclamation declaring slaves held in the states in rebellion free.

1863: July 1st-3rd, The Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania under General Robert E. Lee is defeated by General Meade at Gettysburg.

1863: July 30th, Issues the Order of Retaliation, punishing the South for their treatment of black Union soldiers.

1863: August 10th, Lincoln meets with abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, who pushes for the full equality among Union troops. This would be the first of many visits by Douglass to the White House.

1863: November 19th, Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address at the ceremony dedicating the battlefield as a National Cemetery.

1863: December 8th, The President issues a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, a plan to restore the Union.

1864: March 12th, Ulysses S. Grant is appointed by Lincoln as General-in-Chief of all the federal armies.

1864: June 8th, Lincoln is nominated for a second term as president by a coalition of Republicans and War Democrats.

1864: August 22nd, Lincoln makes a speech to the 166th Ohio Regiment, reiterating his thoughts from the Gettysburg Address.

1864: November 8th, Lincoln is re-elected as president, winning 212 of the 233 electoral votes and 55 percent of the popular vote from the states that remained in the Union.

1864: December 21st, Sherman reaches Savannah, completing his “March to the Sea” and leaving a large path of destruction of the South’s resources throughout Georgia.

1865: March 4th, After winning re-election, Lincoln delivers his Second Inaugural Address.

1865: April 9th, At Appomattox Court House in Virginia, Lee agrees to Grant’s terms of surrender, officially ending the Civil War.

1865: April 11th, Lincoln makes his last public speech, focusing on the problems of Reconstruction.

1865: April 14th, Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington’s Penn Quarter.

1865: April 15th, Lincoln dies at 7:22 in the morning at the Peterson Boarding House in Washington, DC.

1865: April 19th, A funeral service is held for Lincoln at the White House, with thousands of Americans watching the procession.

1865: April 21st, Lincoln’s funeral train departs, traveling the country for 12 days until it reaches Lincoln’s final resting place in Springfield, Illinois.

Return to The Meaning of Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday.

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