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From Wood Cabin to White House: An Abe Lincoln Timeline

One of America’s most famous presidents was born in a small structure made of logs in the woods of Kentucky. Abraham Lincoln, nicknamed “Honest Abe” for his sense of honesty and fairness, did a lot of things before he became president. He worked as a lawyer, opened a shop, and even spent a summer as a boatman. Of all of the things Lincoln did, he is best known for the Emancipation Proclamation, which marked the end of slavery in America.

February 12, 1809: Far away from the White House, Abraham Lincoln was born in a wood cabin close to Hodgenville, Kentucky. Eight years later, the Lincoln family moved to Indiana.

October 5, 1818: Lincoln’s mother, Nancy, died unexpectedly. His father remarried a lady named Sarah Johnston. She and Lincoln became very close, and she was the one who encouraged his education.

August 6, 1832: Lincoln tried to be elected to the Illinois State Legislature, but he didn’t win. Instead, he took up work as postmaster for the mail service. (PDF)

August 4, 1834: Lincoln tried again, and this time, he was elected to the Illinois State Legislature. He was only 25 years old.

March 1, 1837: Lincoln became a lawyer. A few months later, he teamed up with John Stuart to form a law office.

November 4, 1842: Lincoln married Mary Todd, who he’d met two years earlier. By this point, he’d been a legislator for four terms.

August 1, 1843: Lincoln’s family structure grew a little larger. His first son, Robert Todd, was born. When Robert Todd grew up, he served as secretary of war and was an ambassador to England.

March 10, 1846: The Lincoln family got even bigger with the birth of a second son, Edward Baker.

August 3, 1846: Lincoln was elected to Congress as Illinois’s representative for the Whig Party. The Whig Party wanted the United States to become more modern and commercial.

May 22, 1849: Did you know that Lincoln was an inventor? On this day, he got a patent for a structure he created to help lift boats over rocks.

December 21, 1850: Lincoln and Mary had a third son, William Wallace. They must have been both happy and sad; their second son, Eddie, died that same year.

April 4, 1853: Lincoln’s fourth son, Thomas “Tad” Lincoln, was born. Tad, like his father, loved to play and had a good sense of humor.

June 16, 1858: Lincoln was nominated for the U.S. Senate by the Republican Party. He didn’t win, but he did get a lot of attention. He made a speech calling America out on slavery, and he warned that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

May 18, 1860: Lincoln is nominated as the Republican candidate for president of the United States. Stephen Douglas and John Breckinridge were the candidates for the divided Democrats.

May 20, 1860: Lincoln had a cast of his hands made. He shook so many hands when running for president that he had to hold a broom handle made of wood to keep his hand steady for the cast.

November 6, 1860: Abraham Lincoln was elected president. He was the first Republican candidate to ever win!

December 20, 1860: South Carolina officially left the Union. It was the first state to leave, or secede, to become a Confederate state.

March 4, 1861: Lincoln was welcomed as president in Washington. He was formally sworn into his new job with an inauguration ceremony. In his speech, he argued that slavery was unconstitutional and needed to end.

April 15, 1861: In response to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter a few days earlier, Lincoln asked for a temporary army of 75,000 soldiers.

April 18, 1861: Lincoln asked Robert E. Lee to lead the Union army. Lee refused, quit his job, and went to lead the Confederate army.

July 22, 1861: On July 21, the Confederacy won a battle at Bull Run. To help fight back, Lincoln signed a bill that would allow for an army of 500,000.

February 20, 1862: Lincoln’s third son, William, died of typhoid fever. His death was very sad for the whole family.

September 22, 1862: Lincoln issued an informal declaration of freedom for slaves in Confederate states.

January 1, 1863: Lincoln signed and introduced the official Emancipation Proclamation. This made freedom for slaves an official law.

November 19, 1863: During the dedication of a national cemetery, Lincoln delivered a speech called the Gettysburg Address. It is one of the most famous speeches in American history.

November 8, 1864: Lincoln was re-elected to serve another four years as president of the United States.

April 9, 1865: The Civil War officially ended with the surrender of Confederate Gen. Lee to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Grant later became a president of the United States.

April 11, 1865: Lincoln spoke for the last time to the public about the rebuilding of the country after the Civil War. He encouraged everyone to work together and welcome Louisiana into the United States.

April 14, 1865: Lincoln is assassinated by an actor, John Wilkes Booth, while at the theater with his wife. Earlier that day, Lincoln had established the Secret Service for the White House.

May 4, 1865: Lincoln’s body was buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery near his old hometown of Springfield, Illinois. Mary, Edward, William, and Tad would also be buried there.


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