Lincoln, Abraham (1809-65), 16th president of the United States (1861-65), who
steered the Union to victory in the American Civil War and abolished slavery.
Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, near Hodgenville, Kentucky, the son of
Nancy Hanks and Thomas Lincoln, pioneer farmers. At the age of two he was taken
by his parents to nearby Knob Creek and at eight to Spencer County, Indiana. The
following year his mother died. In 1819 his father married Sarah Bush Johnston,
a kindly widow, who soon gained the boy's affection. Lincoln grew up a tall,
gangling youth, who could hold his own in physical contests and also showed
great intellectual promise, although he had little formal education. In 1831,
after moving with his family to Macon County, Illinois, he struck out on his own,
taking cargo on a flatboat to New Orleans, Louisiana. He then returned to
Illinois and settled in New Salem, a short-lived community on the Sangamon River,
where he split rails and clerked in a store. He gained the respect of his fellow
townspeople, including the so-called Clary Grove boys, who had challenged him to
physical combat, and was elected captain of his company in the Black Hawk War
(1832). Returning from the war, he began an unsuccessful venture in shopkeeping
that ended when his partner died. In 1833 he was appointed postmaster but had to
supplement his income with surveying and various other jobs. At the same time he
began to study law. That he gradually paid off his and his deceased partner's
debts firmly established his reputation for honesty. The story of his romance
with Ann Rutledge, a local young woman whom he knew briefly before her untimely
death, is unsubstantiated.
Illinois Politician and Lawyer
Defeated in 1832 in a race for the state legislature, Lincoln was elected on the
Whig ticket two years later and served in the lower house from 1834 to 1841. He
quickly emerged as one of the leaders of the party and was one of the authors of
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