President Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln Facts

16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln
1861-1865
(February 12, 1809 - April 15, 1865)

President Abraham Lincoln
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Library of Congress

Born: February 12, 1809, in Hodgenville, Hardin County, Kentucky.
Died: April 15, 1865. Lincoln died the morning after being shot at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., by John Wilkes Booth, an actor.

Two Perspectives: One President
 
1) The South's Viewpoint of President Abraham Lincoln
 
To the majority of the North, President Abraham Lincoln was a great president, uniter, liberator, and staunch American. To most of the South, however, Lincoln was a tyrant, invader, and he trampled (and even trumped) states' rights and the U.S. Constitution. (See: Governor John Ellis and Cherokee Declaration of War Against the Union: The Tyrant Abraham Lincoln).
 
Almost thirty years before the Civil War, South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union. Why? Because of High Tariffs and not because of slavery (see Nullification Crisis). Later, when the South desired to secede, this was President Lincoln's response to secession, not slavery, in his First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861: "No State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union." Lincoln was adamantly concerned about secession and not about slavery.
 
Lincoln, moreover, never sought a U.S. Supreme Court decision stating whether or not Southern Secession was constitutional; the nation’s highest court was its only judicial and lawful arbiter. Lincoln also suspended the writ of habeas corpus, and when approached by the Chief Justice, Lincoln threatened to imprison him. (See: Ex Parte Milligan, President Abraham Lincoln and the Supreme Court, President Abraham Lincoln and the Chief Justice, and President Abraham Lincoln and Ex Parte Merryman.)

It was only when Lincoln feared losing the Civil War (1861-1865) that he freed slaves in the South. "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it," wrote Lincoln in 1862. "What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union." (See 13th Amendment, U.S. Constitution, and President Abraham Lincoln and President Abraham Lincoln on Race.)
 
President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 did not free a single slave, and, issued only after the Confederacy seemed to be winning the war, Lincoln hoped to transform a disagreement over Secession into a crusade against slavery.

President Abraham Lincoln History
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President Lincoln with Gen. George B. McClellan and group of officers at Antietam, MD.

The proclamation, which also permitted and kept slavery intact in the border states, was a political decision to block the South from gaining recognition from England and France (The Trent Affair, Preventing Diplomatic Recognition of the Confederacy, and American Civil War and International Diplomacy). Whether slavery was intact or abolished, he stated that either was completely acceptable in order to preserve the Union.

 

Lincoln, who had previously obstructed the U.S. Supreme Court from convening and ruling on secession, merely invoked "freeing the slaves" midway through the Civil War as justification to preserve the Union. As president, he was completely and unequivocally pro-Union. So, was the war about freeing the slaves or denying Southern Secession? (See Southern States Secede: Secession of the South History.) Lincoln also didn't receive a single Southern electoral vote.

 

In addition, Lincoln unilaterally: declared war without the consent of Congress, suspended habeas corpus, arrested scores of political opponents and newspaper editors, and deployed troops to New York City to force conscription on an unwilling populace.

 

2) President Abraham Lincoln Echoes Northern Sentiment:

President Lincoln warned the South in his Inaugural Address: "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.... You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it."
 
Lincoln thought secession illegal, and was willing to use force to defend Federal law and the Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers (Lincoln's Call For Troops). Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within the Union. The Civil War had begun. (See Abraham Lincoln Timeline.)
 
As President, he built the Republican Party into a strong national organization. Further, he rallied most of the northern Democrats to the Union cause. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy.

Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg (commonly referred to as "The Gettysburg Address"): "that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
 
Lincoln won re-election in 1864, as Union military triumphs heralded an end to the war. In his planning for peace, the President was flexible and generous, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join speedily in reunion. The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds.... "
 
On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington by John Wilkes Booth, an actor, who somehow thought he was helping the South. The opposite was the result, for with Lincoln's death, the possibility of peace with magnanimity died.

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.

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Related Reading:

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, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, 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. Continued below...
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. (Also available in hardcover: Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe.)
 
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. 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. Continued below...
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: 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.

 

Recommended Reading: Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (Simon & Schuster Lincoln Library). Description: The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead he gave the whole nation "a new birth of freedom" in the space of a mere 272 words. His entire life and previous training and his deep political experience went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece. Continued below...

By examining both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew, and reveals much about a president so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln desired to change the world and…how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns, and how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken.

Try the Search Engine for Related Studies: President Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States, 16th U.S. President of the United State of America, Southern Secession Crisis, South States’ Rights US Constitution Supreme Court History

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