2/25/2018
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Abraham Lincoln's Birthday

Abraham Lincoln took the office of President of the United States in 1861 and served until he was assassinated in 1865.

The celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday is in recognition of the love and respect he earned for his leadership during one of the most traumatic periods in American history.

Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in the state of Kentucky, the second child of Thomas and Mary Hanks Lincoln. At age 7, his family moved to Spencer County, Indiana. His mother died when he was 9 years old. A year later, his father married Sarah Bush Johnston.

Life was hard on the American frontier and most days were filled with hard work. Lincoln grew in statue reaching 6 ft. 4 in. in height and became very muscular. He developed a reputation for being a hardworking young man.

His stepmother encouraged him to learn to read and write even though there were very few schools and even fewer books. Although Abraham had very little formal education, he was a quick learner. He taught himself to read and write by borrowing books, newspapers, and other printed materials from people in the surrounding towns.

In 1830, Abraham's father decided to move the family to Illinois. A year later, he moved them again and it was at that time that the 22 year old Abraham decided to leave home and start a life of his own.

He took a job working on a barge that transported slaves down the Mississippi River to New Orleans for sale. He became disgusted with how slaves were treated and developed a strong belief that slavery was inherently wrong.

Once he got back to Illinois, Lincoln decided to teach himself law, passed the Illinois state bar in 1836, and started representing people in court. This is where he earned the nickname, "Honest Abe." During this time, he also started running for political offices in Illinois, some of which he won. In 1846, he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Lincoln became famous for his speeches, quick wit, and his calm political demeanor. His reputation grew as he participated in debates about slavery and other issues of the time, especially debates with his political rival, Stephen A. Douglas.

In 1860, Lincoln won the Republican nomination for president and won the election. On March 4, 1861, he took the oath of office to become the 16th President of the United States.

As a candidate, Lincoln ran on a platform that was decidedly anti slavery. He felt that slavery was in violation of the Declaration of Independence. He was also against the Kansas-Nebraska Act that gave western states the right to determine whether or not they would allow slavery within their borders.

As the president elect, Lincoln inherited a developing crisis that would rip the fabric of American solidarity and subsequently lead to a long and devastating conflict that pitted northern and southern states against each other.

His first days in office were focused on trying to preserve the integrity of the United States of America that, for many years prior to him winning the election, had become bitterly divided over the question of slavery.

Within a few short months of Lincoln winning the presidential election of 1861, southern states began seceding from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. Soon thereafter, confederate troops opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.

To Lincoln, this was an unacceptable development. He felt that his options were limited and there was no alternative but to respond with military force. Thus began the American Civil War that saw almost a million soldiers from both sides killed or missing in action and nearly 2 million more injured.

Throughout his presidency, Lincoln was steadfast in his belief that the Union should be preserved at all costs. Those who doubted his abilities to lead were amazed at the skills and tenacity he brought to the presidency.

In 1863, Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation in which all slaves were freed in the states that had succeeded from the Union. This set the stage for the abolition of slavery in all states and U.S. territories.

On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address, one of the most noted and influential speeches in American history. The speech was given at Gettysburg cemetery near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the location of the most horrific battle ever fought on American soil. During the battle, a combined total of over 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were either killed, wounded, or went missing in action.

The Gettysburg Address has become one of the most famous speeches ever given. It has been taught, studied, and memorized by millions of people since President Lincoln gave it on that November day.

With the expected defeat of the Confederacy in the news, Lincoln was re-elected to the presidency in 1864. He decided that the best way to heal the nation was to have the Confederate states rejoin the Union as quickly as possible.

He felt that even though the years of war had taken a heavy toll on the lives of millions of people on both sides of the conflict, it would be prudent to show compassion towards the south.

Most southerners appreciated the gesture by Lincoln but before he could put his plan in action, he was assassinated on April 14, 1865 by John Wilkes Boothe, a Confederate sympathizer. With his death, the nation moved slower to establish a peaceful resolution to the war.

President Abraham Lincoln has become one of the most famous and highly regarded presidents of the United States. His name is often used to underscore honesty, compassion, and prudence.

Since the birthdays of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln fall in February, the 3rd Monday of February, called President's Day, was created under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to honor all presidents.

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