Lincoln Timeline


1809




Born February 12, in log cabin on Nolin Creek, three miles south of present-day Hodgenville in Hardin (now Larue) County, Kentucky, second child (sister is Sarah) of pioneer farmer and carpenter Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Named Abraham after paternal grandfather.

1811


Moves with family to 230-acre farm on Knob Creek, eleven miles northeast of Hodgenville.

1812


Brother Thomas born. He dies in infancy.

1815


Attends school with Sarah for short period in fall.

1816



Briefly attends school with sister in fall. Father, who is involved in suit over title to his land, moves family across Ohio River to southwestern Indiana in December. There they settle in backwoods community along Little Pigeon Creek in Perry (later Spencer) County. Family lives in three-sided shelter for several weeks until log cabin is built.

1817


Helps father clear land for planting on 80-acre plot.

1818



Mother dies of milk sickness on October 5 and is buried on knoll a quarter mile from cabin.

1819


On December 2, father marries Sarah Bush Johnston, 31-year-old widow with three children during visit to Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

1824


Helps with plowing and planting and works for neighbors for hire. Attends school in fall and winter. Reads family Bible, and borrows books whenever possible.

1827


Works as boatman and farmhand at junction of Anderson Creek and the Ohio River, near Troy, Indiana.

1828


Sister Sarah, now married to Aaron Grigsby, dies in child­birth on January 20. In April, Lincoln and Allen Gentry leave Rockport, Indiana, on flatboat trip to New Orleans with cargo of farm produce.

1830


In March, moves with family to Illinois, where they settle on uncleared land ten miles southwest of Decatur in Ma­con County. Makes first known political speech, in favor of improving navigation on Sangamon River, at campaign meeting in Decatur.

1831


Builds flatboat with two others and makes second trip to New Orleans, carrying corn, live hogs, and barreled pork. Returns to Illinois in summer and moves to village of New Salem, twenty miles northwest of Springfield in Sangamon County (family has moved to Coles County, Illinois). Clerks in general store, where he sleeps in the back, helps run mill, and does odd jobs. Becomes friends with tavernkeeper James Rutledge, his daughter Ann, and school­master Mentor Graham. Learns basic mathematics, reads Shakespeare and Robert Burns, and participates in local debating society.

1832


Announces candidacy for Illinois House of Representatives in March. Volun­teers for Illinois militia at outbreak of Black Hawk Indian War in early April and is elected company captain. Loses election on August 6, running eighth in field of thirteen candidates seeking four seats. Becomes partner in New Salem general store with William F. Berry.

1833


Store fails and leaves Lincoln deeply in debt. Appointed postmaster of New Salem in May (serves until office is moved to nearby Petersburg in 1836). Studies sur­veying with Mentor Graham’s help after being appointed deputy surveyor of Sangamon County.

1834


Elected as a Whig on August 4 ­to Illinois House of Representatives. Takes his seat on December 1 at capital in Vandalia. Meets Stephen A. Douglas, 21-year-old lawyer active in Democratic party politics.

1835


Ann Rutledge dies on August 25 from fever at age twenty-two.

1836


Wins reelection on August 1. Receives license to prac­tice law on September 9.

1837


Lincoln and others lead successful campaign to move state capital from Vandalia to Spring­field. Be­comes law partner of John T. Stuart and begins extensive and varied civil and criminal practice.

1838


Delivers address on “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions” to the Springfield Young Men’s Lyceum on January 27. Reelected to the legis­lature August 6. Nominated for speaker, but is defeated.

1839


Lincoln makes first ex­tensive trip on Illinois Eighth Judicial Circuit. Becomes acquainted with Mary Todd, 21-year-old daughter of prominent Kentucky Whig banker, sister-in-law of Illinois Whig legislator Ninian W. Edwards.

1840


Campaigns for Whig presidential candidate, William Henry Harrison,, debating Douglas and others. Argues his first case before Illinois Supreme Court in June (Lincoln will appear before it in over 240 cases). Reelected to the legislature August 3. Becomes engaged to Mary Todd in fall.

1841


Breaks engagement with Mary Todd on January 1. Dissolves part­nership with Stuart and forms new partnership with Stephen T. Logan, prominent Illinois Whig.

1842


Marries Mary Todd on Novem­ber 4 in parlor of her sister’s Springfield mansion, then moves with her into room in the Globe Tavern.

1843


Unsuccessfully seeks Whig nomination for Congress. Son Robert Todd Lincoln born August 1.

1844


Lincolns move in May into house, bought for $1,500, at Eighth and Jackson streets in Springfield. Campaigns for Henry Clay in the presidential election. Partnership with Logan is dissolved in December. Lincoln establishes his own practice and takes 26-year-old William H. Hern­don as junior partner.

1846


Second son, Edward Baker Lincoln, born March 10. Elected to U.S. House of Representatives on August 3, defeating Democrat Peter Cartwright, a Methodist preacher, by 6,340 to 4,829 votes.

1847


Takes seat in the House of Representatives when Thirtieth Congress convenes on December 6. Presents resolutions on December 22 re­questing President Polk to inform the House whether the “spot” where hostilities with Mexico began was or was not on Mexican soil.

1848


Campaigns for Zachary Taylor in Maryland and Massachusetts; meets former New York governor William H. Seward at Whig rally in Boston.

1849


Votes to exclude slavery from federal territories and abol­ish slave trade in the District of Columbia. Ap­plies for patent (later granted) on device for reducing draft of steamboats in shallow water. Returns to Springfield on March 31. Goes to Washington in June in pursuit of position as commissioner of the General Land Office, but fails to receive appointment from the new Taylor administration. Resumes law practice in Illinois. Declines appoint­ment as secretary and then as governor of Oregon Territory.

1850


Son Edward dies on February 1 after illness of nearly two months. Lincoln returns to Eighth Judicial Circuit (now covering fourteen counties). Third son, William Wallace (Willie), born December 21.

1851


Father dies on January 17.

1852


Wife joins First Presbyterian Church in Springfield. Lin­coln rents a pew and attends at times but never himself becomes a member of any church.

1853


Fourth son, Thomas (Tad), born April 4.

1854


Congress passes the Kansas-Nebraska Act on May 22, repealing antislavery restriction in the Missouri Com­promise. Elected to legis­lature, but declines seat to become eligible for election to the United States Senate.

1855


Goes to Cincinnati in September to appear for defense in McCormick v. Manny, a federal patent infringement suit. Is excluded form case by other defense attorneys, including Edwin Stanton of Pittsburg. Lincoln’s earnings now total about $5,000 a year.
1856Joins in founding Republican Party of Illinois at convention in Bloomington, May 29, and inspires delegates with address that goes unrecorded (later known as the “Lost Speech”).

1857


Delivers major speech against Dred Scott decision in Springfield on June 26.

1858


In May, wins acquittal for William (Duff) Armstrong, son of New Salem friends Jack and Hannah Armstrong, by using almanac to discredit testimony of key prosecution witness as to height of the moon at time of alleged mur­der. Accepts endorsement on June 16 by the Republican state convention at Springfield as its “first and only choice” for Senate seat held by Douglas and delivers “House­ Divided” speech. On July 24, invites Douglas to “divide time” on the same platform for remainder of campaign. Douglas declines, but agrees to seven debates, which are held on August 21, 27, September 15, 18, and October 7, 13, 15.

1859


Legislature reelects Douglas over Lincoln to the Senate on January 5 by vote of 54 to 46.

1860


Delivers address on slavery and the framers of the Consti­tution to audience of 1,500 at Cooper Union in New York City on February 27. Wins nomination for president on the third ballot, May 18, defeating main rival Senator William H. Seward of New York as well as Senator Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, Senator Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, and Edward Bates of Missouri. Defeats Stephen A. Douglas (Northern Democratic), John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky (Southern Democratic), and John Bell of Tennessee (Constitutional Union) to become first Repub­lican president. South Carolina secedes from the Union on December 20, and 10 states follow.

1861


Leaves Springfield by train on February 11, making brief speeches and appearances in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. Warned in Philadelphia that he might be assassinated in Baltimore, travels secretly to Washington on night of February 22-23. Inaugurated on March 4. Confederates open fire on the Fort Sumter, South Carolina, April 12, and its garrison surrenders two days later. On April 15, Lincoln calls forth 75,000 militia. On April 19, Lincoln proclaims blockade of Southern ports. April 27 he authorizes the military to sus­pend the writ of habeas corpus along the Philadelphia­ Washington railroad line. Follows progress of battle and Union defeat at Bull Run, July 21, from War Department telegraph office (will receive news and send orders from there for remainder of war). On September 11, revokes General John C. Fre­mont’s proclamation of emancipation in Missouri, bitterly disappointing many antislavery advocates. In message to Congress, December 3, recommends program of emanci­pation and colonization for slaves confiscated from Con­federate owners.

1862


Son Willie falls ill in early February (probably with typhoid fever) and dies on February 20. Wife is overcome with grief and never recovers emotion­ally. Signs act on April 16 abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. Signs the Homestead Act on May 20 providing that 250 million acres of free land to settle on public domain land. To escape the heat, moves with family in early June to cottage at Soldiers’ Home on hill four miles northwest of White House (will live there each sum­mer). Issues order on June 26 that consolidates Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Virginia as the Army of Virginia, under General John Pope. Signs Pacific Railroad Act and bill providing land grants for agricultural colleges on July 2. Relieves Pope after his defeat at the second battle of Bull Run, Au­gust 29-30, and places his army under McClellan’s com­mand. Union victory at Antietam on September 17 ends Lee’s invasion of Maryland. Lincoln issues prelimi­nary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, to take effect January 1, 1863, in all territory still in rebellion against the national government. Replaces McClellan with Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac on No­vember 5. In annual message to Congress, December 1, recommends constitutional amendment au­thorizing gradual, compensated emancipation. Army of the Potomac suffers costly defeat at Fredericksburg on December 13. Signs bill on December 31 admitting West Virginia to the Union.

1864


On January 1, issues the Emancipation Proclamation free­ing all slaves in Confederate-held territory. Battle of Chancellorsville, May 1-4, ends in Union defeat. Greatly encouraged by Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg on July 3 and by capture of Vicksburg, last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi, by Grant’s army on July 4. Discusses recruitment and treat­ment of Negro troops with abolitionist Frederick Doug­lass at White House on August 10; Douglass is impressed by seriousness with which Lincoln receives him. Delivers dedicatory address at the Gettysburg Cemetery on November 19 to audience of 15,000-20,000. Ill with varioloid (mild form of smallpox) for three weeks after return to Washington.

1864


On March 12, appoints Grant general-in-chief of the armies. Nominated for president June 8 on first ballot by nearly unanimous vote of the National Union Convention, a coalition of Republicans and War Demo­crats. Convention en­dorses proposed constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. Observes fighting on outskirts of Washington from parapet of Fort Stevens during unsuccessful Confed­erate attack, July 11-12, and comes under fire. Capture of Atlanta by Sher­man’s army on September 2. November 8, defeats Democratic nominee, General George B. McClellan, winning 55 per­cent of popular vote and 212 of 233 electoral votes.

1865


Uses influence to gain some Democratic support in House of Representatives for resolution proposing submission of Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, to states for ratification (Senate had approved amendment in April 1864). House passes resolution by three-vote margin on January 31. Inaugurated for second term on March 4. April 9 Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomat­tox Court House. Makes last public speech on April 11, devoting it mainly to problems of reconstruction. Shot in the head by well-known actor John Wilkes Booth while watching performance of comedy Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater shortly after 10 P.M., April 14. Dies in nearby house without regaining consciousness at 7:22 A.M., April 15. Burial in Oak Ridge Ceme­tery, outside Springfield, on May 4.