Abraham Lincoln Timeline
A timeline about the life and career of Abraham Lincoln
February 12, 1809 Abraham Lincoln is born in a one-room log cabin at Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He is the second child born to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy (Hanks) Lincoln—daughter Sarah was born February 10, 1807.
1838 In March, Henry Truett is charged with the murder of Dr. Jacob Early and Lincoln prepares his defense. On August 6, Lincoln is re-elected to the General Assembly and becomes Whig Floor Leader. In October, Truett is acquitted after a three-day trial.
1840 In June, Lincoln argues his first case before the Illinois Supreme Court. On August 3, he is re-elected to the Illinois General Assembly for the fourth and last time. In the fall, he reportedly becomes engaged to Mary Todd, or they at least have "an understanding."
1841 January 1, Lincoln breaks off the engagement with Mary Todd. (Some say this occurred during the final week of December.) On March 1, he forms a new law partnership with Stephen T. Logan.
1842 Lincoln does not seek re-election to the Illinois General Assembly. In September, he accepts a challenge to a duel by Democratic state auditor James Shields but the duel is averted. Over the summer, Lincoln and Mary Todd resume their courtship and marry on November 4. They live at the Globe Tavern in Springfield.
1843 On August 1, Mary gives birth to Robert Todd Lincoln, who is named in honor of Mary’s father. Late in the year they move to a rented cottage.
1844 In May, the Lincolns move into a house in Springfield, bought for $1,500. Lincoln campaigns for Henry Clay in the presidential election. In December, he dissolves his law partnership with Logan, then sets up his own practice, accepting William Herndon as his partner.
1846 On March 10, Mary gives birth to their second son, Edward "Eddie" Baker Lincoln. On May 1, Lincoln is nominated to be the Whig candidate for U.S. Congress—he is elected on August 3. The first known photographs are taken of the Lincolns some time after his election.
1847 U.S. Representative Lincoln moves into a boarding house in Washington, D.C., with his wife and two sons, but Mary soon takes the boys and goes to stay with her stepmother, Betsey Humphreys Todd, in Kentucky. On December 6, he takes his seat in the House of Representatives. On December 22, Lincoln presents resolutions questioning President James K. Polk about the Mexican-American War, asking where the spot was that American troops were killed by Mexican troops, the justification for declaring War. He is nicknamed "Spotty Lincoln;" his opposition to Polk’s war seemed for a time to have ended his political career. He also becomes known for opposing slavery during this term in the House.
1848 On January 22, Lincoln gives a speech on floor of the House against Polk’s Mexican-American War policies. He campaigns for General Zachary Taylor as the Whig nominee for president in Maryland, Boston, Massachusetts, New York, then in Illinois as he and his family travel over the summer.
1849 Lincoln fails to be appointed commissioner of the General Land Office and on March 31, returns to Springfield, leaving politics to practice law. On May 22, Abraham Lincoln is granted U.S. Patent No. 6,469 for buoying vessels over shoals—he is the only president ever granted a patent.
1850 February 1, Edward Lincoln dies a month before his fourth birthday, of what was thought to be diphtheria but which may have been tuberculosis. Lincoln resumes his travels in the 8th Judicial Circuit. On December 21, Mary give birth to another son, William "Willie" Wallace Lincoln, named for the husband of her sister Frances.
1854 Lincoln re-enters politics to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Act and is elected to the Illinois legislature but declines the seat, hoping instead to become a U.S. Senator.
1855 Lincoln loses the election for U.S. Senator; at this time, senators were chosen by the Illinois House of Representatives, not by direct election.
1856 Lincoln helps organize the new Republican Party of Illinois and in May at the first Republican convention, Lincoln gets 110 votes for the vice-presidential nomination—he gains national attention but loses the nomination to William Lewis Dayton. He campaigns in Illinois for the Republican presidential candidate, John C. Frémont.
1857 On June 26, Lincoln speaks against the Dred Scott Decision in Springfield.
1858 On June 16, Lincoln receives the Republican nomination for Senator from Illinois, opposing Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. He gives his House Divided speech at the state convention in Springfield. He and Douglas also engage in a series of seven debates known today as the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.
1859 In a 54 to 46 vote, the Illinois legislature elects Douglas for the U.S. Senate over Lincoln. In the fall, Lincoln makes his last trip through the 8th Judicial Circuit.
In July, Robert Lincoln enrolls at Harvard University.
On November 6, Lincoln is elected as the 16th President of the United States, receiving 180 of 303 electoral votes and about 40 percent of the popular vote in a five-way election. He is the first Republican President.
1861 On February 11, President-elect Lincoln gives a brief farewell speech to friends and supporters in Springfield and leaves with Mary and Tad by train for Washington, D.C. They arrive February 23 and on March 4, Lincoln delivers his First Inaugural Address during inauguration ceremonies on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building.
On April 15, President Lincoln calls for 75,000 volunteers to serve three months in the Union army. The Civil War has begun.
On July 21, 1861, the Union Army suffers a humiliating defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run. The President realizes the war will be long.
1862 On February 20, 1862, William Lincoln dies at age 11 of typhus. Mary Todd Lincoln is devastated and, some say, never fully recovers.
April 16, 1862, Lincoln signs an act that abolishes slavery in the District of Columbia.
On May 20, Lincoln approves the Federal Homestead Law.
On September 17, General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate armies are stopped at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland, the bloodiest day in U.S. history.
December 31, the President signs a bill admitting West Virginia to the Union as the 35th state.
On November 19, Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address at a ceremony dedicating the battlefield as a National Cemetery. Though not well received at the time, it will take its place among the most famous speeches in history
1864 On March 12, Lincoln appoints Ulysses S. Grant as General-in-Chief of all the Federal armies. William T. Sherman succeeds Grant as Commander in the West.
June 8, Lincoln is nominated for a second term as President.
July 11–12, Fort Stevens on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., is unsuccessfully attacked by a Confederate force under Lieutenant General Jubal A. Early. Lincoln and Mary watch the battle from the fort.
On September 2, Sherman’s army captures Atlanta and in November the President, on advice from Grant, approves Sherman’s "March to the Sea."
On November 8, Lincoln is re-elected, defeating Democrat George B. McClellan—Lincoln gets 212 of 233 electoral votes and 55 percent of the popular vote.
December 20, Sherman reaches Savannah, Georgia, leaving a path of destruction 60 miles wide all the way from Atlanta.
On April 9, General Robert E. Lee surrenders his Confederate Army to General Ulysses S. Grant following the Battle of Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The following day, celebrations break out in Washington.
On April 11, Lincoln makes his last public speech, which focuses on the problems of reconstruction.
On April 14, Lincoln and his wife, Mary, see the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater. About 10:13 p.m., during the third act of the play, John Wilkes Booth shoots the 56-year old president in the head. Doctors attend to the president in the theater then move him to a house across the street. He never regains consciousness and dies at 7:22 the following the morning.
On April 19, Lincoln’s funeral procession proceeds down Pennsylvania Avenue. On April 21, a nine-car funeral train with 300 dignitaries begins the journey from Washington, D.C.. to Springfield, Illinois.
On April 26, John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed in a tobacco barn in Virginia.
On May 4, Lincoln is laid to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery, outside Springfield, Illinois.
1876 A gang of counterfeiters attempt to steal Lincoln’s body, intending to trade it in exchange for one of their members being released from prison. The plot fails.
1897 Abraham Lincoln Memorial University is established at Harrowgate in East Tennessee to honor the late president.
1901 Robert Todd Lincoln orders that his father be buried under several tons of concrete to insure the body will not be disturbed again.
1909 in honor of the centennial of Lincoln’s birth, his image is placed on the one-cent piece.
1914 Lincoln’s face is placed on the first five-dollar Federal Reserve Bank Note.
May 30, 1922 President Warren G. Harding officially dedicates the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.