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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.

1811 In the spring, the Lincoln family moves to the 230-acre Knob Creek Farm 10 miles from Sinking Spring.
 
1812 A brother, Thomas, is born but lives only three days.
 
1816 In December, The Lincoln family moves across the Ohio River to the Little Pigeon Creek near present-day Gentryville, Indiana.
October 5, 1818 Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, dies of "milk sickness," one of several in the settlement who died. The illness is caused by drinking milk or eating meat from a cow that has eaten a toxic plant, white snakeroot.
 
December 2, 1819 Thomas Lincoln marries a widow, Sarah Bush Johnston, and becomes stepfather to her three children. Lincoln develops much affection for his stepmother.
 
1824 Lincoln, now 15, plows, plants, and does work-for-hire for neighbors. He attends school in the fall and winter, and borrows books and reads whenever possible.
 
1827 Lincoln earns his first dollar, ferrying passengers to steamboats on the Ohio River.
 
January 20, 1828 Lincoln's sister, Sarah Lincoln Grigsby, dies while giving birth.
 
April 1828 Lincoln and Allen Gentry take a flatboat of farm produce to New Orleans. Several black men attempt to rob them but Lincoln and Gentry fight them off. Lincoln observes a slave auction in New Orleans.
 
1830 The Lincolns move 200 miles to Illinois where they settle on uncleared land on the north bank of the Sangamon River near Decatur. Lincoln makes his first-ever political speech in favor of improving navigation on the Sangamon River.
 
1831 Lincoln makes a second flatboat trip to New Orleans after being hired by Denton Offutt with two others. When the Lincoln family moves again, Abraham stays behind and settles in New Salem, Illinois, working at Denton Offutt's store. Lincoln boards at a local tavern and befriends the owner's daughter, Ann Rutledge.
 
1832 In March, Lincoln announces his candidacy for the Illinois General Assembly, running on a platform for improved navigation on the Sangamon River, changes in usury laws, and universal education. Offutt's store is failing and goes out of business later this year.
 
The Black Hawk War breaks out in April and Lincoln forms the 31st Regiment of the Illinois Militia with his neighbors, who elect him as captain. His company is mustered out of service at the end of May and he enlists in another regiment for 20 days, then joins Captain Jacob M. Early's spy company from mid-June to July 10, when the company musters out. (In that era, "spy" was what is called "scout" today, and a scout back then was a spy.) Lincoln saw no military action during his months of service but does accompany a detail to retrieve and bury the bodies of several militiamen killed in a skirmish.
 
On August 6, Lincoln loses the election for General Assembly, coming in eighth out of 13 candidates.
 
1833 In January, Lincoln and William F. Berry purchase a store in New Salem, which fails by spring. In May, Lincoln is appointed Postmaster of New Salem. In the fall, the county surveyor also offers him a job as deputy county surveyor, which he would hold until 1837. He also meets a woman named Mary Owens, who lives in Kentucky and was visiting her sister in New Salem; they begin a courtship.
 
1834 Lincoln runs for public office again and on August 4, at the age of 24, is elected to the Illinois General Assembly as a member of the Whig Party. In the summer, he begins to study law, using books borrowed from John Todd Stuart, whom he had met during their service in the Black Hawk War. Lincoln takes a seat in the state government in Vandalia on December 1.
 
1835 When the state legislature adjourns in February, Lincoln returns to New Salem, resumes his surveying job, and continues his legal studies. On August 25, Ann Rutledge, who is thought by some to be Lincoln's first love, dies at age 22, probably from typhus.
 
1836 Lincoln is re-elected to the Illinois General Assembly on August 1 and receives his license to practice law on September 9. He begins a courtship of Mary Owens, 28. With other lawyers and representatives, he also begins to advocate for the state capitol to be moved to Springfield, which is closer to the geographic center of the state.
 
1837 In February, the General Assembly votes to move the state capitol to Springfield. On March 1, Lincoln is admitted to the Illinois Bar. Later in the year, he travels the 8th Judicial Circuit, which he would do twice a year every year until he becomes President, except 1847–1848, when he was in Congress.
 
On April 15, he leaves New Salem and settles in Springfield. He becomes a law partner of John Todd Stuart—he now has income from his law practice and from the state legislature. In the fall, Mary Owens returns to New Salem, but the courtship ends shortly after her return to Kentucky. 

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.

1839 Lincoln travels through nine counties in central and eastern Illinois as a lawyer on the 8th Judicial Circuit. On December 3, he is admitted to practice in the United States Circuit Court. He meets Mary Todd, 21, from Lexington, Kentucky, who is visiting her sister Elizabeth Todd Edwards. Elizabeth's husband, Ninian Wirt Edwards, son of Illinois' first governor, serves with Lincoln in the legislature.

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.

1851 On January 17, Lincoln's father, Thomas, dies from a kidney ailment at the age of 73 in Coles County, Illinois. Lincoln does not attend the funeral.
 
1853 On April 4, Thomas "Tad" Lincoln is born.

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.

1860 On February 27, 1860, Lincoln delivers the Cooper Union Address. In March, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates are published. On May 18, Lincoln is nominated for President at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. 

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.

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina secedes from the Union, followed within two months by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

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 12 at about 4:30 a.m., Confederate artillery opens fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. 

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.

On September 22, the President issues the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. 

December 31, the President signs a bill admitting West Virginia to the Union as the 35th state.

1863 On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issues the final Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in territories held by Confederates.
On July 3, the Battle of Gettysburg ends—the Confederate defeat is a turning point of the war. On July 4, Vicksburg, Mississippi, capitulates to the army of Ulysses S. Grant.
 
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.

 1865 On March 4, the inauguration ceremonies are held in Washington, D.C. and President Lincoln delivers his Second Inaugural Address.

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.

On December 6, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, is finally ratified and slavery is abolished.

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.

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