This is a report I did for school, and since his birthday was last week and today is President's Day, I thought I would share :)
There has been one man that had stood above the crowd for decades. People looked up to and respected him; a deep feeling of love surrounded them as they gazed up at his picture. However, through the years, some historians have pushed him down, his good name slandered and blackened. Some cannot even speak his good name without sneering. This man’s name is Abraham Lincoln.
I always felt a deep respect for the man, maybe because I was born on his birthday, or maybe his deep, wise looking eyes drew my attention. Whatever the reason, I have had a love for him as long as I can remember. People tell me he was an unjust man, very against religion, and a politically incorrect President. I never believed this and decided to find out about the real Abe Lincoln, how he really thought, and if these things were true. I have tried to get as close to him as I could, by reading eyewittness accounts by people who knew him, his letters, and his speeches. Moreover, in my observations, I have found only an honorable man, deep in his faith and love for his country. But I can’t give you my word. Its best you read and see for yourself. So now, let me start at the beginning, when a legend was born.
Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin on February 12, 1809, in the small town of Hodgerville, Kentucky to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Thomas and Nancy had two other children along with Abraham. Sarah, the oldest and baby Thomas Jr. who died in infancy.
His father, had no education, but could write his name, only “bunglingly”, according to the President. His mother could not write at all, not read a simple letter. Abe was named after his grandfather, the first Captain Lincoln, who was killed by an Indian while working his field. The story goes to say that Thomas, Abe’s father, witnessed the murder, and would have been a victim as well, if his brother Mordecai had not shot the attacker.
Abe often said, in later years, that his life had been very poor. His clothes were often rags, the small cabin cramped. Due to a land dispute, his father moved to Indiana. Where Abe’s mother, Nancy, died of milk sickness. This is a disease obtained from drinking the milk of cows that had grazed on poisonous snakeroot. Abe was only nine years old.
Thomas Lincoln then re-married Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow with three children, said to be his childhood sweetheart. She was a woman with a rosy face, curly hair, and a sweet disposition.
When Sarah Bush Johnston came to the Lincoln home, it was as sorry sight, and the children were very ragged. She took one look at Abe and folded him in her arms. “Howdy, Abe Lincoln.”
The sweet woman made Abe and his sister Sarah new clothes that fit, and cleaned up the shambled house. She had a deep love for Abe, and knew he was somebody special who didn’t belong to her, but was hers to keep for a while.
Abe had gone to school for very little of time, but he loved to read. Thomas thought it was all foolishness, but Sarah encouraged the young boy, much to the father’s displeasure. Abe was never really very close to his father after that.
He loved to write, too, and was always jotting something down. He’d often read them aloud to Sarah, ending with, “Did I make it plain?” She would always answer him the best she could.
They told each other things they would never tell anyone else. Abe had dreams he seemed to think were hopeless, but Sarah always encouraged him.
In 1830, Thomas moved the family to Illinois, where he and Abe built a two-room cabin together.
The place was barely built when Abe decided it was time to move on his own.
At first he would come home often, but after he became a lawyer, it was only twice a year. Every time Sarah saw him, his mind seemed bigger, growing with more and more wisdom. He would tell her all about his political battles, and his marriage to Mary Todd.
Sarah wasn’t the crying kind, but she cried when he was elected President.
Then, many years later, they came and told her he was dead. The newspapers wrote a long article about his real mother, but Sarah was not mentioned.
When asked what sort of boy he was, it was hard for the sad woman to answer.
“Abe was a good boy. He never gave me a crossword or look. He loved me truly, I think.”
In addition, when Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am I owe to my angel mother,” he was meaning a sweet gentle woman with soft eyes and heart full of love and devotion. He was speaking of Sarah, his beloved stepmother.
Life on his own
In the spring of 1831, Lincoln left his parents to try to find his own way. He was hired on a flatboat bound for New Orleans. After this successful journey, he then settled in the small village of New Salem, where he set up a store. This did not last long. When a group of men in the militia left for the Black Hawk War, he enlisted and was elected Captain. He also became a surveyor. A general under Andrew Jackson offered Abe a job of surveying some country at the pay of $600. Abe refused. His friend asked him why, astonished.
“I need the money bad enough, Simmons, as you know; But I never have been under obligation to Democratic administration, and I never intend to be so long as I can get my living another way.”
It was in 1832, when he first ran for a seat in the state legislature. He lost.
However, he won in the next election and also created the Republican Party.
In 1833, he met Ann Rutledge, a young blue-eyed woman with a sweet smile. He fell in love with this young woman and after being in State legislative, they were engaged. Abe would ride from New Salem to the Rutledge farm, where he and Ann would spend hours talking and planning. However, the happiness of the two was threatened when Ann became sick, believed to may be typhoid. She died at her home, leaving Abe full of sorrow and grief. He was struck with sadness, and would tell friends of her grave, “I can’t bear to think of her out there alone.”
Historians debate wether or not Lincoln really did love Ann or if they were only friends. However, old acquaintances insisted the story was true. It is said that many years later, after Lincoln's first election as President, Isaac Cogdal, Lincoln's old friend, ventured to ask whether it was true that Lincoln had fallen in love with Ann.
“It is true- true indeed I did," Lincoln replied. "I loved the woman dearly and soundly: she was a handsome girl- would have made a good loving wife...I did honestly and truly love the girl and think often-often of her now.”
Mary Todd Lincoln
Abe met Mary Todd at a dance in her sister’s home. It is said they had an on-again off-again courtship. They married on November 4, 1842. Although Mary had temper, Abe loved her deeply, and was known to have said,
“My wife is as handsome as when she was a girl, and I, a poor nobody then, fell in love with her; and what is more, I have never fallen out.”
The couple had Robert Lincoln in 1843, and then Edward, “Eddie” in 1846. Sadly, in December 1849, little Eddie became sick with what was thought to be dipthieria, but many belive to be tuberculosous. Mary desprately did all she could, but the child died on February, 1, 1850. He was not even four years old.
The couple was thrown into deep grief, and was forever scarred by the memory of the little child lying cold and still in bed.
Ten months later, William, “Willie” was born.
Thomas “Tad” was born on April 4, 1853.
Abraham Lincoln gave him his nickname because of his constant “wiggling” as an infant, likening to a tadpole.
President of the United States
When Abe ran for office, many people couldn’t believe this homely, rather awkward man could ever think of being elected. He was nicknamed ‘The Rail-Splitter’ because of his work as a young man splitting rails for fences. Much to the surprise of everyone, Abraham Lincoln showed he had a remarkable way with people. He soon won the affection of the American people with his slow smile, quick wit, and his remarkable wisdom.
On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office and became the 16th President of the United States. After the election, the Southern States saw this Republican (who was known throughout the nation as antislavery) as a threat to their way of life.
Prior to what many people say, the South wanted the right to keep slaves, as this was the main source of their economy. They felt it was injust for any man to tell them that what they were doing was moraly wrong.
And so, when Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office, South Carolina succeded from the Union.
Soon, others States followed. And then on April 12, 1861, Rebal soldiers fired upon Fort Sumter, South Carolina.
The Civil War had begun.
Abe ‘The Rail-Splitter’ now had a war on his hands. Lincoln felt a deep sorrow at the thought of fighting other Americans, who were only doing what they thought, was right. But he knew he had to put a stop to the rebellion if the Union would forever be.
F.B Carpenter wrote,
“During the first week of the battles of the Wilderness he scarcely slept at all. Passing through the main hall of the domestic apartment on one of these days, I met him, clad in a long morning wrapper, pacing back and forth a narrow passage leading to one of the windows, his hands behind him, great black rings under his eyes, his head bent forward upon his breast,---altogether such a picture of the effects of sorrow, care, and anxiety as would have melted the hearts of the worst of his adversaries, who so mistakenly applied to him the epithets of tyrant and usurper. With sorrow almost divine, he, too, could have said of the rebellious States,
‘How often I would have gathered you together, even as a hen gathered her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’
Like another Jeremiah, he wept over the desolations of the nation; “He mourned the slain daughter of his people.”
Lincoln showed his love for even the enemy when the Washington “Chronicle” published a section on the death of Stonewall Jackson, speaking kindly of his bravery. Lincoln wrote a letter thanking the writer for speaking kindly of a fallen foe. These were his words:
“I honor you for your generosity to one who, though contending against in a guilty cause, was nevertheless a gallant man. Let us forget his sins over his fresh-made grave.”
The war lasted four bloody years, and President Lincoln felt the burden of it all. Many people came, begging for the lives of their loved ones, and many times, tears would form in his eyes as he promised he would do his best.
Referring to Mr. Lincoln’s disposition to pardon or commute the majority of the death sentences Judge Holt remarked,
“The President is without exception the most tender-hearted man I ever knew.”
A mother went to the President and begged for his help to release her son. Lincoln allowed her, but sadly, the son died. The woman once again made her way to the White House, where Lincoln recognized her and listened to her story and said, “I know what you wish me to do now, and I shall do it without your asking; I shall release your second son.”
While he was writing out his the order, the poor woman stood by his side and passed her hand over his hair, just as a mother would a son, tears running down her cheeks. By the time he finished, Lincoln’s eyes were full as well. She took the paper and laid her hand again on his head, saying, her voice chocked with emotion, “The Lord Bless you, Mr. Lincoln. May you live a thousand years, and may you always be the head of this great nation!”
One woman visited the President, begging for the pardon of her young son. Lincoln promptly granted her wish, and she was escorted out of the White House. Suddenly she blurted, “I knew it was a copperhead lie!”
When asked what she meant she answered, “Why, they told me he was an ugly looking man. He is the handsomest man I ever saw in my life!”
The blacks loved Abraham Lincoln deeply, some referring to him as Moses. Whenever he passed by, they would all sing and shout, crying, “God bress Massa Lincoln!”
The President was always deeply touched by the affection of these people and once told Colonel McKaye, his voice deep with emotion, “It is a momentous thing to be the instrument, under Providence, of the liberation of a race.”
Once a memorial was presented to the President by children of Concord, Mass., petitioning for the freedom of all slave children. In reply:
“Tell those little people I am very glad their young hearts are so full of just and generous sympathy, and that while I have not the power to grant all they ask, I trust they will remember that God has; and that as it seems He wills to do it.
When it finally came time for the Emancipation Proclamation, the President said,
“I promised my God I would do it!”
Secretary Chase was the only one who heard him mutter this and asked if he understood him correctly. Lincoln replied,
‘I made a solemn vow before God, that if General Lee was driven back from Pennsylvania, I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves.’
When Lincoln signed the Emancipation, he lifted the pen, and then set it back down. He repeated this once more then turned to Secretary Seward and said,
“I have been shaking hands since nine o’clock this morning, and my right arm is almost paralyzed. If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter, will say, “He hesitated.”’
He then turned back to the table, took up the pen again, and slowly, firmly wrote, ‘Abraham Lincoln’.
Then he looked up, smiled and said, “That will do.”
In September, The Emancipation Proclamation was written and the colored Americans were proclaimed forever free.
One freed slave woman visited the White House and told the President, “I believe God has hewn you out of a rock, for this great and mighty purpose. Many have been led away by bribes of gold, of silver, of presents; but you have stood firm, because God was with you, and if you are faithful to the end, He will be with you.”
Lincoln’s eyes filled with tears and thanked her kindly, but said, “You must not give me the praise---it belongs to God.”
While granting pardons, dealing with his generals and the war; deep inside the White House, Abraham Lincoln was dealing with a deep bitter hurt.
On February 20, 1862, young Willie Lincoln, only twelve years old, died of what is believed to be typhoid fever. Tad cried for days, as he and Willie were very close, causing mischief everywhere they went. Mary was so distraught Abe feared for her sanity, and he himself was in a deep depression.
This is one of the most moving stories I have ever read about the President. It is a passage from F.B. Carpenter’s book, “The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln. Six Months in the White House.”
Most of my facts I gathered are from this book, written by a young painter who personally knew President Lincoln, as he stayed in the White House for six months painting a portrait of the President and his Cabinet (shown at the top).
After Willie’s death, the President stayed at home and would not see anyone. Then Rev. Francis Vinton came to call. He told the mourning father that these feelings, although natural, were sinful.
*“Your son,” said Dr. Vinton “is alive, in Paradise. Do you remember that passage in the Gospels?
'God is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live unto him’?
The President had listened as one in a stupor, until his ear caught the words, ‘Your son is alive.”
Starting from the sofa, he exclaimed, “Alive! Alive! Surely you mock me.”
“No, sir, believe me,” Replied Dr. Vinton; “it is the most comforting doctrine of the church, founded upon the words of Christ himself.”
Mr. Lincoln looked at him a moment and the, stepping forward, he threw his arms around the clergyman’s neck, and, laying his head upon his breast, sobbed aloud.
“Alive? Alive?” He repeated.
“My dear sir,” said Dr. Vinton, greatly moved, as he twined his own arm around the weeping father.
“Believe this, for it is God’s most precious truth. Seek not your son among the dead; He is not there; He lives today in Paradise!
Think of the full import of the words I have quoted. The Sadducees, when they questioned Jesus, had no other conception than that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were dead and buried. Mark the reply: ’Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush when he called the Lord God of Abraham , the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live unto him!’
Did not the aged patriarch mourn his son’s dead?
‘Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin also.’
But Joseph and Simeon were both living, though he believed it not. Indeed, Joseph being taken from him was the eventual means of the preservation of the whole family. And so God has called your son into His upper Kingdom--a kingdom and existence as real, more real, than your own. It may be that he too, like Joseph, has gone in God’s good providence, to be the salvation of his father’s household. It is part of the Lord’s plan for the ultimate happiness of you and yours. Doubt it not…”*
The President was deeply moved and comforted, and the Rev. gave him a sermon, which he read, and re-read before having his own copy made for his own private use before it was returned. One family member said that Mr. Lincoln’s views in relation towards spiritual things seemed to change from that moment. In addition, it was then that he stopped thinking of that day his boy died and gradually began to get back to his usual self.
Struggling with depression, but now able to overcome it, the President threw himself into his duties to the American people.
He had a deep love for children, and when the young generation would visit him, he would not hesitate to pull them in his lap in a loving embrace. The children in return, loved him enormously, as did their parents.
Lincoln also had a knack for storytelling, which had helped him win the people’s love.
Countless times, while in the middle of a meeting, he would say, “That reminds me of a story…”
Then he would proceed to tell his Cabinet a story that would have them either laughing or their eyes filling with shame as they realized the moral of the wise tale.
Although he did have that sadness that seemed to hang over him, Abraham Lincoln truly did love to laugh.
When someone said that they hope “the Lord was on their side,” Lincoln replied,
“I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”
A reporter once interviewed the President and noticed how haggard he looked. The reporter remarked, “You are wearing yourself out with work.”
“I can’t work less,” Lincoln replied. “But it isn’t that, ---work never troubled me. Things look badly and I can’t avoid anxiety. Personally, I care nothing about a reelection; but if our divisions defeat us, I fear for the country.”
The man replied that right must eventually triumph, and that he never despaired of the result.
The worn President answered, “Neither have I, but I may never live to see it. I feel a presentiment that I shall not outlast the Rebellion. When it is over, my work will be done.”
The Monday before his assassination, Lincoln stopped at City Point. Calling upon the head surgeon, he told him he’d like to shake the hands of all the wounded soldiers in the hospital. The surgeon insisted that there were too many, but Lincoln wanted to show them that he appreciated what they sacrificed for their country. And so he went along, shaking each hand and giving small words of sympathy and kind inquiries. As they passed along, they came to a ward where a rebel soldier lay. When the soldier recognized the tall figure, he sat up on one elbow, and exclaimed with tears running down his cheeks, “Mr. Lincoln, I have long wanted to see you, to ask your forgiveness for ever raising my hand against the old flag.”
Moved to tears, the President shook his hand heartily.
After some hours, Lincoln returned to the office with the surgeon. They had scarcely entered when a messenger entered saying that one ward had been omitted and ‘the boys’ wanted to see Mr. Lincoln. The surgeon knew the President was tired, as he was weary himself, and tried to coax the President to stay. But Lincoln refused, knowing how disappointed ‘the boys’ would be. The surgeon expressed his fear that the President’s arm would be hurt from so much handshaking but Lincoln smiled, saying something about ‘strong muscles’. He then stepped outside, picked up an axe that was lying next to a block of wood, and chopped a moment. Then he extended his right arm to its full length, holding the axe horizontally, without it even quivering. No man there could hold it in this position for so long.
And then just a few days later, while enjoying a play, Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s theater. The President had been much happier, as the war was over, and the Nation was back together again. But his happy days were cut short when John Wilkes Booth snuck into Lincoln’s box, shooting the beloved President in the back of the head. Mary screamed in panic, while Booth leaped to the stage. In a matter of hours, Abraham Lincoln was dead.
The nation was nearly in hysterics. People filled the streets across the country, crying, “Lincoln is dead!”
Secretary Seward had been attacked as well, and had been recovering in bed. The Sunday following, he had his bed wheeled around so he could see the top of the trees, which were showing their spring foliage. His eyes caught of the Stars and Stripes at half-mast on the War Department. He gazed at a while, and then turned to his attendant.
“The President is dead!”
The confused attendant denied it, but the Secretary knew it was a lie.
“If he had been alive, he would have been the first to call on me, but he has not been here, nor has he sent to know how I am; and there is the flag at half-mast.”
Seward knew the attendant’s silence confirmed his fears and great tears rolled down his cheeks, as it sank into his heart.
“Tad” was in frantic grief after being told of his father’s death, inconsolable for twenty-four hours.
He asked a gentleman caller, “Do you think my father has gone to heaven?”
“I have not a doubt of it,” was the choked reply.
Tad exclaimed, in his broken way, “Then, I am glad he has gone there, for he was never happy after he came here. This was not a good place for him.”
A man once told of how he saw the streets filled with people mourning as the President’s hearse rolled by. He watched as an old Negro woman ran across the streets to stand beside him, her head bowed as giant tears rolled her face. She was that way for a moment, then her head lifted, and she cried, her eyes still full of tears, “They needn’t crow yet! God ain’t dead!”
A great man, with a deep faith, Abraham Lincoln will always live in everyone who still believe in his cause, and love him as I have come to. I pray there will always be a spot in everyone’s hearts for this man, a man sent to us from God above. Abraham Lincoln, a man of the People.
The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months in the White House
by: F.B Carpenter
Abraham Lincoln, the Writer: a Treasury of his Greatest Speeches and Letters
by: Harold Holzer
Original manuscripts (Library of Congress) ~ online~ collected works of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln: Civil War Stories
Heartwarming Stories About Our Most Beloved President
by: Joe Wheeler