Issue Date: February 9, 2009
City: Springfield, IL
Elected President in November 1860, Abraham Lincoln inherited a nation already on the brink of civil war. An outspoken critic of slavery, Lincoln had won entirely on the strength of his support in the North. Shortly after the election, seven Southern states seceded. One month after Lincoln assumed the office, the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
The Civil War consumed much of Lincoln’s presidency. He closely supervised his military commanders and visited key battlegrounds. In 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in Confederate territories. This allowed the Union army to liberate slaves as it moved south. Lincoln then focused on the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which permanently abolished slavery throughout the nation.
In spite of the Union’s advantages, the Confederate Army was victorious in many critical battles, and the fighting wore on for several years. In 1864, Lincoln won reelection in a landslide. In his inaugural speech, with victory nearly at hand, Lincoln promised to act “with malice toward none; with charity for all.”
One month later, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate Army and the Civil War ended. Complete victory was short lived – President Lincoln was assassinated less than a week later.