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Chicago was the site of the 1860 Republican National Convention. It was during this convention in which Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin became the Republican nominees for president and vice-president. William Seward, the favorite for the nomination, won on the first two ballots submitted, but never received the requisite number of votes for official nomination. But Seward, along with other nominees Salmon P. Chase and Edward Bates had all made enemies within the party. The relatively unknown Lincoln, in contrast, had maintained a moderate stance on the political issues of the day and had earned a national reputation for debates and his captivating speeches. Furthermore, since the location of the conference was in Chicago, Lincoln supporters from throughout Illinois and the western states descended upon the city, giving Lincoln unrivaled support. Finally, Lincoln’s campaign managers were instrumental in convincing the delegates from Pennsylvania and Indiana to cast their votes with him. Lincoln won the nomination on the third ballot with 364 votes out of the possible 466.
Lincoln's Funeral Train
It was in Springfield, Illinois where the legend of Abraham Lincoln would be born. In 1837, Abe moved to Springfield broke and without a place to live hoping to find his fortune in law. He would soon move in with Joshua Speed, who would become his lifelong friend and who agreed to let Abe live in the apartment with him above his store. Abe quickly found employment as a lawyer and was soon running a successful practice with William Herndon.
It was also in Springfield where Abe would court and wed Mary Todd, and where each of his four sons were born at their home on 8th Street. After serving two years as an Illinois Congressman, he returned to Springfield and resumed his law practice. In 1858, he delivered his famous "House Divided" speech at the Republican State Convention in Springfield as the Republican senatorial nominee.
After Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, his body was transported by train from Washington to Springfield, where he was interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery. Today, he, Mary Todd, and three of his sons are buried with him in Springfield. A 117 foot-tall obelisk rises over the site in tribute.
New Salem, Illinois, was the village in which Abraham Lincoln spent six years before leaving for Springfield. Upon his twenty first birthday, Lincoln left his family homestead to find his own way. Many boys in similar situations were hired to steer cargo in flatboats down the Mississippi River to be sold in southern ports such as New Orleans.
Lincoln arrived in New Salem in 1831, when the flatboat he and some friends had been hired to navigate to New Orleans became stuck on a dam on the Sangamon River near the village. Lincoln ingeniously figured out that drilling a hole in the bottom of the boat would cause it to ease over the dam. Lincoln impressed a local merchant who offered him employment in New Salem upon his return which he eagerly accepted. When he made it back to New Salem, the store in which he was to work in had not opened yet, so he did odd jobs on the river and in town.
Lincoln became a popular citizen of New Salem and decided to run for the Illinois State Legislature. His aspirations were interrupted in 1832 when he left New Salem to fight in the Black Hawk War. Upon his return, he continued campaigning. Although he would finish 8th in the overall election, he garnered over 92% of the vote from New Salem. Not bad for his first election!
In 1833, Lincoln would be appointed as postmaster and later as surveyor of New Salem. That same year he endeavored to study law and by 1836 had procured his law license, which required him to travel 20 miles to Springfield to get the necessary books. In 1837, Lincoln decided to leave New Salem for Springfield for the purposes of establishing his own law practice.
Abraham Lincoln lived in Spencer County, Indiana from ages 7-21. It was here, when he was only nine years old, when he mother died of what was called milk sickness, a deadly ailment caused by eating the meat or drinking the milk of an animal that has consumed white snakeroot. Soon after his mother’s death, his father married Sarah Bush Johnston. Johnston recognized Abe’s intellectual talents and encouraged him to pursue education. Though Lincoln never had the opportunity to attend school on a regular basis, he sometimes walked several miles to the nearest school set up by a traveling teacher. Lincoln himself admitted that the total amount of schooling he received in his childhood was no more than twelve months; nevertheless, he became an excellent reader, learned to write, measure, and make division and multiplication calculations. Abraham took his studies very seriously. Without paper in the house to practice his writing and math, he often did arithmetic on the back of a wooden spoon using charcoal as a makeshift pencil. Lincoln described where he grew up and the opportunities for education in the following quote:
"It was," he once wrote, "a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up. There were some schools, so-called, but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond "readin', writin', and cipherin'" to the Rule of Three. If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard."
During his time in Spencer County, Abe grew to six feet four inches tall. He was larger than virtually all of the other boys who lived near him and was said to be able to outrun, out jump, and outwrestle all of them.
Photo: Mary Todd Lincoln House by Sydney Poore
Mary Todd Lincoln was born on December 13, 1818, in Lexington, Kentucky. Mary was born into a life of luxury. Her father was a prominent banker and served in the Kentucky General Assembly for 24 years. In 1832, her family moved to what would become the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington. It would become the first historic site to be restored in honor of a First Lady and remains on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was originally built at the turn of the 19th century and served as an inn and tavern known as “The Sign of the Green Tree” before the Todd family purchased it.
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky, to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln in their one room log cabin on their farm known as Sinking Spring (near modern-day Hodgenville, Kentucky). Although Thomas lacked formal education, he was an excellent farmer and carpenter, and often times served a member of the jury. Thomas and Nancy joined a small Baptist church in the area that had broken away from the larger church over the issue of slavery.
When Abe was two, the family moved to nearby Knob Creek Farm, where Abe's first memories of his childhood were formed. Because of difficulties his father had with the title to the farm, Thomas Lincoln moved his family to Pigeon Creek, Indiana in 1816.
Lincoln at Gettysburg
On November 22, 1863, President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg. The 272 word speech, which followed a two hour address by Harvard professor Edward Everett, would become one of the greatest speeches in American history. In the speech, Lincoln described the Civil War as a struggle that would re-define the idea of freedom as well as the notion of equality for all citizens. Furthermore that the American form of democracy, " government of the people, by the people, for the people" as he described it, was threatened with destruction.
On February 27, 1860, Abe was invited to speak before a crowd of powerful republicans at Cooper Union (a university) in New York City. Abe’s anti-slavery speech, in which he claimed the Founding Fathers and authors of the Declaration of independence would have prohibited the extension of slavery into new territories, left a lasting impression on the members of the audience and propelled him to legitimacy among the Republican candidates running for presidency. The powerful publisher Horace Greeley called it “one of the most happiest and most convincing political arguments ever made in this City ... No man ever made such an impression on his first appeal to a New-York audience” . After the speech, Abe decided that he would at least make an attempt for the Republican nomination to the presidency. He assembled a team of devoted campaigners who called Lincoln “The Rail Candidate”.
Image of Lincoln fleeing Baltimore - Harper's Weekly 1861
During the Civil War, Baltimore, located in the border state of Maryland, was a hotbed for southern sympathizers. When Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th president of the United States, at least seven citizens of the city were said to have planned a plot to assassinate the president-elect, as his inauguration train traveled through Baltimore on its way to Washington. Several conspirators were apparently ready to stab Lincoln as he switched trains at Baltimore's President Street Station.
Lincoln and his security team had obtained information about the plot. As a result, Lincoln rode a secret train through Baltimore in the middle of the night, rather than the train he was supposed to have ridden. Many critics charged Lincoln with cowardice for slipping through the city in such a manner and political cartoons were drawn making fun of him in newspapers across the nation. Other accounts told of him riding the train disguised as an Irishman in a kilt.
Lincoln's actions, and the subsequent arrest of several of the conspirators, galvanized Baltimore against the Union cause. On April 19, 1861, Southern sympathizers in the city rioted against movements of Union troops through Baltimore. In what came to be known as the Pratt Street Riot, 12 civilians were killed and over 30 Union soldiers were injured.
With General Ulysses S. Grant securing victories for the Union Army from his headquarters at City Point, outside of Petersburg, President Lincoln, his wife, and his son Tad, traveled to visit General Grant via boat to verify the victorious reports on March 12, 1865, and to escape the pressures of Washington.
During his stay, Lincoln met with General Grant to plan the strategies for the end of the war. By this time, the war was virtually over and the Confederates were on the run, or, starving inside Petersburg, surrounded on all sides by the Union siege. Lincoln's presence for two weeks at City Point thrilled the Union soldiers encamped there. Nobody knew that these were among the last weeks of his life. It was during his stay at City Point, where President Lincoln dreamed of his assassination - that would occur in reality the following month.
Upon ascending to the presidency, President Lincoln and his family moved into the White House in Washington, D.C. From the White House, Lincoln and his advisors prosecuted the Civil War from the Union side. Lincoln was said to be a man of little pretension in the White House, treating all visitors equally and frequently entertaining the pleas of anyone who wished to work for the Federal Government. Lincoln's two aides, John Hay and John Nicolay lived in a corner bedroom on the second floor of the White House.
During his presidency, Lincoln's sons had full reign of the White House, and often interrupted important meetings looking for their father. The President was apparently amused by the antics of his sons and never reprimanded them. The public, not used to having children in the White House, showered them with gifts, one of which was a pony. In 1862, however, Lincoln's son Willie died of typhoid fever, plunging the President and his wife into deep depression.
On April 14, 1865, just five days after the surrender of the Confederacy, President Lincoln was shot as he watched a play in Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth. He died the following morning at the Petersen Boarding House across the street from the theater. Today, there are reminders of Lincoln throughout Washington. The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most visited memorials in the nation. It was from the steps of the memorial, overlooking the Reflecting Pool, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I have a Dream Speech" in front of a quarter million Civil Rights protesters.
United States Presidents
|1. George Washington||16. Abraham Lincoln||32. Franklin D. Roosevelt|
|2. John Adams||17. Andrew Johnson||33. Harry S. Truman|
|3. Thomas Jefferson||18. Ulysses S. Grant||34. Dwight D. Eisenhower|
|4. James Madison||19. Rutherford B. Hayes||35. John F. Kennedy|
|5. James Monroe||20. James A. Garfield||36. Lyndon B. Johnson|
|6. John Quincy Adams||21. Chester A. Arthur||37. Richard Nixon|
|7. Andrew Jackson||22/24. Grover Cleveland||38. Gerald R. Ford|
|8. Martin Van Buren||23. Benjamin Harrison||39. Jimmy Carter|
|9. William Henry Harrison||25. William McKinley||40. Ronald Reagan|
|10. John Tyler||26. Theodore Roosevelt||41. George H.W. Bush|
|11. James K. Polk||27. William Howard Taft||42. Bill Clinton|
|12. Zachary Taylor||28. Woodrow Wilson||43. George W. Bush|
|13. Millard Fillmore||29. Warren G. Harding||44. Barack Obama|
|14. Franklin Pierce||30. Calvin Coolidge||45. Donald J. Trump|
|15. James Buchanan||31. Herbert Hoover|