|Directions: Read the following biography and answer the questions.
Abraham Lincoln's YouthIn his autobiography, Abraham Lincoln wrote, "I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families--second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks.... My father ... removed from Kentucky to ... Indiana, in my eighth year.... It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up.... Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher ... but that was all."
Lincoln estimated that his time in school totaled one year. His teachers in the pioneer schools in Indiana didn't have any arithmetic textbooks, so Lincoln found some paper, which was hard to come by, tied it together, and created his own "sum book."
Even though Lincoln had very little formal education, he loved to read, and neighbors remembered how he would walk for miles to borrow a book. Some of his favorite books included Life and Memorable Actions of George Washington, Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim's Progress, and Aesop's Fables. How far would you walk to borrow a book?
Lincoln's childhood was rough. His mother died when he was ten and his family moved several times; from Kentucky, where he was born, to Indiana, and then on to Illinois in his early 20s. After he arrived in Illinois, he had no interest in being a farmer and instead started splitting rails and clearing his father's farm. Then he enlisted in the Black Hawk War (a fight to move the Indians westward) as a volunteer. He was elected to lead his company of soldiers. He later admitted that this gave him more satisfaction than any election he had ever won.
Abraham Lincoln as a LeaderAfter the Black Hawk War, Lincoln did a number of different things. Lincoln worked on a riverboat, ran a store, and thought about becoming a blacksmith. Instead, he decided to study law and started his own successful law practice. He also served in both the Illinois and U.S. legislatures. Lincoln was not successful at everything he attempted. He lost several law cases, was passed over as the Republican Party's vice presidential nominee, and when he ran for the U.S. Senate against Stephen Douglas, he lost. But he didn't let these defeats stop him. In 1860, Lincoln ran for president and won.
Lincoln is best known for his policies on abolishing slavery and his belief in self-government; he took his job as president very seriously. About the night he knew he'd won the election he later said, "I went home, but not to get much sleep, for I then felt as I never had before, the responsibility that was upon me."
Lincoln warned the South in his Inaugural Address: "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you.... You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it."
Lincoln thought secession illegal, and was willing to use force to defend Federal law and the Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers. Four more slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within the Union. The Civil War had begun.
Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg: "that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Lincoln won re-election in 1864, as Union military triumphs heralded an end to the war. In his planning for peace, the President was flexible and generous, encouraging Southerners to lay down their arms and join speedily in reunion.
On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theater in Washington by John Wilkes Booth, an actor, who somehow thought he was helping the South. The opposite was the result, for with Lincoln's death, the possibility of peace with magnanimity died.