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Collection Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress


A chronology of key events in the life of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), lawyer, representative from Illinois, and sixteenth president of the United States.  For a more detailed chronology, consult The Lincoln Log External or the three-volume Lincoln Day by Day: A Chronology, 1809-1865, edited by Earl Schenck Miers (Washington, D.C., 1960) and available online through HathiTrust External.

  • 1809, Feb. 12

    Born in Hardin County (now LaRue County), Kentucky, to Thomas Lincoln (1778-1851) and Nancy Hanks Lincoln (1784-1818)

  • 1811, Spring

    Moved with family to a farm on Knob Creek, Kentucky

  • 1815-1816

    Attended occasional classes in rural schoolhouse

  • 1816, Fall

    Moved with family to Indiana

  • 1818, Oct. 5

    Mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln died of milk sickness, Spencer County, Indiana. Thomas Lincoln subsequently left Abraham Lincoln and older sister Sarah Lincoln (1807-1828) alone in Indiana while he traveled to Kentucky to remarry.

  • 1819, Dec. 2

    Thomas Lincoln married Sarah Bush Johnston (1788-1869) in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Sarah Johnston Lincoln had three children of her own (Elizabeth, Matilda, and John), but developed a close bond with Abraham Lincoln.

  • 1819-1824

    Additional schooling when available

  • 1819-1830

    Laborer on family farm and for neighbors

  • 1828, Jan. 20

    Sister Sarah Lincoln Grigsby died in childbirth

  • 1828

    Ferryman on the Ohio River; helped take a flatboat cargo from Indiana to New Orleans, Louisiana

  • 1830, Mar.

    Moved with family to Illinois, settling in Macon County

  • 1831, Apr.-July

    Helped build a flatboat and ferried cargo from Sangamon County, Illinois, to New Orleans, Louisiana

  • 1831

    Clerk, general store, New Salem, Illinois

  • 1832, Apr. 7

    Elected captain, Thirty-first Regiment, Illinois Militia, in the Black Hawk War

  • 1832, Aug. 6

    Defeated in election for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly

  • 1832-1836

    Shopkeeper, surveyor, and postmaster in New Salem, Illinois

  • 1834

    Began to read law

  • 1834, Aug. 4

    Elected as Whig candidate from Sangamon County to the lower house of the Illinois General Assembly, which then met in Vandalia, Illinois

  • 1835, Aug. 25

    Ann Rutledge, Lincoln's New Salem friend, died. Some Lincoln associates claimed after Lincoln's death that she was his first great love.

  • 1836, Sept. 9

    Licensed to practice law

  • 1836-1842

    Reelected for three additional terms, Sangamon County representative, Illinois General Assembly. He was one of the so-called "Long Nine" in the Sangamon delegation notable for above-average height and being instrumental role in moving the state capital to Springfield.

  • 1837, Apr. 15

    Moved to Springfield, Illinois, to become law partner with John T. Stuart in the firm of Stuart & Lincoln

  • 1837, Aug. 16

    Wrote to prospective fiancée Mary S. Owens of willingness to continue their relationship. Owens did not reply and the association ended.

  • 1838, Jan. 27

    Delivered address on "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions" to Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield

  • 1839

    Mary Todd began living in Springfield, the new capital of Illinois, with her sister Elizabeth Todd Edwards, the wife of Ninian W. Edwards, the son of former Illinois governor Ninian Edwards and an acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln.

  • 1841, Jan. 1

    Ended initial engagement with Mary Todd; suffered period of depression. Romance with Mary Todd resumed in 1842.

  • 1841, Apr.

    Partnership of Stuart & Lincoln dissolved

    Partnership established with Stephen T. Logan in the law firm of Logan & Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois; dissolved in 1844.

  • 1842, Nov. 4

    Married to Mary Todd (1818-1882), daughter of Robert Smith Todd (1791-1849) and Elizabeth Parker Todd (1794-1825) of Lexington, Kentucky

  • 1843, Aug. 1

    Son Robert Todd Lincoln (d. July 27, 1926) born

  • 1844, Jan.

    Purchased house on the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets in Springfield, Illinois

  • 1844, Nov.

    Formed law partnership with William H. Herndon in the firm of Lincoln & Herndon, Springfield, Illinois

  • 1846, Mar. 10

    Son Edward Baker "Eddie" Lincoln (d. February 1, 1850) born

  • 1846, Aug. 3

    Elected from the Whig Party to the United States House of Representatives; assumed office in December 1847

  • 1847, July 

    Attended Chicago River and Harbor Convention in July

  • 1847, Nov.

    Visited Mary Lincoln's family in Lexington, Kentucky, en route to Washington, D.C.

  • 1847-1849

    Served single term representing Illinois in the U. S. House of Representatives, December 6, 1847-March 4, 1849. Lived in Mrs. Sprigg's Carroll Row boarding house on Capitol Hill.

  • 1847, Oct.

    Argued Matson Slave Case in which he represented a slave owner seeking to reclaim slaves used as seasonal labor in Illinois, where slavery was outlawed

  • 1847, Dec. 22

    Introduced "Spot Resolutions" in House of Representatives, challenging President James K. Polk to prove that the "spot" of land on which American blood had been shed (the event that prompted the United States to declare war on Mexico) had in fact been shed on American soil

  • 1848, June

    Attended Whig Party's national convention in Philadelphia

  • 1848, Sept.

    Traveled through New England on a speaking tour

  • 1849, Mar. 7

    Admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court

  • 1849, May 22

    Granted patent No. 6469 for floatation devices to lift boats over shoals; had applied for patent on March 10, 1849

  • 1849, July

    Resumed law practice, Springfield, Illinois

  • 1849, Sept.

    Declined appointment to be governor of the Oregon Territory

  • 1850, Dec. 21

    Son William Wallace "Willie" Lincoln (d. February 20, 1862) born

  • 1853, Apr. 4

    Son Thomas "Tad" Lincoln (d. July 15, 1871) born

  • 1854, May

    Passage of Kansas-Nebraska Act allowing slavery to expand beyond the boundaries set by Missouri Compromise of 1820 inspired Lincoln to return to politics

  • 1854, Oct. 16

    Delivered three-hour speech in Peoria, Illinois, while campaigning for a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives

  • 1855, Feb. 8

    Unsuccessful Whig candidate in Illinois for United States Senate in February

  • 1855, June

    Retained for the defense in McCormick v. Manny Co. patent infringement lawsuit. Lincoln worked on "The Reaper Case" over the summer and attended the trial in Cincinnati in September, but he was excluded by other members of the defense team, including his future Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton

  • 1856, June 19

    Received 110 votes for vice president at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia; William L. Dayton of New Jersey ultimately nominated as vice presidential candidate.

  • 1857, ca. July-Sept.

    Represented defense in Hurd et al. v. The Railroad Bridge Company case, which pit the owner of the "Effie Afton" against the owners of a bridge spanning the Mississippi River.

  • 1858, May

    Represented defense in People v. Armstrong, famous for Lincoln's successful use of an almanac to discredit eyewitness testimony against Jack Armstrong in murder trial.

  • 1858, June 16

    Delivered "House Divided" speech at Illinois Republican Convention

  • 1858, Aug.-Oct.

    Engaged in a series of debates with Stephen A. Douglas, the Democratic candidate for the United States Senate. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates and subsequent publication of the text of the debates increased Lincoln's national reputation.

  • 1858, Nov. 2

    Unsuccessful Republican candidate in Illinois for United States Senate.

  • 1860, Feb. 27

    Delivered address at Cooper Union in New York City, followed by a speaking tour of New England. Photograph taken at Mathew Brady's studio in New York became nationally famous when Lincoln became the Republican Party's candidate for president.

  • 1860, May 18

    Nominated as Republican Party's candidate for president

  • 1860, Oct. 15

    Eleven-year-old Grace Bedell of New York suggested in a letter that Lincoln grow "whiskers" to improve the appearance of his thin face.

  • 1860, Nov. 6

    Elected president of the United States

  • 1860, Dec. 20

    South Carolina seceded from the Union

  • 1861, Feb. 11

    Delivered farewell remarks in Springfield, Ill.

  • 1861, Feb. 23

    Lincoln secretly arrived in Washington, D.C., after having changed travel plans to avoid possible assassination attempt in Baltimore, Maryland

  • 1861, Mar. 4

    Inaugurated sixteenth president

  • 1861, Apr. 12

    Confederates in Charleston fired on Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, effectively starting the Civil War

  • 1861, Apr. 15

    Issued proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteers to quell rebellion

  • 1861, Apr. 19

    Issued proclamation blockading ports in several southern states in rebellion

  • 1861, July 4

    Sent message to special session of Congress

  • 1861, July 21

    Union forces defeated in first major land battle of the Civil War fought at Manassas, Virginia

  • 1861, Dec.

    Administration successfully resolved diplomatic dispute with Great Britain over the Trent Affair in which Confederate envoys were removed from a British vessel

  • 1862, Feb. 20

    "Willie" Lincoln died in the White House, likely of typhoid. Remains temporarily interred in the Carroll vault at Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. Mary Lincoln inconsolable.

  • 1862, July 22

    Read to cabinet members a draft Emancipation Proclamation. Convinced to wait until Union army achieved a military victory before issuing.

  • 1862, Sept. 22

    Issued Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation after Union victory at Battle of Antietam on September 17.

  • 1863, Jan. 1

    Issued Final Emancipation Proclamation

  • 1863, July

    Union victories at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, and Vicksburg, Mississippi, on July 4

  • 1863, Nov. 19

    Delivered Gettysburg Address at cemetery dedication in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

  • 1863, Dec. 8

    Issued Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which established lenient terms for former Confederates wishing to rejoin the Union

  • 1864, June 8

    Nominated as presidential candidate of the National Union Party (Republican Party) at convention in Baltimore; Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee nominated as vice president.

  • 1864, July 4

    Pocket vetoed Wade-Davis Bill that would have imposed stronger terms for Reconstruction

  • 1864, July 12

    Came under fire while witnessing Confederate assault at the Battle of Fort Stevens in Washington, D.C.

  • 1864, Aug. 23

    Doubtful of his chances for re-election, wrote memorandum pledging to work with the president-elect to save the Union before March 4; requested cabinet members to sign the sealed document without seeing the contents

  • 1864, Sept. 1

    Atlanta fell to General William T. Sherman

  • 1864, Nov. 8

    Reelected president on November 8

  • 1864, Dec. 25

    Received telegram from General Sherman, who presented Savannah, Georgia, as a Christmas gift

  • 1865, Jan. 31

    U. S. House of Representatives passed joint resolution to U. S. Constitution to abolish slavery. The Senate had previously passed the resolution on April 8, 1864. Lincoln signed the official resolution, and several ceremonial copies. The amendment was then sent to the states for ratification, and became the Thirteenth Amendment in December.

  • 1865, Feb. 3

    Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward met with Confederate representatives (including Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens) at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on February 3 to discuss possible peace terms.

  • 1865, Mar. 4

    Second inauguration

  • 1865, Mar. 25-Apr. 8

    Visited General Ulysses S. Grant's headquarters at City Point, Virginia, at Grant's invitation. Visited with son Robert, then serving on Grant's staff. Met on March 27 with Grant, Sherman, and Admiral David D. Porter on board the "River Queen."

  • 1865, Apr. 4-5

    Visited Richmond, Virginia, after Confederate capital evacuated

  • 1865, Apr. 9

    Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant at Appomattox Court House. Other Confederate troops remained in the field, but the war was effectively over.

  • 1865, Apr. 11

    Delivered final public speech

  • 1865, Apr. 14

    Shot while attending a performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre. Removed to the Petersen boarding house across the street from the theater.

  • 1865, Apr. 15

    Died, 7:22 a.m.

  • 1865, Apr. 19-20

    Funeral held at White House on April 19, and remains lay in state at the U.S. Capitol on April 19-20

  • 1865, Apr. 21

    Funeral train left Washington, D.C., carrying the bodies of Abraham Lincoln and his son Willie, who had been interred since 1862 at Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown.

  • 1865, May 3

    Funeral train arrived in Springfield, Illinois, having made numerous stops for memorial events in cities in the Northeast and Midwest.

  • 1865, May 4

    Temporarily interred in public receiving vault at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Ill.

  • 1865-1871

    Remains of Abraham Lincoln and sons Edward Baker Lincoln and William Wallace Lincoln interred in temporary tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery

  • 1869

    Construction began on permanent tomb

  • 1874, Oct. 15

    Permanent Lincoln tomb dedicated

  • 1876

    Unsuccessful attempt to steal body of Abraham Lincoln; remains reinterred below the burial chamber after tomb renovation of 1900-1901

  • 1922, May 30

    Lincoln Memorial dedicated in Washington, D.C.

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