Chronological events in the life of Abraham Lincoln

February 12 – Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Sinking Spring Farm in Hardin County, Kentucky, now La Rue County. He was the second child of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks.


Brother Thomas is born but died during infancy.


His father lost all his land due to lack of land surveying and unclear property titles and had to move to Spencer County, then Perry County, Indiana.


Abraham’s mother, Nancy, died of milk sickness or tremetol. Older sister Sarah had to look after the household, she was 11 years old.


Thomas Lincoln married Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow with three children. Abraham developed a deep bond with her stepmother.


Worked the land and helped his father. Abraham attended school occasionally, few months at a time.


Sister Sarah died while in labor.

Employed by Denton Offutt, Abraham took a flatboat and transported goods to New Orleans. For the first time he experienced slavery first hand, he observed a slave auction.


The Lincoln family moved west to Macon Country, Illinois.


The family decided to move to Coles County, Illinois but Abraham did not follow his family. Instead he moved to New Salem where he worked as a shopkeeper. During this time he learned math, read literature and participated in the debate club.


The store where he worked went bankrupt. Abraham partnered with William Berry and opened a new store in New Salem.

The Black Hawk War broke out and Lincoln volunteered to serve.

Abraham was a very popular young man, everyone grew fond of him, his sense of humor, storytelling and anecdotes were famous and soon the entire town became his most enthusiastic admirers. People insisted he ran for the Illinois General Assembly. He finished 5th out of 13 candidates. He had the support of New Salem with 277 of the 300 casted votes.


The store was not profitable and had to shut down. He was left with heavy debt.

Abraham Lincoln was appointed Postmaster in New Salem and Deputy County Surveyor.


Began teaching himself law.

For the second time he run for the Illinois state legislature and this time he won the elections as a Whig.


Former store partner, William Berry, died leaving him with a debt of $1000.

Ann Rutledge, a woman Lincoln was courting, died, leaving him devastated.


Abraham was admitted to the bar. The Illinois Supreme Court licensed him to practice law.

August 1 – Lincoln was reelected to the Illinois General Assembly.


Lincoln moved to Springfield, Illinois where he started practicing law as a junior partner with John T. Stuart. They opened an office at Number 4 Hoffman’s Row.


August 6- Abraham was reelected to the Illinois General Assembly for the third consecutive term.


Lincoln started traveling on the 8th Judicial Circuit that included nine counties in central and eastern Illinois.

Abraham met Mary Todd at a dance at the house of her sister Elizabeth Edwards.


Abraham was reelected to a fourth term to the Illinois General Assembly.

He became engaged to Mary Todd.


Abraham in a bout of insecurity broke the engagement with Mary Todd.

March 1 – Stephen Logan offered Lincoln to start a partnership, “Logan and Lincoln”.


Lincoln decided not to seek another term to the legislature.

September – Abraham accepted a challenge to a duel by Democrat James Shield over satirical letters published in newspapers. The duel did not proceed. An explanation of the letters was published.

November 4 – Abraham and Mary married and moved to a rental room in the Globe Tavern on Adams Street.


The couple had their first child, Robert Todd Lincoln and moved to a rental house on South Street.


Abraham and Mary bought their first house on Eight and Jackson Street. The house belonged to the Episcopal minister who married them, Charles Dresser.

Logan and Lincoln dissolved their partnership as Logan wanted his son to join the business.

Lincoln started a partnership with William Herndon, “Lincoln and Herndon” this time Lincoln was the senior partner.


March 10 – Edward Baker Lincoln, second son of Abraham and Mary, was born.

May 1 – Lincoln was nominated the Illinois Whig candidate for congress.

August 3 – Lincoln was elected to the House of Representatives.


Abraham and his family moved to Washington DC and settled at the boarding house of Ann G. Sprigg. Dissatisfied with the arrangements, Mary and the boys went to Lexington to her father’s house.

February – The Wilmot Proviso was reintroduced, it passed the House but failed to pass the senate. Lincoln voted for its passage.


Lincoln campaigned for General Zachary Taylor for president.

Lincoln accused President James Polk of unconstitutionally invading Mexico.

November – Zachary Taylor won the election and became the 12th president of the United States.


Lincoln’s end of appointment in congress. He declined offer of governorship of the Oregon territory.

Lincoln resumed hislaw practice in “Lincoln and Herndon” becoming one of the best known railroad lawyers in Illinois.


February 1 – Eddie, the second born, died of tuberculosis when he was three years old.

December 21 – William Wallace Lincoln, third child of Abraham and Mary, was born.

September – The Compromise of 1850 gave the country a pause in the controversy of expansion of slavery.


“Lincoln and Herndon” represented Alton & Sangamon Railroad in a lawsuit. Abraham Lincoln became one of the most prominent practitioners of railroad law in the state of Illinois.

January 17 – His father, Thomas Lincoln, died.


April 4 – Thomas Lincoln III was born. His father nicknamed him Tad because he wiggled as a tadpole when he was an infant.


May 30 – The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by congress.

The Republican Party was organized in the northern states attracting Whigs, antislavery supporters, foreign citizens, Know Nothings and specially Kansas-Nebraska opponents.

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated on the Kansas-Nebraska Act.


Lincoln helped organize anti Kansas-Nebraska coalition.


Lincoln helped organize the Republican Party in Illinois and campaigned for Republican presidential candidate John Frémont.


March 5 – The Supreme Court decided on the Dred Scott case. It declared that slaves or their descendants could not be US citizens and had no rights to sue in a Federal court.

June 26 – Lincoln addressed a crowd speaking against the Dred Scott decision.


June 16 – The Republican Convention voted for Lincoln as a Republican candidate for the senate against Democrat Stephen Douglas. In accepting the nomination Lincoln gave his memorable “House Divided” speech.

Lincoln and Douglas participated in 7 debates in Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy and Alton.


The Illinois legislature elected Stephen Douglas as US Senator for Illinois. Douglas received 54 votes while Lincoln 46.

Lincoln wrote his first autobiography for Jesse Fell who published it in the Chester County Times in Pennsylvania. The autobiography was reprinted several times by Republican newspapers across the country.


Follet, Foster and Co. of Columbus, Ohio published “Political Debates between Honorable Abraham Lincoln and Honorable Stephen Douglas, in the Celebrated Campaign of 1858 Illinois.

February – Lincoln was invited by the Young Men’s Central Republican Union to give a lecture in Cooper Union, Manhattan.

Matthew Brady took Lincoln’s first photographic portrait.

May 18 – Lincoln was elected Republican presidential candidate at the Republican Convention in Chicago. The candidates were William Seward, Salmon Chase, Edward Bates and Simon Cameron.

June – Lincoln wrote a second longer autobiography for John L. Scripps of the Chicago Press and Tribune.

November 6 – Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States.

December 20 – South Carolina became the first state to declare secession from the Union.


January – Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana followed South Carolina in seceding from the Union.

An attempt to reinforce Fort Sumter failed when the ship Star of the West was fired by Confederate forces. South Carolina seized all federal property in Charleston except for Fort Sumter.

February 1 – Texas seceded from the Union.

February 11 – President-elect Abraham Lincoln and his family departed Springfield on a 12 day journey to the Nation’s Capital.

February 14 – Jefferson Davis was elected Provisional President of the Confederation and Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President.

US surrendered all military posts in Texas.

March 4 –Inauguration of the 16th US President. Abraham Lincoln delivered his 1st Inaugural Address.

April 12 – Fort Sumter was attacked by Confederate forces and Major Anderson was forced to surrender. The American Civil War had begun.

April 15 – The president issued a Proclamation Calling Militia and Convening Congress. He called for the recruitment of 75,000 men.

April 17 – Virginia seceded from the Union.

April 19 – The president issued a Proclamation Blockade against Southern Ports.

April 27 – President Lincoln suspended the privilege of habeas corpus, the emergency situation of war required the president to act before authorization.

May 6 – Arkansas seceded from the Union.

May 20 – North Carolina followed Arkansas.

June 3 – Stephen Douglas, long time Democratic rival, died.

July 21 – Union Army was defeated at Bull Run in Northern Virginia.

July 27 – General  McClellan was selected as Commander of the Army of the Potomac.


April 16 – Lincoln signed an Act abolishing slavery in Washington DC.

September 22 – President Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that was introduced to congress.


January 1 – The final Emancipation Proclamation was issued freeing slaves in territories held by Confederates.

February 25 – Lincoln signed a bill creating the national banking system.

March 3 – Lincoln signed the Conscription Act. It called for males between the ages of 20 to 45 for service in the war instead of assigning quotas to each state.

July 3 – Union victory in the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in the American Civil War.

August 10 – Lincoln and Frederick Douglass met to talk about equality in Union troops.

October 3 – Lincoln issued the Proclamation of Thanksgiving on the third Thursday of November.

November 9- Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address during the dedication of a cemetery in the Gettysburg battlefield.

December 8 – The president signed the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction.

February 1 – President Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment.

April 8 – The Senate passed the 13th Amendment. The House passed it on January 1st, 1865 and it was adopted on December 6, 1865.


March – Ulysses Grant was appointed as General-in-Chief of the Union Army.

June 8 – Abraham Lincoln was nominated for a second term by a coalition of Republicans and War Democrats.

November 8 – Lincoln was reelected for a second term. He defeated Democratic candidate George B. McClellan getting 55% of the popular vote and 212 of 233 electoral votes.


March 4 – Inauguration ceremonies took place and the president delivered his second inaugural address. It was the shortest inaugural speech at 703 words.

March 20 – John Wilkes Booth failed to kidnap the President when he changed plans and did not show up.

April 9 – Confederate General Robert Lee surrendered at Appomattox marking then end of the Civil War.

April 11 – President Lincoln gives his final public address outside the White House. For the first time he let know his plans for African American suffrage.

April 14 – President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while attending the play “Our American Cousin” at the Ford Theater. He was shot in the back of the head.

April 15 – President Abraham Lincoln died at 7:20. He was 56 years old.

April 28 – John Wilkes Booth is found and killed in Virginia.

May 4 – President Lincoln was buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.