Abraham Lincoln – The Civil War President

President Lincoln and George McClellan meeting following the Battle of Antietam.
President Lincoln and George McClellan meeting following the Battle of Antietam.

When discussing the greatest Presidents of the United States, few would leave out Abraham Lincoln, the President who put an end to one of the biggest issues to ever face the country, the issue of slavery. President Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, and his fight to end slavery is one of the many reasons to puts him at the top of the list.

Lincoln ended slavery, won a bloody civil war, modernized the United States economy and changed the political scene in the United States forever. Here are 10 fascinating facts about President Abraham Lincoln.

1. April 14th, 1865: A Bloody Night

On April 14th, 1865, President Lincoln was enjoying a performance of  “Our American Cousin” with his wife at Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C. During the performance, Actor John Wilkes Booth jumped into President Lincoln’s box and shot him in the head. Wilkes was a Confederate spy who had been plotting to attack the President for several months. His original plan was to kidnap him, but once he heard that the President would be in attendance at the Ford Theatre, he changed his plans. After shooting Lincoln, Booth leapt from the box into the crowd and fled.

While President Lincoln was attacked at the theatre, another member of his administration, Secretary of State William Seward, was attacked in his bedroom. His attacker stabbed him multiple times, but Seward would survive the attack.

A third assault was planned that night. It was to be carried out by George Atzerodt. He was to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson, but fear kept him from performing the attack. Booth was tracked down by union soldiers and killed. Eight other conspirators were tried and convicted, and four were hanged.

2. He established the Secret Service on April 14th, 1865

That’s right, the very day Lincoln would be shot, he signed the legislation that created the Secret Service, though it would not begin operating for another couple of months. Though it may seem now as though the Secret Service could have protected Lincoln, the reality is that it wouldn’t have at the time. Originally the Secret Service was created to fight currency counterfeiting. It wasn’t until 1901, after two Presidents had been shot, that the Secret Service would start to protect the President.

3. Lincoln Did Not Initiate the Civil War

President Lincoln was elected in November of 1860 to become the President of the United States as a supporter of abolishing slavery across throughout land, something the Southern States felt was a violation of their rights. Due to this, just before his inauguration, seven southern states created their own confederacy. The reason why is simple, as Lincoln (along with the northern states) supported putting an end to slavery.

During Lincoln’s inauguration speech, he spoke directly to southerners, effectively saying he would not initiate war with them over slavery. Shortly after this, the confederacy began capturing forts and territories owned by the Union, the first being Fort Sumter, just one month after Lincoln went into office.  The Confederacy fired upon Fort Sumter, and the rest is history.

President Lincoln and George McClellan meeting following the Battle of Antietam.
President Lincoln and George McClellan meeting following the Battle of Antietam.

4. Lincoln Came Under Fire At Fort Stevens

In July of 1864, Confederate troops were beginning their attack on Washington, D.C.  Lincoln traveled to the front lines at Fort Stevens, and as the battle raged on while he was there, he became dangerously close to gunfire and was famously told by Officer Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. to “Get down, you damn fool.” This is the only time in American history that a current President has come under fire from enemy combat.

5. Little Military Experience

Lincoln had little to no military experience. His only experience came in the form of him being a captain of a militia unit that saw no action in the year 1932, during the Black Hawk War. He would mock his military experience in a speech given in 1848, saying, “Did you know I am a military hero? Yes, Sir, in the days of the Black Hawk War I fought, bled and came away… If he saw any live fighting Indians, it was more than I did. But I had a good many bloody battles with mosquitoes.”

6. Tested Rifles On the White House Grounds

President Lincoln loved gadgets and took an interest in the artillery and weaponry being used by his soldiers in the Civil War. The President would meet with inventors to check out the latest in military technology, and even attended test fires of canons and other weapons.

Technically, it was illegal to shoot guns in Washington, D.C. at that time, but Lincoln loved to shoot rifles and muskets, and would do so on the White House lawns as well as the long stretch of land and monuments now known as the National Mall.

Abraham Lincoln's patented boat design...photo via wikipedia
Abraham Lincoln’s patented boat design.

7. The Only President to Hold a Patent

Lincoln himself was an inventor. In 1848, President Lincoln designed a boat that could shift air around its hull and sides to get off sandbars. This came after he himself was on a boat that hit a sandbar. Lincoln filed for a patent in 1849 and the design was given patent number 6,469.

8. Lincoln’s Son Was Saved By His Assassin’s Brother

A few months prior to the assassination of President Lincoln, Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was in Jersey City, New Jersey when he was pushed off a train platform onto a railroad track by a large crowd of people. There was a train coming, and just in the nick of time, a hand reached down to save him. That hand belonged to Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth.

9. He Dreamt He Would Die

Just months before the assassination, Lincoln said he had a dream in which he woke up from sleep to hear people crying but there was no one actually there. He walked around his house determined to figure out where it was coming from, and then he came into the East Room, where he saw a casket lying in wait. He asked a guard who had died in they told him it was President, and that he had been killed by an assassin. Lincoln said at that moment the crowd started sobbing loudly which woke him up.

Lincoln would later say that “I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.”

President Lincoln (gold spotlight) giving the Gettysburg Address. photo via Wikipedia
President Lincoln (gold spotlight) giving the Gettysburg Address.

10. His Best Known Speech Was Only 272 Words

It only took 272 words for President Lincoln to deliver one of the most well-known speeches ever given by a President. The speech was the Gettysburg Address. The speech was given at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the Battle of Gettysburg had been fought just four months prior.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—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 Riddle

Lincoln Riddle is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE