Abraham Lincoln served in the Black Hawk War as a Captain in the Illinois Militia and later became the 16th President of the United States; he was inaugurated on March 4, 1861. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, it’s bloodiest conflict and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. He preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the U.S. economy.
Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 to Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln in a small log cabin on Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky. He is one of three siblings, Sarah Lincoln, Thomas Lincoln, and himself; Thomas tragically died in infancy. On October 5, 1818, Nancy Lincoln died of milk sickness, a type of poisoning that affects individuals who ingest dairy products, or meat from a cow that has fed on the white snakeroot plant. This left Sarah in charge of a household that included her father, 9-year-old Abraham, and Dennis Hanks, Nancy's 19-year-old orphaned cousin. Lincoln always had an interest in learning, although his formal education was fragmentary, he entertained himself by reading and rereading books such as The King James Bible, Aesop's Fables, John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, and Mason Locke Weems's The Life of Washington (Herbert). In 1831, as Thomas Lincoln and other family prepared to move to a new homestead in Coles County, Illinois, Abraham left home. He lived in New Salem for six years. Lincoln and some friends took goods by flatboat to New Orleans, where he witnessed slavery firsthand (Harcourt).
In 1832, Lincoln and his business partner, Denton Offutt, bought a general store on credit in New Salem, Illinois. Although the economy was booming, the business struggled, and Lincoln eventually sold his share. In March of that same year, Lincoln ran for the Illinois General Assembly but lost due to a lack of a formal education, money, and powerful friends. Lincoln briefly interrupted his campaign to serve as a captain in the Illinois Militia during the Black Hawk War. After which he returned to pursue a career in politics (Winkle).
His second state legislature campaign in 1834 was successful. Although he ran as a Whig, many Democrats favored him over a more powerful Whig opponent. Lincoln served four consecutive terms in the Illinois House of Representatives as a Whig from Sangamon County. He supported the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, later serving as a Canal Commissioner (Herbert). In the 1835–36 legislative session, he voted to expand suffrage beyond white landowners to all white males. He was known for his "free soil" stance of opposing both slavery and abolitionism. He first articulated this in 1837, saying, "[The] Institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate it’s evils." He followed Henry...