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Printable Timeline

Chronology of Abraham Lincoln
(Adapted from Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point, by Lewis E. Lehrman)


1809 | 1816 | 1818 | 1819 | 1820 | 1828 | 1830 | 1831 | 1832 | 1833 | 1834 | 1835 | 1836 | 1837 | 1838 | 1839 | 1840 | 1841 | 1842 | 1831 | 1844 | 1846 | 1846-1848 | 1847-1849 | 1848 | 1849 | 1850 | 1851 | 1852 | 1853 | 1854 | 1854-1858 | 1855 | 1856 | 1857 | 1858 | 1859 | 1860 | 1861 | 1862 | 1863 | 1864 | 1865

  • Abraham Lincoln born in Hardin County, Kentucky (February 12).
  • Lincoln family moved to Indiana.
  • Lincoln’s mother Nancy dies (October 5).
  • Lincoln’s father, Thomas, remarries – to widow Sarah Bush Johnston (December 2).
  • Congress passes Compromise of 1820 (Missouri Compromise) which admits Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state. Slavery is prohibited in the Louisiana purchase above a line at 36Âş 30′.
  • Lincoln sister Sarah dies during childbirth (January 20).
  • Lincoln goes on flatboat trip to New Orleans.
  • Lincoln family moves from Indiana to Illinois.
  • Illinois endures “Winter of the Deep Snow” (1830-1831).
  • Abraham Lincoln, legally independent, settles in New Salem, Illinois.
  • Lincoln organizes flatboat trip to New Orleans.
  • Lincoln serves in the Black Hawk War, elected captain by militia unit.
  • Lincoln is defeated in race for Illinois House of Representatives (August 6).
  • Lincoln becomes New Salem postmaster and studies to be surveyor.
  • Lincoln wins first of four races for Illinois House of Representatives (August 4).
  • Lincoln commences preparation to become a lawyer.
  • Lincoln meets Stephen A. Douglas at session of State Legislature, which opens in Vandalia (December 1).
  • Lincoln general store goes bankrupt.
  • Lincoln’s friend Ann Rutledge dies (August 25).
  • After self-study Lincoln admitted to the practice of law (September 9).
  • Lincoln moves from New Salem to Springfield; rooms with Joshua F. Speed above Speed’s general store. He begins legal partnership with Kentucky-native John Todd Stuart.
  • Lincoln and State Representative Dan Stone introduce resolution to protest against anti-abolitionist resolution passed by the Illinois State Legislature. The protest includes the phrase “that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy.” (March 27).
  • Lincoln and Sangamon County allies engineer the legislation to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield (April 15).
  • Abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy murdered by mob in Alton, Illinois (November 7).
  • Lincoln delivers Lyceum Speech on “Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions” (January 27).
  • Lincoln campaigns for Whig John Todd Stuart, who defeats Democrat Stephen A. Douglas for Congress.
  • First railroad line in Illinois completed.
  • Illinois state capital shifted from Vandalia to Springfield (July 4).
  • Douglas and Lincoln are among 16 men who send invitations to a “cotillion” at American House in Springfield. (December 16). It may be at this event that Lincoln meets Mary Todd, visiting her sisters from her home in Kentucky.
  • Several Whigs, including Lincoln, begin a series of debates on political issues in Springfield with a group of Democrats, including Stephen A. Douglas (December).
  • Lincoln campaigns for Whig presidential candidate William Henry Harrison, who wins election.
  • Lincoln apparently ends engagement with Mary Todd (January 1) and suffers a bout of melancholy.
  • Lincoln switches legal partners from John Todd Stuart to Stephen T. Logan.
  • Lincoln is challenged to duel by future Democratic Senator James Shields; conflict is mediated by friends (September 22).
  • Lincoln marries Mary Todd (November 4).
  • Lincoln concludes fourth term in Illinois State House of Representatives.
  • First Lincoln son, Robert Todd Lincoln, born (August 1).
  • Lincoln campaigns in Indiana and Illinois for Whig presidential candidate Henry Clay, who loses election to James K. Polk.
  • Lincoln begins legal partnership with William H. Herndon, which continues until Lincoln’s assassination.
  • Second Lincoln son, Edward Baker Lincoln, born (March 10).
  • Lincoln is nominated for Congress (May 1) and elected to Congress over Democrat Peter Cartwright (August 3, 1846).
  • Mexican-American War, which Lincoln opposes on principles. He supports military expenditures.
  • Lincoln serves in Congress, beginning in December 1847. Votes repeatedly for Wilmot Proviso, prohibiting slavery in new territories acquired from Mexico. Meets fellow Whig Alexander H. Stephens, future vice president of the Confederacy.
  • Lincoln campaigns for Whig presidential candidate Zachary Taylor, who wins election (November 7) . On speaking tour of Massachusetts, Lincoln meets William H. Seward for the first time. Lincoln urges Whig voters not to support Free Soil candidate Martin Van Buren.
  • Congressman Lincoln announces legislation to end slavery in the District of Columbia (January 10).
  • Lincoln returns to Springfield and the practice of law.
  • Lincoln loses appointment as General Land Office commissioner.
  • Third Lincoln son William is born (December 21).
  • Lincoln’s father Thomas dies (January 17).
  • Lincoln delivers eulogy for Henry Clay (July 6).
  • Lincoln campaigns for Whig presidential candidate Winfield Scott, who loses to Democrat Franklin Pierce (November 2) to whom Stephen Douglas had lost his party’s nomination (June 12).
  • Fourth Lincoln son, Thomas (“Tad”), is born (April 4).
  • Congressman Richard Yates, an antislavery Whig, returns to Springfield, intending to retire (August 9). He is met by Lincoln, who urges him to run again.
  • In first reported address against Kansas-Nebraska, Lincoln speaks at Winchester (August 26).
  • Kansas-Nebraska opponents shout down speech by Senator Douglas in Chicago (September 1).
  • Lincoln debates Kansas-Nebraska Act at Springfield court house with John Calhoun. (September 9).
  • Editorial against Kansas-Nebraska Act, written by Lincoln, appears in Illinois Journal (September 11).
  • Lincoln delivers speech against Kansas-Nebraska at Bloomington (September 12).
  • Lincoln and Douglas deliver competing speeches in Bloomington (September 26).
  • Second Illinois State Fair opens in Springfield (early October); it is beset by rain.
  • Douglas delivers three-hour speech in Springfield at State Capitol (October 3).

Lincoln replies the next day in the same chamber of the House of Representatives (October 4) at the same length.

  • Douglas in the afternoon and Lincoln at night deliver speeches on the courthouse square in Peoria (October 16).
  • Meeting in Lacon, Lincoln agrees to a request by Douglas not to continue joint appearances on Kansas-Nebraska Act (October 17).
  • Lincoln elected to state House of Representatives (November 7) along with a majority of anti-Nebraska legislators. After declining election to the legislature, Lincoln begins campaign for U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat James Shields.
  • Democrat wins special election for state legislative seat to which Lincoln had been elected in November (December 23).
  • Republican Party begins to form as a Whig Party declines in Illinois and elsewhere.
  • Agitation and conflict in Kansas over slavery.
  • Lincoln loses state legislative vote for U.S. Senate; he throws his support to an anti-Nebraska Democrat, Lyman Trumbull, who narrowly wins election.
  • At organizing convention in Bloomington for Illinois Republican Party, Lincoln delivers a stirring speech, reprising themes from 1854. Only brief summary of speech is reported (May 29).
  • Lincoln loses Republican nomination for Vice President (June 19).
  • Dred Scott decision delivered by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (March 6). Lincoln delivers speech against Dred Scott decision (June 26).
  • Lincoln nominated by Illinois Republicans for U.S. Senate seat occupied by Senator Stephen A. Douglas; Lincoln delivers “House Divided” speech (June 16). Douglas responds to House Divided speech with a speech in Chicago (July 9).
  • Lincoln and Senator Douglas deliver campaign speeches in the same towns; Lincoln challenges Douglas to a series of debates (July 24).
  • LeCompton Constitution again rejected in Kansas referendum (August 2).
  • First Lincoln-Douglas debate held at Ottawa (August 21).
  • Second debate held at Freeport (August 27).
  • Third debate held at Jonesboro (September 15).
  • Fourth debate held at Charleston (September 18).
  • Fifth debate held at Galesburg (October 7).
  • Sixth debate held at Quincy (October 13).
  • Seventh and final debate held at Alton (October 15).
  • Republican legislative candidates compile more popular votes than Douglas Democrats (November 2). Douglas is nonetheless reelected to the Senate, 54-46, by Illinois State Legislature.
  • Lincoln campaigns in Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Kansas – delivering antislavery speeches.
  • Lincoln delivers Cooper Union Address (February 27) and other speeches in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut (February 28-March 10).
  • Lincoln is nominated for President by Republican National Convention meeting in Chicago (May 18).
  • Lincoln is elected President over Democrats Stephen A. Douglas and John Breckinridge and Constitutional Union Party candidate John Bell (November 6).
  • South Carolina secedes from Union (December 20).
  • Lincoln leaves Springfield, Illinois (February 11) for Washington by train. He delivers numerous speeches along the way in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. He arrives in Washington (February 23).
  • Lincoln delivers First Inaugural Address (March 4).
  • Confederates attack Fort Sumter (April 12). Congress not in session, President Lincoln responds to Fort Sumter with a call for 75,000 volunteers to put down rebellion.
  • President Lincoln meets with Stephen A. Douglas about attack on Fort Sumter; Douglas publicly supports Lincoln response. Douglas dies (June 3).
  • Lincoln delivers special message to Congress (July 4) outlining causes of conflict.
  • Union loses first major battle of the Civil War at Bull Run (July 21).
  • After battling typhoid-like illness, Willie Lincoln dies in White House (February 20); brother Tad recovers.
  • President Lincoln signs legislation for compensated emancipation in District of Columbia (April 16).
  • President Lincoln signs legislation overturning the Dred Scott decision and prohibiting slavery in territories (June 19).
  • Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation issued (September 22).
  • Lincoln replaces General George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac with Ambrose Burnside (November 5).
  • Final Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln (January 1).
  • Lincoln names General Ulysses S. Grant to command Union forces in Mississippi River valley.
  • Black Americans recruited for Union army.
  • Union victories at Gettysburg (July 1-3) and Vicksburg (July 4).
  • President Lincoln writes public letter to Democratic Congressman Erastus Corning explaining his policies.
  • President Lincoln writes another public letter to Illinois Republican James Conkling to be read at Union meeting in Springfield.
  • President Lincoln delivers Gettysburg Address (November 19).

President Lincoln proposes program of reconstruction (December 8).

  • Ulysses S. Grant appointed to command all Union armies (March 12).
  • President Lincoln is renominated by Union-Republican Party (June 8).
  • Atlanta is captured by Union General William T. Sherman (September 2).
  • President Lincoln is reelected (November 8) over General George B. McClellan, who received Democratic nomination at Chicago (August 29).
  • Congress passes Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery (January 31) after lobbying of House members by President Lincoln.
  • Peace conference held with three Confederate commissioners at Hampton Roads (February 3).
  • Lincoln delivers Second Inaugural Address (March 4).
  • Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders to Union commander Ulysses S. Grant (April 9).
  • Lincoln delivers final public address on reconstruction (April 11).
  • Lincoln is assassinated in Ford’s Theater (April 14) and dies the next day.
  • Lincoln is buried in Springfield, Illinois (May 4) after funeral train trip across the North.
  • Thirteenth Amendment is ratified (December 6).