Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest Presidents to ever serve the United States. Not only did he abolish slavery in the country, but he is also responsible for bringing the Union back together after the Civil War. The 16th president lived a relatively short life, dying in 1865 at the age of 56 after being assassinated. Due to Lincoln’s great achievements, the United States recognizes February 12 every year, which was this president’s birthday.
President Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in the small town of Hodgenville, Kentucky. He lived a modest family life, but was instilled many of the values that would later shape his presidency. His family was opposed to slavery, and they eventually settled down in free territory. As he grew into adulthood, he eventually relocated to what would be his home state of Illinois.
Abraham Lincoln started a career in public service early in life. First, he served as captain to the Illinois military during the Black Hawk War. After his services ended, Lincoln made a run for the Illinois General Assembly, which is better known as the state legislature today. He would go on to lose that seat because of a lack of money, but he still gained quite a following. Eventually he would become a lawyer as well as an Illinois Congressman. He lost a race for U.S. Senator due to his anti-slavery views. During his early career, he was given the nickname of “Honest Abe.”
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was nominated by the Republican Party’s presidential candidate. He would go onto win the presidency, during which would become one of the most difficult eras in U.S. history. While President Lincoln already had his sights set on abolishing slavery, he also had to contend with the south seceding from the Union over this issue. Attempts to appeal to the South failed, and this war-hating president was forced to declare a civil war in order to save the United States.
During the Civil War, President Lincoln wasted no time in abolishing slavery. On New Year’s Day in 1863, slavery was abolished in all federal territories, thanks to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. This extended not only within the Union, but down to the Confederate states, too. This was one of the greatest achievements of his presidency, and it set the stage for the over-due Civil Rights movement that would occur a century later.
Lincoln was reelected in 1864 during the final months of the Civil War. The war officially ended on April 9, 1865 and all the states united once again. Sadly, President Lincoln didn’t get to witness much of the Reconstruction Era after the war, as he was mortally shot just five days later on April 14, 1865. The assassination was carried out in Washington D.C.’s Ford’s Theatre by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated.
The nation subsequently went into mourning after Lincoln’s assassination and his birthday was quickly declared a holiday. Lincoln’s Birthday was first celebrated in 1874 in Buffalo, New York. While February 12 isn’t considered a Federal holiday like President’s Day, it is still observed as a day of remembrance with ceremonies every year.
Lincoln’s Birthday is commemorated every year in his hometown of Hodgenville. The small town has designated his birthplace as a National Historic Site. On February 12, Hodgenville carries out a small ceremony in remembrance of Honest Abe.
In addition to the annual Hodgenville ceremony, Lincoln’s Birthday is also celebrated at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The memorial first opened in 1922 and has carried out a special birthday celebration every year since.
A special birthday celebration was held in 2009 to honor the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birthday. During that year, the U.S. mint released four new pennies. Each features one of four different stages of his life on the backs of each coin.