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Abraham Lincoln

History: Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America


Civil War in One Word (2 min) TV-PG

If you had just one word to describe the Civil War, what would it be? Authors: History.com Staff.

The presidency of Abraham Lincoln began on March 4, 1861, and ended with Lincoln's death by assassination on April 15, 1865, one month into his second term. This article details President Lincoln's actions during the American Civil War. Lincoln, despite being little prepared for it by prior military experience, was first and foremost a war president. The nation was at peace for less than six weeks of his presidency and it was the only presidency that was entirely "bounded by the parameters of war".[1] Lincoln was called on to handle both the political and military aspects of the war, and his leadership has to be evaluated based on his ability to balance these inseparable parts of the Union's efforts. He was a successful war president to the extent that he was able to control the revolutionary forces unleashed by his election and Southern secession, maintain the democratic principles that were the bedrock of the nation, and achieve a military victory.[2] His assassination five days after the end of the war left the final challenge of reconstructing the nation to others, but Lincoln as early as 1863 established principles that he felt should shape this process.[3] Lincoln, as commander-in-chief, suspended habeas corpus for prisoners suspected of supporting the Southern cause.

Lincoln, a former Whig politician, ran as a Republican on a political platform opposing the policies of the Pierce and Buchanan administrations that would have preserved slavery for the foreseeable future. While acknowledging that only a state could outlaw slavery within its own borders, the Republican insistence on keeping slavery out of all territories would ultimately lead to the end of slavery in the entire nation since, in the minds of both most Northerners and most Southerners, the survival of slavery depended on its ability to expand.[4] By his nature, Lincoln was open to political compromises, but, from his election to his assumption of office, he led his party in standing firm against any compromise on the territorial issues. After being sworn in as President he likewise refused to accept any resolution that would result in Southern secession from the Union.

Lincoln is ranked by historians as one of the greatest presidents in American history, usually as number one, for winning the Civil War, bringing the nation back together as one, and abolishing slavery.

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