Lincoln Chronology

Abraham Lincoln Timeline

This is an Abraham Lincoln timeline, outlining the chief events in the personal life and political career of President Lincoln.


Abraham Lincoln is born on February 19, 1809 in a log cabin on the American frontier. The cabin was located on the very edge of European settlement on the Big South Fork of Nolin Creek, in Hardin (now La Rue) County, Kentucky.


Lincoln's parents follow the wave of colonization westward and move to Indiana, settling near Little Pigeon Creek, close to the community of Gentryville, in Spencer County.


Abraham Lincoln's biological mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln dies. Abraham is 9 years old.


Abraham Lincoln's father marries Sarah Bush Johnston. Sarah proves to be a loving stepmother who devotes herself to young Abraham Lincoln. In later life, Lincoln attributes everything he became or could ever hope to become to his stepmother, whom he refers to as "mother."


Abraham Lincoln hires on as a crew member on a flatboat ferrying freight down the Mississippi to New Orleans. It is his first extended stay away from home. On this voyage Lincoln witnesses the horrors of slavery in the South first hand, including a slave being whipped mercilessly. What he sees helps shape Lincoln's antislavery views.


Lincoln's family moves to a new farmstead in Illinois, settling near Decatur. Although now an adult, Abraham Lincoln moves with his family.

The historic splitting of the rails by Lincoln occurs: using an axe Lincoln single handedly splits hundreds of logs to make fence posts. When he later embarked on a political career, Lincoln played up his origin as the son of poor frontierspeople. During the 1860 Republican convention in Illinois, one of Lincoln's strategists and political supporters came up with the idea of bringing some of the actual rail posts to the convention as a symbol of Lincoln's humble roots. It worked. During the Civil War, more of these rails were collected from the Lincoln farmstead and sold as fundraising souvenirs. Each log came with a certificate of authenticity signed by Lincoln's cousin John Hanks. Perhaps like the splinters of the True Cross, the number of rails supposedly split by Lincoln grew over time but they served as a symbolic connection between Lincoln and the American West.

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