The College of New Rochelle Mother Irene Gill Library January 2009 Exhibit
exhibit created by Sr. Martha Counihan, O.S.U.
online adaptation by Susan Acampora


Feb. 9, 1809 - April 15, 1865

See also: 
New Rochelle’s Simeon Leland and the Civil War

Born in Kentucky to a poor farming family, Abraham Lincoln had an ambition to learn which led him from farm work, to clerking in a country store, to law, and then to politics. In all, he stated, he had had a total of one year of schooling. In 1834, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois state legislature and began to study law. The tall, awkward, shy, and “countrified” young man became respected for his knowledge and eloquence. In 1842, he married a Southerner, Mary Todd in Springfield, IL. Eventually the Lincolns had four sons; sadly, only Robert, the eldest, lived into adulthood.    

Browse the Lincoln Historical Digitization Project of Northern Illinois University.

In 1847, Lincoln was elected to the US House of Representatives and served for two years in Washington. As a junior member of Congress, Lincoln learned and observed a lot. Back in the Illinois, Lincoln was swept deeply into the slave controversy which was dividing the country. In 1854, he re-entered politics in reaction to the repeal on the anti-slavery Missouri Compromise; four years later, his published debates with the Democrat Senator Stephen Douglas, brought Abraham Lincoln to the attention of the American public.


Read the Debates at the Lincoln Historical Digitization Project


From CNR’s Special Collections: Political Debates Between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas. Columbus: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860.

Lincoln’s fame was spread by the publication of the seven three hour debates to which he challenged his political rival, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas in the summer of 1858. The issue was slavery and its spread into the new territories.

Lincoln: Slavery is an unqualified evil to the Negro, to the white man, to the soil, and to the State.”

Douglas: “I believe this government was made by the white man for the white man to be administered by the white man.”

 The Lincoln and Douglas meetin... Digital ID: 809288. New York Public Library

The Lincoln and Douglas meetin... Digital ID: 809288. New York Public Library

Abraham Lincoln, a foot taller, rumpled and with a higher pitched voice lost the debates in racially divided Illinois, but the publication of the debates convinced the voting public that “the Giant Killer” was the best candidate for President.

Stephen Douglas, the “Little Giant” at five feet four inches was dapper, with a booming voice, audible to the crowds of thousands who came to the debates in August, 1858.

 In 1860, Lincoln was the nominee of the newly formed Republican Party and was elected 16th president of the United States in November, 1860.

Reception with Mayor Fernando Wood: NYPL Image 809513
Reception with Mayor Fernando Wood: NYPL Image 809513

By the time of his inauguration on March 4, 1861, eleven southern states had seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. On April 12, the War of Secession began. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation freed all the slaves in the states of the Confederacy.

Appeal to join army: NYPL Image 124883
Appeal to join army: NYPL Image 124883


The bloody Civil War raged through the beginning of Lincoln’s second term and ended with General Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865.

Lincoln Entering Richmond
Lincoln entering Richmond: NYPL Image 813678


Six days later, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.  The outpouring of public grief in the North was enormous as the train carrying Lincoln’s body traveled through New York and west to Springfield, IL where he was buried.


The Obsequies of Abraham Lincoln       








Mourning Ribbon (CNR Archives)

 (left) David Thomas Valentine. Obsequies of Abraham Lincoln in the City of New York. New York: Jones & Co., 1866. Frontispiece of above title.  ( CNR Special Collections)

Abraham Lincoln became an icon of moral fortitude and he continues to be the most admired of American leaders.

Historiography, the writing of history, is of particular importance in Lincoln studies. The “apotheosis” of Lincoln continued throughout the 19th Century. After “caressing” reminiscences clouded the Lincoln story, Robert Lincoln requested his father’s former secretaries to compile their recollections and memories of the slain President. Lincoln’s former partners published popular “biographies.”

Probably, the first well documented biography of Abraham Lincoln was written by
Ida M. Tarbell (The Early Life of Abraham Lincoln, McClure, Ltd.: 1896)


a well educated professional woman historian who hired photographers and artists to capture the images of persons and places fast-disappearing, and included verbatim interviews.

 Lincoln’s own writings (Abraham Lincoln. Collected Works.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University press, 1953-55. 9 volumes)

Lincoln, Abraham. Speeches and writings 1832-1858  New York : Viking Press, 1989

give a good look at the man and the development of his thinking. Lincoln did his own correspondence and speechwriting.


 Gabor S. Boritt, ed. The Historian’s Lincoln. Urbana, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

Lincoln was not an icon when he appeared on the national scene after his 1858 debates with Stephen Douglas nor afterwards. Like any other public figure, he was lambasted for his policies and decisions during his presidency and afterwards. This volume presents a variety of (and some conflicting) opinions about Lincoln of a group of historians.

Merrill D. Peterson. Lincoln in American Memory. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

The collective memory of Lincoln includes folklore and biography, myth and history. By the early 20th Century only books about Jesus Christ outnumbered those about Abraham Lincoln. Peterson traces patterns of thinking relative to Lincoln through World War II, the Nixon-Kennedy debates, into the Civil Rights movement focusing on Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington and his moving “I Have a Dream” speech at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial.

Stephen B. Oates. With Malice Towards None: the Life of Abraham Lincoln.. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.


Stephen B. Oates. Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind the Myths. New York: Harper & Row, 1984.


Oates, a former history professor at the University of Massachusetts, has been one of the most respected Lincoln scholars of the 20th Century. His 1984 title explores the many myths surrounding “Father Abraham” with comparisons between reality and myth and the real-life Lincoln.

Garry Wills. Lincoln at Gettysburg: the Words that Remade America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992


Wills, a professor of culture and public policy, explores the power of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (only 272 words) and its effect in changing the way Americans thought about the Constitution.

Glatthaar, Joseph T.  Forged in Battle:  The civil war alliance of black soldiers and white officers.  Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press, 2000

The Gettysburg Address, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863 at Gettysburg, PA dedicating a national cemetery on the battlefield where over 7,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed the previous July.

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address page 1 and 2

The main speech lasted two hours, Lincoln’s, a few minutes. See for more information.

On his way to his inauguration in 1861, Abraham Lincoln stopped in New York City where he was greeted by throngs of well wishers and received by the Mayor, Fernando Wood.

Reception of A. Lincoln on Inaugural trip: NYPL Image 809511
Reception of A. Lincoln on Inaugural trip: NYPL Image 809511

Lincoln’s assassination of April 15, 1865, a few days after Lee’s surrender shattered the nation. His funeral cortege followed that of his inauguration trip by railroad. In New York, a solemn parade of mourners by the thousands accompanied the bier.

David Thomas Valentine. Obsequies of Abraham Lincoln in the City of New York. New York: Jones & Co., 1866. Un-numbered plate entitled “Cortege Passing Fifth Avenue Hotel” ( CNR Special Collections)