There is no end to the lore of Abraham Lincoln - the one-room Kentucky log cabin of his birth, "Honest Abe" and "the railsplitter," the Gettysburg Address. Self-schooled, sinewy and intensely singular, Lincoln tried his hand at politics but lost his election for the Illinois legislature in 1832. Two years later he was elected to the lower house for the first of four terms. He simultaneously practiced law and courted Mary Todd, who married him in 1842.
In 1847, Lincoln began a term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He ran for the Senate against Stephen Douglas in 1858 as a member of the new Republican party, and the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates set the stage for his widening future.
Taking a firm stand on the most fundamental issue of the day, Lincoln declared slavery fundamentally evil. He seized the presidential nomination of his party in 1860 and defeated, among others, Douglas.
On April 12, 1861, the Civil War burst on the scene, and Lincoln presided over the most divisive period in the nation's history. In 1863, he gave his "Emancipation Proclamation" declaring slavery unlawful in the United States. By the day of his second inauguration in 1865, General William Sherman was nearing the end of his decisive march to the sea, and on April 9, General Robert E. Lee surrendered.
Five nights later, a bullet fired by proslavery actor John Wilkes Booth cost him his life.