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Lincoln portrait by Brady in 1864
President Lincoln in 1864
Library of Congress

Lincoln Presidential Timeline

Abraham Lincoln's career as America's 16th president spanned about four years, from March 4, 1861 to his murder on April 15, 1865, by a Confederate sympathizer. Long before entering Washington, Lincoln's life was in danger; his entire presidency was marked by civil war and contentious conditions.

A prodigious worker, President Lincoln wrote his own masterful speeches, managed a vast military conflict, and conducted domestic and foreign matters with a miniscule staff. He often walked unguarded through Washington to meet with officials and traveled periodically to see armies and commanders in the field. Despite his lack of executive experience, he maintained the Union and Constitution while helping to destroy slavery. Little wonder, then, that he casts a long shadow which still dwarfs his successors.

This timeline offers some highlights of Lincoln's presidency. For a comprehensive list, consult the Lincoln Log, a daily chronology of Lincoln's life.

Timeline

MARCH 4, 1861
Inaugurated as first Republican president and gives his inaugural address

APRIL 15, 1861
Calls for 75,000 state militia after Fort Sumter falls to Southern secessionists

APRIL 19, 1861
Proclaims a blockade of ports in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas

MAY 25, 1861
Holds a White House funeral for Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, who was assassinated in Virginia

JUNE 3, 1861
Orders a 30-day mourning period for political rival Stephen A. Douglas who died at age 48

JULY 4, 1861
His message to Congress about the war is read in the US Capitol

JULY 21, 1861
Hears about the Union army defeat at the battle of Bull Run (Mansassas)

AUGUST 3, 1861
Hosts a White House dinner for Prince Napoleon of France

OCTOBER 21, 1861
Learns of the death of close friend Colonel Edward Baker, killed at the battle of Ball's Bluff

NOVEMBER 1, 1861
Places General George B. McClellan in command of Union troops, succeeding General Winfield Scott

DECEMBER 3, 1861
His Annual Message is read before both houses of Congress

DECEMBER 25, 1861
Reaches agreement on "Trent" affair, an international naval incident

JANUARY 13, 1862
Nominates Edwin M. Stanton as Secretary of War, replacing Simon Cameron

JANUARY 21, 1862
Nominates Noah H. Swayne of Ohio as a U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice

FEBRUARY 20, 1862
His third-born son, William Wallace Lincoln, dies at age 11 in the White House

MAY 5-12, 1862
Visits Fort Monroe and participates in attack on Norfolk, Virginia

MAY 15, 1862
Approves the establishment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

MAY 20, 1862
Approves the Homestead Act, giving homesteads to settlers on government lands

MAY 22-23, 1862
Visits Fredericksburg, Virginia to meet with General McDowell and Colonel Haupt

JUNE 24, 1862
Visits West Point, New York, to meet with General Winfield Scott

JULY 2, 1862
Signs the Pacific Railroad Act and Morrill Land Act

JULY 11, 1862
Appoints General Henry W. Halleck as commander-in-chief of the Union armies

JULY 16, 1862
Nominates Samuel F. Miller of Iowa as a U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice

JULY 22, 1862
Reads the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet

AUGUST 22, 1862
Writes a famous letter about emancipation to Horace Greeley

AUGUST 29, 1862
Learns of the Union loss at the Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas)

SEPTEMBER 17, 1862
Briefed on the Battle of Antietam Creek, which stopped General Lee's invading army

SEPTEMBER 22, 1862
Reads the second draft of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet

OCTOBER 1-4, 1862
Visits Harper's Ferry, West Virginia and the Antietam battlefield

OCTOBER 17, 1862
Nominates David Davis of Illinois as a U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice

NOVEMBER 5, 1862
Replaces General McClellan with Major General Ambrose Burnside

DECEMBER 1, 1862
His Annual Message is read before both houses of Congress

DECEMBER 12, 1862
Hears of disastrous Union loss at Fredericksburg, Virginia

DECEMBER 31, 1862
Approves the Congressional act admitting West Virginia to the Union

JANUARY 1, 1863
Signs the Emancipation Proclamation, which frees slaves in certain Southern jurisdictions

JANUARY 8, 1863
Appoints John Usher as Secretary of the Interior, replacing the ailing Caleb Smith

JANUARY 25, 1863
Replaces General Burnside with Major General Joseph Hooker

FEBRUARY 21, 1863
Nominates Stephen J. Field of California as a U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice

FEBRUARY 25, 1863
Approves the National Currency Act, creating a national banking system

APRIL 4-10; 19, 1862
Visits General Hooker and Union army near Fredericksburg and Aquia Creek, Virginia

MAY 5, 1862
Learns of the Union army loss under General Hooker at Chancellorsville, Virginia

JUNE 27, 1863
Replaces General Hooker with Major General George Meade

JULY 4, 1863
Announces the battlefield victory at Gettysburg; Vicksburg surrenders to General Grant

JULY 13, 1863
Responds to mob violence in New York City where draft riots rage for several days

AUGUST 26, 1863
Sends a now-famous letter to James Conkling to read at a Union rally

OCTOBER 3, 1863
Issues proclamation for a national day of thanksgiving

OCTOBER 17, 1863
Calls for 300,000 Union volunteers, inspiring a song in the process

NOVEMBER 19, 1863
Gives the Gettysburg Address at the cemetery dedication in Pennsylvania

DECEMBER 9, 1863
His Annual Message is read before both houses of Congress

MARCH 9, 1864
Commissions General Ulysses Grant as Lieutenant General; appoints him commander-in-chief on March 10

APRIL 18, 1864
Speaks at the Baltimore, Maryland Sanitary Commission Fair to benefit soldiers

JUNE 8, 1864
The National Union Party renominates him for the presidency with Andrew Johnson as his running mate

JUNE 16, 1864
Speaks at the U.S. Sanitary Commission Fair in Philadelphia to benefit soldiers

JUNE 21-22, 1864
Meets with General Grant at his headquarters in City Point, Virginia

JUNE 30, 1864
Accepts resignation of Salmon Chase, Secretary of the Treasury; appoints William Fessenden on July 1

JULY 11-12, 1864
Visits Ft. Stevens and narrowly misses sniper fire in a Confederate raid on Washington

JULY 18, 1864
Issues a call for 500,000 Union army volunteers

AUGUST 18, 1864
Speaks at Sanitary Commission Fair in Baltimore to benefit soldiers

AUGUST 29, 1864
Lincoln's former Union commander, George McClellan, receives the Democrat party presidential nomination

SEPTEMBER 3, 1864
Orders celebration for victories at Atlanta, Georgia and Mobile, Alabama

SEPTEMBER 4, 1864
Appoints William Dennison, Jr. as Postmaster General, replacing Montgomery Blair

OCTOBER 15, 1864
Attends the Washington funeral of Roger B. Taney, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice

OCTOBER 22, 1864
Telegraphs congratulations to General Philip Sheridan on his Shenandoah Valley campaign

OCTOBER 31, 1864
Approves admittance of Nevada into the Union

NOVEMBER 8, 1864
Easily wins re-election over Democrat George McClellan

DECEMBER 2, 1864
Appoints James Speed as Attorney General, replacing Edwin Bates

DECEMBER 6, 1864
His Annual Message is read before both houses of Congress

DECEMBER 6, 1864
Nominates Salmon P. Chase of Ohio as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice

FEBRUARY 1, 1865
Approves the resolution submitting the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery

FEBRUARY 3, 1865
Meets with Confederate peace commissioners at Hampton Roads, Virginia

MARCH 4, 1865
Inaugurated for a second term and gives his inaugural address

MARCH 6, 1865
Appoints Hugh McCulloch as Secretary of the Treasury, replacing William Dennison, Jr.

MARCH 24-APRIL 8, 1865
Visits General Grant at City Point; enters Richmond, Virginia, after Union forces take possession

APRIL 11, 1865
Gives his last public address to a crowd on the White House lawn

APRIL 15, 1865
Dies at age 56 after being shot by John Wilkes Booth during a play at Ford's Theatre


Timeline Sources: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler and others; Lincoln Day by Day edited by Earl Miers

Document Resources

  • Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (ALA)
  • Guide to Lincoln Research Collections (USC)
  • Lincoln Collection (LOC)
  • Lincoln Historical Digitization Project (NIU)

    Commentary/Context

  • Abraham Lincoln and Agriculture (National Agricultural Library)
  • Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties in Wartime (Heritage Foundation)
  • Abraham Lincoln and the Perpetual Campaign (Illinois Humanities Council)
  • Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of the Civil War (ExplorePA)
  • Abraham Lincoln and the Triumph of an Antislavery Nationalism (JALA)
  • Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman as Representative Americans (Yale University)
  • "Abraham Lincoln's Invention of Presidential War Powers" (YouTube)
  • A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln (CHM/GLI)
  • Domestic Affairs in the Lincoln Administration (University of Virginia)
  • "For a Vast Future Also: Lincoln and the Millenium" (NEH)
  • Foreign Affairs in the Lincoln Administration (University of Virginia)
  • His Loyal Opposition: Lincoln's Border States' Critics (JALA)
  • Key Events in Lincoln's Presidency (University of Virginia)
  • Learning from Lincoln (GLI)
  • Lincoln and Abolitionism (History Now)
  • Lincoln and Daniel Webster (JISHS)
  • Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence (WSJ)
  • Lincoln and the Union Governors Revisited (ALI)
  • Lincoln and the Will of God (First Things)
  • Lincoln as a Naval War Leader (ALI)
  • Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief (McPherson/LOC Webcast)
  • Lincoln as the Indispensable Man (ALI)
  • Lincoln: Private Man, Public Leader (Drake U.)
  • Lincoln, Race, Equality and the Spirit of '76 (LOC Webcast)
  • Lincoln's Critics: The Copperheads (JALA)
  • Lincoln's Interpretation of the Civil War (History Now)
  • Lincoln's Leadership (LOC Webcast)
  • Lincoln's Legacy (Guelzo/YouTube)
  • Lincoln's Legacy (McPherson/W&LU)
  • Lincoln's Power of the Negative (WSJ)
  • Lincoln's Religion (GLI)
  • Lincoln's Sacred Effort: The Role of Providence in Political Leadership (GLI)
  • Lincoln's Triumph (GC/YouTube)
  • Lincoln's View of Political Persuasion (JALA)
  • Lincoln/Net (NIU)
  • Mr. Lincoln and the Founders (The Lincoln Institute)
  • Mr. Lincoln and Freedom (The Lincoln Institute)
  • Mr. Lincoln and Friends (The Lincoln Institute)
  • The Partisan Life of Abraham Lincoln (JALA)
  • The Time of the Lincolns (PBS)
  • Why Lincoln Appointed Political Generals (ALI)

    Special Topics

  • Lincoln and Emancipation -- A Summary*
  • Lincoln and Gettysburg Timeline*
  • Lincoln Assassination Links*
  • Lincoln's Inaugurations*
  • Lincoln's Supreme Court*
  • Lincoln's U.S. Capitol Rites*
  • Lincoln's White House Funeral*
  • Lincoln's White House Viewing*

    1860 Election

  • 1860 Nomination for President (Great American History)
  • Campaigns and Elections/1860 (University of Virginia)
  • Illinois and the 1860 Election (NIU)
  • Lincoln's Acceptance of 1860 Nomination (Library of Congress)
  • Lincoln and Hamlin Election Ticket (Library of Congress)
  • Lincoln for President Banner (Library of Congress)
  • Lincoln-Hamlin Campaign Banner*
  • Lincoln Campaign Banner (Kansas State Historical Society)
  • Lincolniana -- Lincoln is Notified of His Nomination (JISHS)
  • Map of the 1860 Presidential Election (American Presidency Project)
  • Oglesby's Fence Rail Dealings and the 1860 Decatur Convention (JISHS)
  • The British Press Reacts to Lincoln's Election (JISHS)
  • Views of the Wigwam Convention (JALA)
  • The Presidential Election of 1860 (NIU)

    1864 Election

  • Campaigns and Elections/1864 (University of Virginia)
  • Lincoln, Grant and the 1864 Election (NPS)
  • "Lincoln's Reelection" by Noah Brooks (Cornell University)
  • Map of the 1864 Presidential Election (American Presidency Project)
  • McClellan and Seymour in the Chicago Convention of 1864 (JISHS)
  • The Unwanted Mr. Lincoln (JISHS)

    Places

  • Ford's Theatre (NPS)
  • Fort Stevens (NPS)
  • Gettysburg*
  • Harpers Ferry (NPS)
  • Lincoln Cottage
  • Mr. Lincoln's White House (Lincoln Institute)
  • New York Avenue Presbyterian Church*
  • St. John's Episcopal Church*
  • U.S. Capitol*
  • U.S. Capitol Photo Tour*
  • White House (NPS)
  • Wills House*

    Books

  • Behind the Scenes by Elizabeth Keckley (University of Michigan)
  • Books about Lincoln's Presidency*
  • Ernest B. Furgurson on "Freedom Rising" (LOC Webcast)
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin on "Team of Rivals" (LOC Podcast)
  • Lincoln and Seward by Gideon Welles (Making of America)
  • Dean Mahin Interview: "One War at a Time"*
  • Ronald C. White, Jr. Interview: Lincoln's Eloquence*
  • Douglas Wilson Interview: "Lincoln's Sword"*
  • Nineteenth Century Lincoln-Related Publications (Making of America)
  • Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln (Making of America)
  • The Life and Public Services of Abraham Lincoln (Making of America)

    Selected Speeches and Writings

  • First Inaugural Address, 1861*
  • Letter to the Ellsworths, 1861*
  • Meditation on the Divine Will, 1862*
  • Letter to Horace Greeley, 1862*
  • Concluding Remarks/Annual Message to Congress, 1862*
  • Letter to Fanny McCullough, 1862*
  • Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 *
  • Letter to Major General Joseph Hooker, 1863*
  • Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day, 1863*
  • Letter to Erastus Corning and Others, 1863*
  • Response to a Serenade, 1863*
  • Letter to General Grant, 1863*
  • Letter to James C. Conkling, 1863*
  • The Gettysburg Address, 1863*
  • Letter to Edward Everett, 1863*
  • Letter to Albert G. Hodges, 1864*
  • Speeches to Ohio Regiments, 1864*
  • Letter to Mrs. Eliza P. Gurney, 1864*
  • Letter to Mrs. Bixby, 1864*
  • Second Inaugural Address, 1865*
  • Last Public Address, 1865*

    Other Timelines

  • Lincoln and Gettysburg Timeline*
  • Lincoln Early Life Timeline*
  • Lincoln Family Timeline*
  • Lincoln Legal Career Timeline*
  • Lincoln Pre-Presidential Political Timeline*
  • Lincoln Tomb Timeline*
  • Mary Todd Lincoln Timeline*
  • Robert Todd Lincoln Timeline*

    *Indicates pages created by Abraham Lincoln Online

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