He was born in a humble log cabin but rose to the highest office in the land. He had almost no formal education but earned a place in history as one of the most eloquent speakers the world has ever known. He held a nation together during it's most bitter and tragic conflict but became the last, great casualty of that war.
His name was Abraham Lincoln
His early life gave little indication of the greatness that was to come. He was born in the backwoods of Kentucky, his father a poor farmer. He opened a general store but it failed. He ran for local office, but he lost. He became a postmaster but delighted more in reading the newspaper that in delivering it. He became a rail splitter and it was said he had the strength of three men. Yet none of these satisfied him.
What Abraham hungered most for in this world was found in books, claiming that his best friend was the man who would loan him a book he hadn't read. With encouragement from a friend, Lincoln studied the law. Apprenticing himself to a lawyer and studying night and day he passed the bar in April of 1837.
From a young age Lincoln loathed slavery. he witnessed a slave auction first hand while traveling in New Orleans and said to his companions... "Let us get away from this. If ever I get a chance to hit that thing (meaning slavery) I'll hit it hard."
At 6 ft 4 inches, Abraham was tall and ungainly with features that were far from handsome. But his extraordinary sense of humor was renowned. The stories and jokes he told would become known not only for the laughter they brought but also for the wisdom so often contained within them. Once, when asked why he was so often quiet he replied.
"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."
Though he loved to laugh there was also a deep sadness about him, a melancholy that would remain all his life. He lost his mother when he was nine, his sister Sarah ten years later and three of his four sons never reached adulthood.
He watched as the nation he loved almost destroyed itself with brother fighting brother. Every waking hour of his presidency was occupied with the Civil War. His great strength and resolve held the nation together but the burden of presiding over such a nation was tearing him apart. After the battle of Fredericksburg, John Hays recalled Lincoln sitting on the front porch of the White House, watching the wagons roll by with the dead.
He was the first American president to fall under an assassin's bullet and initiated the most intense period of mourning the nation had ever experienced. Forty thousand people came to pay their respects as his body lay in state in the rotunda.
When the capital viewing was complete and the funerals in Washington and New York were over, his coffin was placed on a seven car train that embarked on a 1200 mile journey across the country, snaking from the nations capitol to his home in Illinois.
NOTE: Notice the red circle around the window in the photograph. Young Teddy Roosevelt was watching the procession from that window.
Tens of thousands of people lined the railways, standing silent and bareheaded, saying good-bye. He was laid to rest in his beloved Springfield.
Abraham's journey was over but with each passing year came the realization that a giant had walked on the national stage.
"Of all the men I ever met, Abraham Lincoln possessed more of the elements of greatness combined with goodness, than any other man." William T. Sherman
This is a beautiful picture book about Lincoln's Funeral train.