In 1861, a group of states seceded from the American Union, because they disagreed with President Lincoln, and created their own country, which was called the Confederate States. This secession marked the beginning of the Civil War, which would last for more than four challenging years. Unifying and strengthening America, President Abraham Lincoln struggled to keep the Union alive. The President’s discerning leadership during the Civil War was his greatest contribution to the American Union. Abraham Lincoln ended slavery, delivered the Gettysburg Address, and saved the American Union, establishing him as America's preeminent president.
When Abraham Lincoln became president, slavery was a major part of life in America. However, from the time Abraham Lincoln was a young boy, he was adamantly against slavery. He once said, “I am naturally antislavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think, and feel” (qtd. In Oldham and McMath 7). When Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office, his goals did not include abolishing slavery (Oldham and McMath 133). However, when the southern states left the Union, the Civil War commenced.
During the war, the Confederate States began using their slaves to help the wounded and deliver supplies to soldiers. Without their slaves, the Confederated States would lose. Abraham Lincoln realized that in order to save the Union, it would be necessary to abolish slavery. Nevertheless, he continued to wait because it was commonly thought the war would end quickly. Abraham Lincoln did not originally think the war should be fought for – or against – slavery (Klingaman 52). However, as rumors spread that President Lincoln was going to emancipate the slaves, the war quickly became centered around slavery. The slaves’ future, to live free or die a slave, depended on his decision. President Lincoln rightly viewed slavery as a long-time, impairing influence on the indispensible purpose of the American Union (Carwardine 23).
In his ‘House Divided’ speech, which he gave in 1854 before the American Civil War began, Abraham Lincoln said, “Our political problem now is; can we, as a nation, continue together permanently – forever – half slave and half free” (qtd in Carwardine 27)? After a prolonged period of time, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. All slaves looked up to him as their hero. By freeing the slaves, Abraham Lincoln created equality in America. Without equality, America would never be able to peacefully continue as a nation.
Another reason why Abraham Lincoln is so important today is his Gettysburg Address. In 1863, the Battle at Gettysburg was fought, marking the turning point of the American Civil War (Oldham and McMath 136). Though the Union won the battle, thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers were killed on the field.
When Abraham Lincoln stood to give his speech, people expected a powerful memorial of the soldiers who had died. After he finished his speech, the audience received it with silence, expecting more. Lincoln’s speech totaled ten sentences:
The audience of this speech later agreed that it was the most meaningful speech of the two given that night. Edward Everett had been the main speaker but Abraham Lincoln painted a lasting mark on the American people when he gave the Gettysburg Address to honor the soldiers who died to save the American Union. Though many people doubted Abraham Lincoln’s ability to direct a nation at war, he prevented the American Union from crumbling.
Slaves were crucial to the Confederates’ victory. The Confederates’ realized that they did not have enough people to fight and aid the soldiers. So the Confederacy had a choice. Either they return to the Union or they lose all their slaves. The Confederacy refused to return to the Union. As a result, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves. Shortly after this, the Confederacy surrendered – the North had won. Abraham Lincoln saved the Union and is remembered as the most strategic leader in the war – even more so than the generals.
Because he ended slavery, wrote the Gettysburg Address, and saved the Union, Abraham Lincoln is remembered as America’s predominant president. When Abraham Lincoln ended slavery, he proved that he knew the true meaning of a union. He realized that while slavery continued in the states, unity could not exist. By creating equality, Abraham Lincoln made America the free nation it is today. Showing his true care for the soldiers who died, Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, a moving, memorial speech. This speech dedicated a new graveyard for the soldiers who gave their lives in the Battle at Gettysburg. The most important action Lincoln took was his decision to fight to save the Union from splitting into two nations. Deciding to fight the Civil War was the best decision Abraham Lincoln made during the short time he was president. Though many believe Abraham Lincoln was overstepping his executive powers, he correctly felt that it was his responsibility to protect the Union. Because of his tremendous accomplishments, Abraham Lincoln has more documents written about him that any other man in history (Oldham and McMath 75). “Abraham Lincoln's [legacy] was a martyrdom waiting to happen, and his portraits show it” (qtd. in Morris 143). Abraham Lincoln withstood great pressure while in office. Whether it was many deaths in his immediate family or ridicule from the American public, Abraham Lincoln continued to move forward until the American Union was once again untied. Without Abraham Lincoln’s, and many other people’s, sacrifices, the United States of America would not exist today.
Carwardine, Richard J. Lincoln: Profiles In Power. Great Britain: Pearson Education Limited, 2003.
Klingaman, William K. Abraham Lincoln And The Road to Emancipation. New York: Viking Penguin, 2001.
Morris, Jan. A Foreigner's Quest: Lincoln. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000.
Norton, Roger J. Abraham Lincoln Research Site. 21 Jan. 2008 <http://home.att.net/%7Erjnorton/Lincoln87.html>
Oldham, Pamela, and Meredith B. McMath. The Complete Idiot’s Guide To: The Legacy of Lincoln. New York: Penguin Group, 2005.