Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and arguably the greatest leader this country has ever had. He led the country through the perilous years of the Civil War, ended slavery, preserved the union, and sacrificed everything to do so. 

Lincoln was born the son of poor farmers in rural Kentucky, in his family’s log cabin. He moved to Illinois, where he studied and began to practice law. He married Mary Todd Lincoln, and they had three children.

Over the course of his public and professional life, Lincoln experienced a series of failures that would have rattled a lesser man. He lost several elections and had periods of financial struggle, but he was also a brilliant wordsmith who famously sparred with Stephen A. Douglas in the well-known Lincoln-Douglas debates and earned a reputation for his clarity of thinking, sound research, and eloquence. 

As a leader in the newly founded Republican party, Lincoln ran for president in 1860 on a platform that included stopping the spread of slavery to newly opened territories in the American west. His 1859 speech here in Dayton was a critical part of his campaign to establish that platform. When he was elected, southern states seceded, and shortly afterward, the Civil War began when the South fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. 

Through four long years of war, Lincoln held the nation together, often through the sheer force of his personality and determination. At the end of the war, he was rightly honored as a masterful leader. His 1863 Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in all the states still in active rebellion, and constitutional amendments banning slavery in all the states followed a few years later. He kept the union intact.

Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865 by an angry southerner who refused to admit the war was lost.

Lincoln often spoke from wooden stages quickly constructed so that crowds could see him. Nowadays, we mostly have wooden grandstands and decks. It’s important to stay on top of your carpet cleaning if you’re using one.