8 Shocking Facts About Abraham Lincoln’s Life Story & Career
‘That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well’ – Abraham Lincoln
From poverty to the presidency, Abraham Lincoln’s life story is an inspiring tale of determination, dedication and strength. On February 12th 1809, Lincoln was born in a wooden cabin in the outskirts of Kentucky. Despite a rough and traumatic childhood, Abraham Lincoln’s career began in law and before being elected in 1860, he was a lawyer and politician in Illinois.
Best known for being an honest and fair man, he successfully issued the 13th amendment during the American Civil War and freed thousands of slaves across the United States. However, his presidency was short-lived. After only four years as President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln’s career abruptly ended when he was assassinated. The question is, how much do you really know about this remarkable historical figure?
Get ready to discover 8 shocking facts about Abraham Lincoln’s life story, as the 16th president of the United States of America, that they don’t teach you at school!
1: Tragic Frontier Childhood & New Step Mother
While we often hear about Abraham Lincoln’s career and how he changed the course of history, most people aren’t aware of how difficult and traumatic his childhood was. Putting poverty aside for a moment, Abraham Lincoln’s life story also includes the tragic death of his mother, when he was only 9 years old. Buried in the forest, the young child faced a tough Kentucky winter without the warmth and affection of his mom. Thankfully, his father, Thomas Lincoln remarried after a year, and Lincoln’s stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, showered him with love, along with her own children. Later Abraham would refer to Sarah as his angel mother. (1)
2: Abraham Lincoln’s Career Supported By Acting Skills
Known for being an influential public speaker, Abraham Lincoln’s career was enhanced by his acting skills. During his early years, Abraham Lincolnrevealed that he would study and imitate preachers, as they held a crowd’s attention and used their body language and tone of voice to keep people interested in their teachings. With practice, young Abraham was able to develop his own acting skills and use humour to delight and entertain a group of people.
Rather than talk down to his friends, neighbours and fellow men, Abraham became relatable by using their style of humour, and common sayings to effectively break down barriers between himself and others. His incredible talent as a storyteller and public speaker, undoubtedly helped him to win the admiration and respect of his colleagues and eventually become the president. (1)
3: Lincoln Loved Cats
Lincoln’s wife once revealed that the sixteenth President’s hobby was ‘cats’. Caring for three orphaned kittens while juggling his engagements as the President, Lincoln had a soft spot for animals and in particular cats. In fact, he would play and care for his pets for hours at a time.
The White House became a bit of an animal sanctuary and was home to a floppy-eared dog called Fido, a turkey sent to the President for Thanksgiving Dinner, but granted a stay of execution after Lincoln’s son befriended him, and two goats called Nanny and Nanko. The Lincoln’s also had rabbits, cats and a horse. (2)
4: Predicted His Own Death
Was Honest Abe a psychic? Ward Hill Lamon, a friend of Abraham Lincoln said that the President had dreamt that he would be assassinated, ten days before his death. In his dream, Abraham recalls asking his bodyguard about a corpse lying on a catafalque in the White House East Room. The bodyguard reveals that the President has been assassinated. Waking up in terror, Abraham felt haunted by his vivid dream. Shockingly, just over a week later, the President was shot dead while attending a theatre with his wife. (3)
5: Married A Hellcat
Lincoln was fondly dubbed as The Tycoon, whereas his wife, Mary Todd was unfortunately given the nickname Hellcat. During her youth, Mary Todd was known to be energetic, impulsive and interesting, but once married and living in the White House, her childhood friend claims she changed, and became witty, sarcastic and could easily hurt others with her words. When she first met Abraham Lincoln, she wasn’t impressed by his position in society, and their romance struggled to blossom. Only after three years, they were finally married and Mary’s confidence that her husband would become successful paid off in 1860.
Sadly the next couple of years were tainted with hardship for Mary, and she was criticised, suspected of treason and suffered the loss of her son. Her attempt to renovate the White House and create a beautiful home for her family was greatly criticized, yet her good deeds such as setting up a fund for runaway slaves, and bringing fruit to wounded soldiers in hospital went unnoticed. (4) (5)
6: His Death Caused A Murder-Suicide
Apart from Lincoln’s wife, there were also two other main witnesses to Abraham Lincoln’s death. Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancee Clara. On April 14 1865, the couple were invited to Ford’s Theatre by Abraham Lincoln. At some point during the performance, John Wilkes Booth shot the President and when Major Henry Rathbone tried to stop Booth from escaping, he was seriously injured with a dagger.
Unable to save the President and constantly reminded of this traumatic event each year by journalists looking for information for newspaper articles, his mental health deteriorated. Eventually, after suffering years of mental health issues and severe post-traumatic stress disorder, Major Henry Rathbone shot his wife Clara and attempted to murder their children, before taking his own life. Only thanks to a groundskeeper or nanny, were the children saved from this fatal attack. (6)
7: Almost Kidnapped In The Afterlife
A rather strange Abraham Lincoln fact is that his body was almost held for ransom in 1876 by the Kinealy’s gang. Had it not been for the Secret Service, Lincoln’s corpse would have been taken by a gang of grave robbers for a ransom of $200,000 and the release of a high profile prisoner.
Thankfully the Secret Service were able to infiltrate the gang and safeguard the former president’s body. After this kidnap attempt, Abraham Lincoln’s body was moved to an unmarked grave and then sealed in a steel cage under 10ft of concrete. (7)(8)
8: A Wrestling Giant
At over 6ft tall, Abraham Lincoln was built to be a fighter. Before becoming The President of The United States of America, he was a keen wrestler and was almost undefeated. A wrestling champion by the age of 21 in 1830, Abraham Lincoln’s life story should talk about his strength and physical abilities as well as his intellectual power. Rather than fight ‘British style’ using his hands and elbows only, due to Lincoln’s frontier upbringing his fighting style was tougher than other wrestlers at the time. But this was not the only time Abraham Lincoln fought.
Politician James Sheilds challenged Abraham to a duel after a dispute regarding an ongoing rift between the two men. Since Sheilds challenged Abraham, Lincoln got to choose the weapon of choice. At 6ft4, he decided to use a cavalry broadsword. Due to Abraham’s obvious advantage in height and reach, Shields sought a truce instead. (9)(1)