Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th President of the United States in November 1860. He was elected into office with the secession movement brewing for some time within the political establishments of southern states, and his election proved to be the trigger for the secession threat to come to fruition. Before Lincoln even took office in March 1861, seven southern states had seceded. This was the birth of the Confederate States of America that Lincoln would spend virtually his entire time in the White House trying to militarily defeat, all the while striving to eventually reunify the country once again.
Slavery was a central focus of politicians at this time in American history. Lincoln began his political career by running on the platform of being "antislavery", although he didn't doggedly pursue the elimination of it. Rather, he sought to eliminate the expansion of it. However as the war progressed, Lincoln realized that by giving ethical validation to the Union's cause, it would bestow amongst the populace an innate moral obligation to achieve victory. This was Lincoln's brilliance. And thus the Emancipation Proclamation was issued after a Union victory at Antietam, and the "Great Emancipator" is looked at to this day as one of America's greatest leaders. A statue in Washington DC's Lincoln Park symbolically memorializes Lincoln's freeing of the slaves. You can also learn more about Abraham Lincoln and how he viewed these critical issues by visiting Lincoln's Cottage.
Lincoln is also known for giving one of the greatest speeches in American history. With the great Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the stage was set for his address at the Gettysburg battlefield cemetery on November 19. The Gettysburg Address, one of the most quoted speeches in history, crystallized for the American public the purpose of Civil War in three short minutes. The words of the speech can be found on the walls of the area's grandest tribute to Lincoln, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.
Lincoln, as Commander in Chief of the Union Army, had many trying times. Early in the war, Lincoln had placed General McClellan in charge of the Union forces after their disastrous defeat at First Manassas/Bull Run. After months of training and drilling McClellan presented his troops to Lincoln at a Grand Review in the Bailey's Crossroads section of Fairfax County. While McClellan was a master organizer, his ultimate inaction in regards to using the troops in battle caused Lincoln to replace him. Finally after years of searching, Lincoln found a leader that would guide his army to victory in General Ulysses S. Grant.
On April 14th, 1865, five days after Lee surrendered to Grant and the healing of a nation had begun, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre by John Wilkes Booth. President Lincoln's assassination and death immediately made him a national martyr and a legendary leader. To this day Lincoln is considered by most historians as one of, if not the, greatest President in American history.