Despite his opposition to slavery, Lincoln was no abolitionist. As he said himself "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery." At the same time, Lincoln was adamant that secession was a gross violation of the Constitution that had to be prevented by any means necessary.
Lincoln was well aware that he would be tested, as no president had ever been before; not even Washington. His forbearance under such weight has made him one of the nation's most beloved heroes. But during his presidency he was anything but this. Southerners saw him as a despotic tyrant, while members of his own party viewed him as a backwoods fool without the courage to take on the slavery issue directly. Many in the north were beginning to question the president's ability to conduct the war effectively. Even after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the Confederate states, Lincoln himself was convinced that he would lose his bid for reelection. However, when Vicksburg fell on July 4, 1863, the Union gained control of Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in two. And when Lee's forces turned back at Gettysburg, the last Confederate offense in the North, Southern momentum for winning the war was finally broken. As the Union moved closer to victory public perception of Lincoln changed. Politicians came to respect his skillful maneuvering as the public rallied behind his straightforward yet eloquent defense of the nation's ideals.
At the end of the Civil War, Lincoln promoted peace and charity hoping to bind the war-torn nation by embracing the Confederate rebels rather than punishing them. Lincoln spoke of caring for all of the wounded. His assassination just five days after Lee's surrender at Appomattox sealed his reputation as one of the nation's greatest martyrs.
He was born on February 12, 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky. His ancestry was English.