Lincoln Timeline

Timeline Overview

  • 1809-1830

    Pioneer Youth

  • 1831-1842

    Emerging Politician

  • 1843-1854

    Lawyer and Family Man

  • 1855-1860

    Republican Contender

  • 1861-1865

    Sixteenth President


  • February 12, 1809

    Lincoln's birthplace cabin. View object

    Born on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln lives with his mother Nancy, his father Thomas, and his older sister Sarah in this cabin just outside of Hodgenville in Hardin County, Kentucky, for his first two years.


  • 1811

    Lincoln family cabin in Kentucky.

    When Abraham is two years old, his family moves to a farm on Knob Creek about 10 miles northeast of Hodgenville, Kentucky.


  • 1812

    A third child, Thomas, is born to the Lincoln family, but dies in infancy. A headstone marked “T.L.” was found in 1933 a half mile from the family’s Knob Creek farm.


  • 1815

    Lincoln's schoolhouse in Kentucky. View object

    Abraham and his older sister Sarah attend school in this Kentucky schoolhouse for “short periods” of time.


  • Fall, 1816

    Abraham falls into Knob Creek and is saved by his friend Austin Gollaher.

  • Early December, 1816

    Artist’s illustration of the Lincoln family traveling from Kentucky to Indiana.

    Thomas Lincoln moves his family from Kentucky across the Ohio River to what is now Spencer County in southern Indiana to settle along Pigeon Creek.


  • February, 1817

    A few days before his eighth birthday, Abraham hunts his first game, shooting a wild turkey through a crack in the cabin wall. He never hunted again.


  • 1818

    Young Lincoln is kicked in the head by a horse while grinding corn at Gordon’s mill. Abraham apparently did not regain consciousness until the next morning. He later calls it one of the remarkable incidents of his life.

  • October 5, 1818

    Nancy Lincoln dies of “milk sickness” after drinking milk from a cow that had eaten a poisonous plant, the white snakeroot.


  • December 2, 1819

    Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln later in life. View object

    Thomas Lincoln marries widow Sarah Bush Johnston in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. The Lincoln children now have two stepsisters and a stepbrother.


  • 1822

    Abraham attends the “blab” school kept by James Swaney for about 4 months.


  • 1824

    Abraham attends the school of Azel Dorsey for about 6 months.


  • August 2, 1826

    Sarah Lincoln marries neighbor Aaron Grigsby.


  • 1827

    Young Lincoln ferrying two men to the middle of the Ohio River to meet the steamboat.

    Eighteen-year-old Lincoln earns his first dollar by taking two men and their trunks halfway across the Ohio River so they can board a passing steamer. He later calls it “a most important incident in my life.”


  • January 20, 1828

    Sarah Lincoln Grigsby grave View object

    Sarah Lincoln Grigsby dies in childbirth and is buried in the Pigeon Baptist Church burial ground. Abraham is devastated by the loss of his sister.

  • April - June, 1828

    Commissioner’s Sale of…"Three Likely Negroes." View object

    Lincoln and Allen Gentry leave from Rockport to take a flatboat loaded with cargo to New Orleans for Allen’s father. The trip takes about 3 months. In New Orleans, Lincoln sees for the first time a slave market, an experience he never forgets.


  • March 1, 1830

    Illustration of Lincoln holding the dog after rescuing it from the cold water on the trip to Illinois.

    Leaving their Indiana home of almost 14 years, the Lincoln family begins the long trip to a new home in Illinois.

  • March 15, 1830

    Lincoln the rail splitter.

    The Lincoln family stops 10 miles southwest of Decatur, Illinois, on the north bank of the Sangamon River. Here Abraham and his father build a log cabin and split rails to fence in their land. Later in the spring, Abraham and his stepbrother break up 15 acres of land.


  • March, 1831

    Lincoln, his cousin John Hanks, and his stepbrother John D. Johnston leave home to travel to Springfield where they are hired to build a flatboat for Denton Offutt.

  • April - July, 1831

    Lincoln makes his second flatboat trip to New Orleans and then returns to Illinois where he lives on his own for the first time in New Salem.

  • August 1, 1831

    Lincoln votes for the first time and begins his reputation as a storyteller while lingering around the polling place to meet his neighbors.

  • September, 1831

    Mizen, Frederic. Lincoln, the Honest Clerk, 1936.

    Lincoln goes to work as a clerk in Denton Offutt’s new store in New Salem.

  • 1831

    Ransom, Fletcher. Lincoln, the Wrestler, 1938.

    Offut brags about Lincoln’s strength and skill as a wrestler and sets up a wrestling match with Jack Armstrong, leader of the Clary’s Grove boys. Lincoln’s performance in the match earns him the loyalty and admiration of the Clary’s Grove boys.

  • Winter 1831 - 1832

    Lincoln joins the newly organized debating club with James Rutledge as president.


  • Spring, 1832

    English Grammar by Samuel Kirkham, 1835. View object

    Lincoln begins to study grammar on the advice of Mentor Graham, using Kirkham’s Grammar. He goes on to study history and literature including Shakespeare and Burns.

  • March 9, 1832

    In his first political speech, Lincoln announces he is running for the Illinois state legislature. His platform is published in the local newspaper on March 15.

  • April 21, 1832

    Lincoln volunteers to serve in the Black Hawk War. He and others from New Salem form a company, and Lincoln is elected captain.

  • May 27, 1832

    Captain Lincoln’s company is mustered out of service. He then enlists in another company for 20 days.

  • June 16, 1832

    Lincoln re-enlists for 30 days, joining Captain Early’s independent spy company at Fort Wilbourn.

  • July 10, 1832

    Captain Early’s company is mustered out. Lincoln begins trip back to New Salem.

  • August 6, 1832

    Lincoln, a first time candidate, is defeated in the election for a seat in the Illinois legislature.


  • January 15, 1833

    Lincoln-Berry store in New Salem, IL.

    Lincoln and William Berry purchase a store from William Greene.

  • April, 1833

    Lincoln sells his interest in the store to his partner.

  • May 7, 1833

    Fletcher, Ransom. Lincoln the Postmaster, 1941.

    Lincoln is appointed postmaster of New Salem, an office he held until it was discontinued on May 30, 1836.


  • January 6, 1834

    Survey map drawn by Lincoln in 1834 for Reason Shipley.

    Lincoln makes his first known survey as deputy surveyor of Sangamon County.

  • August 4, 1834

    Running for public office for the second time, Lincoln is elected to the Illinois House of Representatives from Sangamon County.

  • August, 1834

    After the election Lincoln begins studying law with the encouragement of John T. Stuart, a fellow House member.

  • October 11, 1834

    Ransom, Fletcher. Lincoln the Surveyor, 1937.

    The sheriff takes Lincoln’s horse, saddle, bridle, and surveying equipment to be sold in payment of debts Lincoln owed. However, friends buy and return to him the surveying equipment and his horse so that he can continue to work.


  • January 10, 1835

    William Berry dies leaving Lincoln responsible for the store partnership debt. Lincoln later refers to it as the “national debt” and pays it off over several years.


  • March 16, 1836

    Lincoln purchases a 47-acre tract of land on the Sangamon River 12 miles northwest of New Salem.

  • March 24, 1836

    As required in order to be admitted to the Illinois bar, Lincoln’s name is entered on the Sangamon Court record as a person of good moral character.

  • August 1, 1836

    Lincoln is re-elected to the Illinois legislature becoming one of the “Long Nine,” a group of 9 men representing Sangamon County in the state legislature, all of whom were over 6 feet tall.

  • September 9, 1836

    Lincoln is licensed to practice law in all courts of the state.


  • February 24, 1837

    The bill for removal of the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield passes in the Illinois House. The Long Nine had strongly promoted this bill. The Illinois Senate approves it the next day.

  • March 1, 1837

    Lincoln’s name is entered on the roll of attorneys in the office of the clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court.

  • March 3, 1837

    Lincoln’s protest against an anti-abolitionist resolution passed by the House on January 20 is entered into the House Journal.

  • April 15, 1837

    John T. Stuart. View object

    Lincoln moves to Springfield to become the law partner of John T. Stuart.


  • August 6, 1838

    Lincoln is elected to the Illinois legislature for the third time.


  • June 24, 1839

    Lincoln is elected to the Springfield Board of Trustees.

  • September 23, 1839

    Lincoln begins the practice of law on the newly organized Eighth Judicial Circuit Court. He continues on the eighth circuit until his nomination for the presidency.

  • December 3, 1839

    Lincoln is admitted to the practice of law in the United States Supreme Court.

  • December 16, 1839

    Invitation to the cotillion party at which Lincoln first met Mary Todd, December 16, 1839.

    Lincoln meets the vibrant Miss Mary Todd at a Springfield cotillion.


  • June 18, 1840

    Lincoln argues his first case in the Illinois Supreme Court.

  • August 3, 1840

    Lincoln is elected for the fourth time to the Illinois legislature.

  • August - September, 1840

    Lincoln is on the electoral ticket and campaigns for William Henry Harrison for president in southern Illinois.


  • January 1, 1841

    Lincoln breaks off his courtship of Mary Todd. He becomes very depressed and misses several days in the legislative session.

  • April 14, 1841

    Stephen T. Logan, Lincoln’s second law partner. View object

    Lincoln leaves the law practice of John T. Stuart to become the junior partner of Stephen T. Logan.

  • August - September, 1841

    Lincoln travels to Louisville, Kentucky, for a 3-week visit with his close friend Joshua Speed.


  • Mid-1842

    Lincoln resumes courtship of Mary Todd sometime around the middle of the year.

  • August, 1842

    Lincoln declines to run again for the state legislature having already served for 8 years.

  • September 22, 1842

    Lincoln crosses to an island in the Mississippi River, where dueling is not illegal, to duel with James Shields. With the help of friends, their differences are settled at the last minute and the duel does not take place.

  • November 4, 1842

    Lincoln and Mary Todd are married at the home of her sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Ninian Edwards, with the Rev. Charles Dresser performing the ceremony.


  • August 1, 1843

    The Lincolns’ first child, Robert Todd, is born.


  • May 1, 1844

    The Lincoln family moves into their new home at the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets in Springfield, Illinois.

  • Oct. - Nov., 1844

    Campaign ribbon for presidential candidate Henry Clay. View object

    Lincoln campaigns for Henry Clay in southern Illinois, Kentucky, and southern Indiana, stopping to speak and to visit his boyhood home near Gentryville, Indiana.

  • Mid-December, 1844

    William Herndon.

    Lincoln leaves his partnership with Logan and begins a new partnership with William H. Herndon, who has just been admitted to the bar.


  • March 10, 1846

    The Lincolns’ second child, Edward Baker, is born.

  • August 3, 1846

    First known photograph of Lincoln taken by Nicholas H. Shepherd in 1846. View object

    Lincoln wins the election for the House of Representatives over the Democratic candidate Rev. Peter Cartwright, making him the only Whig congressman from Illinois.


  • October 25, 1847

    The Lincolns leave Springfield to travel to Washington, stopping in Lexington, Kentucky, for a month to visit Mrs. Lincoln’s family.

  • December 6, 1847

    Seating plan for the 30th Congress, First Session.

    Lincoln takes his seat in the Thirtieth Congress.

  • December 22, 1847

    Lincoln presents resolutions requesting President Polk to inform the House whether the “spot” on which American blood was first shed in the Mexican War was within territory claimed by Mexico. The resolutions were read and tabled.


  • June 7 - 9, 1848

    Lincoln attends the Whig convention in Philadelphia where his choice, Zachary Taylor, is nominated as their presidential candidate.

  • September 12 - 22, 1848

    Lincoln begins a ten-day speaking tour through New England accompanied by his family.


  • March 10, 1849

    Model of Lincoln's buoyancy device. View object

    Lincoln applies for a patent on his invention—a device to float steam boats and other vessels over sandbars and other obstacles. The patent is granted on May 22.

  • August 21, 1849

    Lincoln declines the office of secretary of the Oregon Territory offered to him by President Taylor.


  • February 1, 1850

    Eddie Lincoln dies after being ill for almost two months.

  • December 21, 1850

    The Lincolns’ third son, William Wallace, is born.


  • January 17, 1851

    Thomas Lincoln. View object

    Lincoln’s father, Thomas, dies in Coles County, Illinois, about age 73.


  • July 6, 1852

    Lincoln delivers a eulogy for Henry Clay, the presidential candidate for whom Lincoln campaigned in 1844.


  • April 4, 1853

    The Lincolns’ fourth son, Thomas (later known as Tad), is born.

  • August 27, 1853

    Lincoln is said to have used watermelon juice to christen the new town of Lincoln, which was named after him.


  • November 7, 1854

    Lincoln is elected to the Illinois legislature but declines to take his seat in order to run in the election for the United States Senate.


  • February 8, 1855

    Lincoln is defeated for the seat in the United States Senate.


  • Spring 1856

    Lincoln family home in Springfield. View object

    Contractors enlarge the Lincolns’ home from one and a half stories to two full stories.

  • May 29, 1856

    Lincoln delivers his famous “Lost Speech” at the organizational meeting of the new Republican Party in Bloomington, Illinois. As a presidential elector, Lincoln makes over 50 campaign speeches for John C. Frémont during the presidential campaign.

  • June 19, 1856

    The first Republican National Convention convenes in Philadelphia. Lincoln receives 110 votes as a candidate for vice president of the United States.


  • June 18, 1857

    Lincoln wins a lawsuit against the Illinois Central Railroad.

  • June 26, 1857

    Lincoln delivers his first major speech against the Dred Scott decision in the Illinois House of Representatives.


  • June 16, 1858

    Stephen A. Douglas. View object

    Lincoln is nominated to run against Stephen Douglas for the U.S. Senate at the Illinois State Republican convention. Lincoln accepts and that evening delivers his “House Divided” speech.

  • August 21, 1858

    Illustration of a Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858.

    The first of seven Lincoln-Douglas debates is held at Ottawa, Illinois.

  • November 2, 1858

    Lincoln receives a majority of the popular votes, but loses the vote to Douglas in the legislature which elects senators.


  • February 27, 1860

    Photograph taken a few hours before Lincoln delivered his address at the Cooper Union. View object

    Lincoln delivers his famous Cooper Union address in New York City.

  • March 3 - 4, 1860

    Robert Lincoln, oldest of the Lincoln sons, 1860. View object

    While on a speaking tour in New Hampshire, Lincoln visits his son Robert who is attending school in Exeter, New Hampshire.

  • May 9 - 10, 1860

    The Illinois Republican Convention meets in Decatur, Illinois. Lincoln attends and receives the nickname Rail Splitter.

  • May 18, 1860

    Currier and Ives, The Republican Banner for 1860. View object

    The Republican National Convention in Chicago nominates Lincoln as its presidential candidate.

  • July, 1860

    Robert Lincoln enrolls at Harvard University.

  • October 19, 1860

    Lincoln receives a letter from young Grace Bedell suggesting that he grow a beard and responds to her.

  • November 6, 1860

    Currier and Ives. Hon. Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States. View object

    Lincoln is elected as the first Republican president of the United States.

  • December 20, 1860

    South Carolina secedes from the Union.


  • January 31, 1861

    Lincoln visits his stepmother, Sarah Bush Lincoln, before leaving for Washington, D.C.

  • February 11, 1861

    Hambidge, Jay. Lincoln bids farewell to Springfield.

    Lincoln boards the train bound for Washington, D.C., at the Great Western Railroad Station and gives his poignant farewell address from the rear platform.

  • March 4, 1861

    Inauguration ceremony on March 4, 1861.

    Lincoln is inaugurated as the sixteenth president of the United States.

  • April 14, 1861

    Fort Sumter is attacked and surrenders to the Confederate forces, marking the start of the Civil War.

  • April 27, 1861

    Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus along the line of troop movements between Philadelphia and Washington.

  • May 3, 1861

    Lincoln calls for increasing the regular army by ten regiments and an enlistment of 18,000 additional men for the Navy.

  • July 4, 1861

    Printed copy of Lincoln’s July 4, 1861, message. View object

    Lincoln communicates his war message to Congress as a formal government document.

  • November 1, 1981

    General George B. McClellan. View object

    Commander-in-chief Lincoln places General George B. McClellan in command of all Union troops.

  • November 23, 1861

    William H. Seward View object

    Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward visit the Union flotilla on the Potomac River.

  • December 3, 1861

    Lincoln sends his annual message to Congress.

  • December 25, 1861

    President and Mrs. Lincoln host Christmas dinner for a large number of guests.


  • January 11, 1862

    Simon Cameron View object

    Secretary of War Simon Cameron resigns.

  • January 13, 1862

    Edwin M. Stanton. View object

    Lincoln names Edwin M. Stanton as the new Secretary of War.

  • February 20, 1862

    Willie Lincoln. View object

    The Lincolns’ eleven-year-old son Willie dies after being ill for several days.

  • March 8, 1862

    Lincoln issues two general war orders instructing McClellan to organize the Army of the Potomac into four divisions and to leave sufficient forces in and surrounding Washington to make it secure.

  • April 1, 1862

    Lincoln visits McClellan in Alexandria, Virginia.

  • May 5 - 12, 1862

    Lincoln travels to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, to confer with military and naval leaders.

  • May 15, 1862

    Lincoln approves an act establishing the Department of Agriculture.

  • May 20, 1862

    Lincoln approves the Homestead Act granting homesteads to those settlers on public domain land.

  • July 1, 1862

    Burditt, L.S. We Are Coming Father Abraham, 300,000 more, 1862. View object

    Lincoln calls for 300,000 volunteers. He also approves an act establishing a tax of 3% on incomes in excess of $600.

  • July 2, 1862

    Lincoln approves the Morrill Land Grant College Act donating public lands to states and territories for colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts.

  • July 11, 1862

    General Henry W. Halleck. View object

    Lincoln appoints General Henry W. Halleck general-in-chief of all land forces.

  • August 9, 1862

    Lincoln orders a draft of 300,000 militiamen to serve for 9 months.

  • September 17, 1862

    McClellan’s forces stop Lee’s invasion at the Battle of Antietam (also known as Sharpsburg) in Maryland.

  • September 22, 1862

    Lincoln, Abraham. The Proclamation of Emancipation by the President of the United States to take effect on January 1st, 1863. View object

    Lincoln announces to his cabinet his decision to issue his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which will free the slaves within any state in rebellion against the United States on January 1, 1863.

  • October 1 - 4, 1862

    The President, General McClellan and Suite on the Battlefield of Antietam, October 3, 1862. View object

    Lincoln visits General McClellan at the Army of the Potomac headquarters and tours the Antietam battlefields.

  • November 5, 1862

    Gen. Ambrose Burnside View object

    Lincoln replaces General McClellan with General Ambrose E. Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

  • December 31, 1862

    Lincoln approves a bill to admit West Virginia to the Union.


  • January 1, 1863

    Leland Boker printed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln. View object

    Lincoln issues the final Emancipation Proclamation declaring freedom for all slaves in states in rebellion.

  • February 25, 1863

    Lincoln approves an act establishing a system of national banks and a uniform national currency popularly known as “greenbacks.”

  • October 3, 1863

    Cornwell, Dean. Lincoln Proclaiming Thanksgiving, 1937.

    Lincoln proclaims the first national observance of Thanksgiving to be held on November 26.

  • November 19, 1863

    Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He is also coming down with a mild case of smallpox while in Gettysburg.

  • December 8, 1863

    Lincoln issues a proclamation of amnesty to Confederates who take the oath to support the United States Constitution.


  • March 9, 1864

    General Ulysses S. Grant. View object

    Lincoln promotes Ulysses S. Grant to lieutenant general and the following day appoints him as commander of all of the armies of the United States.

  • June 8, 1864

    1864 National Union Party election ticket. View object

    The Republican Party renames itself the National Union Party and nominates Lincoln as its presidential candidate, with Andrew Johnson of Tennessee as vice-president.

  • June 28, 1864

    Lincoln approves the act repealing the Fugitive Slave Act.

  • October 21, 1864

    Lincoln issues a proclamation admitting Nevada into the Union.

  • November 8, 1864

    “Long Abraham Lincoln a Little Longer” Harper’s Weekly, November 26, 1864. View object

    Lincoln is re-elected president, defeating Democrat George B. McClellan.

  • November 21, 1864

    Lincoln sends his famous letter of sympathy to Mrs. Lydia Bixby.


  • February 1, 1865

    Thirteenth Amendment resolution, Senate copy, signed by Abraham Lincoln, Schuyler Colfax, Hannibal Hamlin, and 36 senators. View object

    Lincoln approves the resolution submitting to the states the 13th Amendment, which permanently abolishes slavery in the United States.

  • March 3, 1865

    Lincoln approves legislation establishing the Freedmen’s Bureau for the relief and support of freedpeople and poor whites in the South after the war.

  • March 4, 1865

    Photograph of President Lincoln giving his Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865. View object

    Lincoln delivers his Second Inaugural Address.

  • April 4 -5, 1865

    Buttre, J. C. Abraham Lincoln Entering Richmond, April 3rd, 1865. View object

    Lincoln visits Richmond, Virginia, after the Confederate evacuation.

  • April 11, 1865

    Lincoln speaks from the window of the Executive Mansion explaining his plan for restoring the Confederate states to the Union. John Wilkes Booth is in the crowd of listeners.

  • April 14, 1865

    Assassination of President Lincoln, Ford’s Theatre, Washington, April 14th, 1865.

    Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford’s Theatre.

  • April 15, 1865

    Rosenthal, Max. The Last Moments of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, April 15th, 1865. View object

    President Lincoln dies at 7:22 a.m. in the Petersen house located across the street from Ford’s Theatre.

  • April 19, 1865

    The funeral services for President Lincoln are held in the White House.

  • April 21 - May 3, 1865

    Lincoln's funeral train car in Chicago View object

    The funeral train carrying President Lincoln’s casket and that of Willie leaves Washington to begin the ten-day journey to Springfield, Illinois. Funeral services are held in towns and cities along the way.

  • May 4, 1865

    Receiving vault at Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois. View object

    President Lincoln and his son Willie are interred in a receiving vault in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.

  • May 24, 1865

    Mary's letter to Madame Berghmann bidding her farewell, May 22, 1865.

    More than a month after Lincoln's death, Mary Todd Lincoln moves out of the White House back to Illinois and settles in Chicago.

  • Summer 1865

    With President Lincoln's estate being unsettled by the courts and no will, Mary Todd Lincoln asks friend Sally Orne to sell one of her elegant dresses.


  • November 16, 1866

    William Herndon c. 1882. View object

    At a public lecture, William Herndon claims that Ann Rutledge was Abraham Lincoln's only true love. These claims make Mary Lincoln furious and further deepen her grief.

  • Spring 1866

    Tad Lincoln at age 12. View object

    Mary buys a stone house on W. Washington Street in Chicago using money from a Congressional donation. From this residence, Tad is able to walk to school.


  • Fall 1867

    Elizabeth Keckly.

    The Old Clothes Scandal takes place in New York City. Mary Todd Lincoln employs long-time friend and seamstress Elizabeth Keckly to sell dresses she wore as First Lady. The press has a field day exposing Mary's desperation. Mary is ultimately publicly humiliated.


  • September 24, 1868

    Mary Harlan Lincoln. View object

    Robert Todd Lincoln weds Mary Harlan in Washington D.C. Still in mourning for her husband, Mary Todd Lincoln attends in black attire.

  • December 1868

    Mary Todd Lincoln writes Congress seeking a pension, believing that she lacks the financial resources to live in the manner appropriate for the widow of a martyred President of the United States.


  • July 14, 1870

    Congress grants a $3,000 annual pension to Mary Todd Lincoln.


  • July 15, 1871

    Tad Lincoln, c. 1869. View object

    Thomas "Tad" Lincoln dies from pleurisy at age eighteen.


  • 1871-1872

    Mary Todd Lincoln with her husband's "spirit," taken in Boston by William H. Mumler, 1872. View object

    After Tad's death, Mary Todd Lincoln becomes more involved with spiritualism. In early 1872, she tours New England, visiting mediums and attending seances. The tour includes a visit to Boston where William H. Mumler, a known "spirit photographer," captures the widow with Lincoln's embracing spirit.


  • July 23, 1873

    Jack, Mamie, and Jessie Lincoln, c. 1883. View object

    Mary Todd Lincoln writes her will, leaving her property and belongings to her son, Robert, and his children. She later destroys this will and dies intestate.

  • December 12, 1873

    William Herndon gives a lecture claiming the late president was an atheist, quoting Mary Todd Lincoln, "... Mr. Lincoln was not a technical Christian."


  • May 19, 1875

    Court document revealing the verdict of Mary Todd Lincoln's insanity, dated May 19, 1875.

    Mary Todd Lincoln is judged insane during a public jury trial initiated by her son Robert. She is placed in Bellevue Sanitarium, a private institution located near Chicago, where her hostility toward Robert grows.

  • September 1875

    Elizabeth Todd Edwards. View object

    With help from James and Myra Bradwell, Mary is discharged from Bellevue Sanitarium. Still displaying symptoms of illness, Mary is released under direct care of her sister, Elizabeth Todd Edwards.


  • June 15, 1876

    The Cook County Court reverses its insanity ruling. Having been "restored to reason," Mary regains her freedom and control of her estate.

  • October 1, 1876

    To avoid public scrutiny and further public embarrassment, Mary flees to Europe. She stays for the next four years, remaining isolated from her son Robert.

  • November 7, 1876

    The Kennally gang attempts to steal President Lincoln's body, planning to ransom it for the freedom of fellow gang member Ben Boyd. The attempt fails, and the thieves are convicted and sent to Joliet Prison.


  • 1879

    Robert Todd Lincoln, 1877. View object

    Robert Todd Lincoln has his father secretly reburied in the tomb's basement to prevent theft.


  • October 16, 1880

    Mary Todd Lincoln sails back to the United States on the Amerique, bound for New York City. After leaving the city, Mary returns to live with her sister Elizabeth. Mary's health declines, often restricting her to her darkened bedroom.


  • May 1881

    Robert Todd Lincoln, 1880. View object

    Robert Todd Lincoln and his daughter Mamie visit Mary Todd Lincoln in Springfield, resulting in a tentative reconciliation between mother and son.


  • July 16, 1882

    On July 15, the anniversary of Tad's death, Mary Todd Lincoln collapses in her room at her sister Elizabeth's home in Springfield, Illinois. She dies the morning of July 16, 1882.

  • July 19, 1882

    Entrance to Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois. View object

    Mary Todd Lincoln's funeral is held at First Presbyterian Church of Springfield. She is buried in the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery alongside sons Eddie, Willie, and Tad. She is later moved to rest next to her husband.