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Lincoln Shot

Awards: NCTE Notable Child. Bks in Lang. A ; Booklist Editors' Choice; School Library Journal Best Books of the Year

Recommendations: Book Links; Booklist, Starred; Bulletin-Center Child Books; Chicago Tribune; Horn Book, Starred Review; Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review; New York Times Book Review; San Francisco Chronicle; School Library Journal, Starred Review; USA Today; Washington Post Book World

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Top 10 Questions & Answers about Abraham Lincoln

1.) Was he really born in a log cabin?
2.) How did he become a lawyer if he never went to school ?

3.) Why was he called “Honest Abe?”
4.) Was his marriage happy?
5.) Was he opposed to slavery?
6.) Was he a good leader during the Civil War?
7.) Did he really free the slaves?
8.) Why did John Wilkes Booth assassinate him?
9.) What did he actually die of?
10.) How did he become such an excellent speaker?


1.) Was Abraham Lincoln really born in a log cabin?
Yes, he was. He was born on February 12, 1809 in a one-room log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. Log cabins were common on the frontier. If built well, they were air tight. Although the floor was dirt, the dirt was so packed down that the homes were not usually dusty. A wood fire heated the house and was used to cook food. Windows didn’t have screens or glass, but wooded shutters to keep out bad weather. Lincoln studied and read by the light of a kerosene lantern.
2.) How did Lincoln become a lawyer if he never went to high school or college?
Lincoln did go to school occasionally. When he could, he walked two miles to the local school where he was really good at spelling. In Lincoln Shot you can see photographs of some of his notebooks on page 7. His handwriting is very impressive!

But Lincoln’s main responsibility as a child and young man was to help his father with the back-breaking work of running a frontier farm.

When he had moved away from home, Lincoln continued to study on his own. He spent hours practicing giving speeches. He hung around the court house listening to lawyers argue cases and he borrowed law books from a friend. Soon, people began to ask him to represent them. In those days, a person could be admitted to the bar (become a lawyer) after studying and perhaps training with a practicing lawyer.
3.) Why was Lincoln called “Honest Abe?”
First, let us point out that Lincoln did not like the nickname ‘Abe.’ He preferred to be called by his full first name.

There are many stories about the ways Lincoln helped others and was honest. Here are two about his days as a store owner:

In 1832 Lincoln opened a general store in New Salem, Illinois. One evening he discovered that he had short changed a customer and so walked a long way to return the money. At another time, Lincoln found out that the scales in the store were wrong. He looked over his receipts and delivered extra dry good to his customers who had taken home too little.

As Lincoln became important in politics, stories like these spread and his supporters began to call him “Honest Abe.”
4.) Was Lincoln’s marriage to Mary Todd happy?
It is very hard for people today to judge whether the Lincolns had a happy marriage. Abraham and Mary got married in November 1842.  They seem to us to be opposite in so many ways: tall and short, rich and poor, from the north and from the south, school educated and self-educated. What we do know is that both Abraham and Mary were politically ambitious. Mary wanted her husband to be someone important. She once told friends that she would be the country’s First Lady one day.

The Lincolns had many tragedies and difficult situations in their married life: two of their four sons died at very young ages; Mary was shunned by people in Washington who assumed she was a spy for the Confederacy; once Abraham was elected president he was often too busy to spend time with Mary; and Mary was jealous of people he did spend time with.

And both Abraham and Mary could be moody. After Lincoln was assassinated, Mary slipped into a deep depression.
5.) Was Lincoln opposed to slavery?
Lincoln personally believed that slavery was wrong but he and the Republican Party opposed only the expansion of slavery into the Western territories. Before the Civil War, neither he nor his party were in favor of abolishing slavery where it already existed. Before he became president, Lincoln had several firsthand experiences with slavery. He saw slave auctions and chain gangs in Kentucky and slave-holding pens in Washington, D.C. During the war, Lincoln struggled mightily with the question of slavery. He came to believe that he could not go back to his prewar position. He now believed that the war was being fought for the emancipation of the slaves.
6.) Was Lincoln a good Commander-in-Chief during the Civil War?
In the many years since the Civil War ended, the answer to this question has changed. Most recently historians agree that Lincoln was a good commander in chief. During the first two years of the war, the Confederate army was superior to the Union army because their military leaders were more skilled. These men had left West Point and returned to the south to lead their army. Lincoln appointed several generals before he determined that Ulysses S. Grant had all the skills he needed. One aspect of Lincoln’s good leadership is that he gave Grant autonomy.  Lincoln also recognized General Sherman’s superior qualities. Grant and Sherman and their men, delivered the Union victory.
7.) Did Lincoln really free the slaves?
The Emancipation Proclamation, which Lincoln delivered in January 1863, promised freedom for all slaves in the eleven states that had seceded from the Union.  At the time, there were slaves in the northern states and the border states of Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, and Missouri . The proclamation did not address their status.  The slaves held in the Confederate states became free on April 9, 1865 when General Lee surrendered to General Grant. In many cases it took people days or weeks to hear the news of the surrender.
8.) Why did John Wilkes Booth assassinate Lincoln?
Booth was born and raised in Maryland, a border state where slavery was accepted. He believed passionately that the government did not have the right to ban slavery. See page 3 of Lincoln Shot for an account of Booth’s several failed attempts to kidnap the president. Booth hoped to hold Lincoln hostage and exchange him for Confederate prisoners of war.

One event stands out as a spark for Booth’s passion about slavery.  When Booth was a young man, four slaves owned by a friend’s father escaped. After two years, they were discovered  living just fifteen miles north of the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. The father and a group of men went after them. In Pennsylvania, they were confronted by an organized, militant group of blacks. Booth’s friend’s father was killed and another son badly injured. Booth was outraged at the time and remembered the incident for the rest of his life.

And Booth craved fame. Even being a famous actor was not enough for him. He hoped that assassinating Lincoln for the benefit of the Confederacy would make him a hero. In the days after the assassination, Booth was surprised and depressed to find that newspapers, both northern and southern, wrote negative articles about him.
9.) What did Lincoln actually die of?
Lincoln was shot at point blank range at the back of his head. The bullet traveled from behind his left ear through his brain and lodged behind his right eye. He was in a coma for nine hours. His attendants stopped the external bleeding but could do nothing to stop the massive bleeding inside his brain. If the same thing happened today, doctors could keep the person alive but could not repair the damage to the brain.
10.) How did Lincoln become such an excellent speaker?
Lincoln became an excellent speaker because of his superior intellect, fast and rigorous mind, and hard work. From an early age, he practised public speaking and throughout his life always read his speeches aloud before finalizing them. Lincoln was not a good impromptu speaker; like most great thinkers and writers, he rewrote and reshaped his thoughts until he was perfectly satisfied that the words exactly reflected his meaning.

Many of Lincoln’s humorous, intelligent, and important words are in Lincoln Shot. As you browse through the book, you will notice that Lincoln’s words are set in italics so you can easily find them.

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