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Interpreting the Evidence

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, 1863

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Civil War and Reconstruction (1850 - 1877)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Comprehension

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Civil War

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Abraham Lincoln, 1863 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Historical Context
The United States needed a strong and dedicated man to lead it through such a devastating and desolate time as the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln proved that he had the strength and valor to preserve the Union. A few lines from his famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, capture his dedication to freedom:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that 'all men are created equal.' Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation may live."

President Lincoln was harshly criticized by some and seen as a savior by others. The dichotomy of the nation seemed to be aptly symbolized in his life.  On April 9, 1865, the Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. The war was over. In President Lincoln’s last speech, he encouraged the states of the Confederacy to quickly rejoin the Union and to begin the new era of American freedom. Unfortunately, President Lincoln never saw the results of his efforts and passion to preserve the Union and to end slavery in America. John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln on April 14, 1865. He was only fifty-six years old.

Compelling Question
How do individuals influence national and global events?

Check for Understanding
Describe the individual in the photograph and evaluate the impact of Lincoln on the start and outcome of the Civil War.