“I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families – second families, perhaps I should say.”
“My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks…. My father … removed from Kentucky to … Indiana, in my eighth year…. It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up….” (Abraham Lincoln; White House)
He married Mary Todd, and they had four boys, only one of whom lived to maturity. In 1858 Lincoln ran against Stephen A Douglas for Senator. He lost the election, but in debating with Douglas he gained a national reputation that won him the Republican nomination for President in 1860.
On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the US, becoming the first Republican President to win the presidency. It was a time when the country was divided.
Lincoln warned the South in his Inaugural Address: “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.”
“The government will not assail you…. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.” (White House)
On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. By the time of Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861, seven states had seceded, and the Confederate States of America had been formally established, with Jefferson Davis as its elected president.
When the first shot of the American Civil War was fired at Fort Sumter off the coast of South Carolina on April 12, 1861, nearly six thousand miles away, the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was a sovereign nation.
On August 26, 1861, five months after the outbreak of hostilities and four months after the news of Civil War arrived in Honolulu, Kamehameha IV issued a Proclamation that, in part, stated, “hostilities are now unhappily pending between the Government of the United States, and certain States thereof styling themselves ‘The Confederate States of America.’”
On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared forever free those slaves within the Confederacy. Later that year, at 5:30 am on the morning of July 1, the first skirmish of the Battle of Gettysburg took place.
After three days of fighting, while both armies were badly impacted (with an estimated 51,112 casualties (23,049 Union and 28,063 Confederate,)) it was considered a decisive victory for the Union. On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered what is now referred to as the Gettysburg Address.
The Civil War continued until the spring of 1865 when the North won the war. Throughout 1864 and 1865, President Lincoln worked to pass the 13th Amendment, which declared that slavery and involuntary servitude were no longer allowed in the US and gave Congress the power to enforce this law.
In the Islands, a little over a week after the Gettysburg Address (November 30, 1863,) Kamehameha IV, after serving approximately 9-years as King, died of chronic asthma in Honolulu at the age of 29. His brother, Lot Kapuāiwa, became King Kamehameha V.
Shortly thereafter, King Kamehameha V received a letter from President Abraham Lincoln, addressed to “Great and Good Friend,” expressing his “feelings of profound sorrow” of his brother’s death.
“Not only I, but the whole American People are deeply moved by the intelligence of the event with which God in His infinite wisdom has afflicted your Majesty and the Hawaiian Nation; for whom this Government and people have ever entertained sentiments of almost paternal regard, as well as of sincere friendship and unchanging interest.”
“It is gratifying to know that His Majesty’s place on the Throne and in the hearts of the Hawaiian people is occupied by one who was allied to him by the closest ties of blood, and by a long participation in the affairs of the Kingdom.”
“Your Majesty may ever firmly rely upon my sincere sympathy and cordial support and upon the abiding friendship of the people of the United States in the execution of the lofty mission entrusts to you by Providence.” (Lincoln, February 2, 1864)
Lincoln closed the letter noting, “I remain Your Majesty’s Good Friend.” (Lincoln, February 2, 1864)
Hawaiʻi’s neutrality did not prevent many of its citizens from enlisting in either Union or Confederate forces. One, a Hawaiian from Hilo, was Henry Hoʻolulu Pitman, son of Kinoʻole O Liliha, a Hawaiian high chiefess of Hilo. He enlisted in the Union Army and later died of disease in Richmond, Virginia’s infamous Libby Prison.
A dozen Hawaiians (possibly from captured ships) also served as Confederate sailors aboard the famous raider CSS Shenandoah which circumnavigated the globe and sank or captured nearly forty Union and merchant vessels throughout the Pacific. (Captured sailors could be put in chains below deck, marooned on an island or be given the chance to join the crew of the Southern vessel – many chose the latter.)
About 40 individuals who were born and raised in Hawaiʻi served in the Civil War. As many as 200-immigrants to Hawaiʻi who were living here at the outbreak of the war in 1861 may have served in the conflict.
Lincoln won re-election in 1864, as Union military triumphs signaled an end to the war. On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Lincoln was shat at Ford’s Theatre in Washington by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln died at 7:22 am on April 15, 1865, at the age of 56.
On May 11, 1865, Ka Nupepa Kuokoa (noting the death of Abraham Lincoln) noted “No words of ours can do justice to our grief. … “
“All over the world the friends of liberty and justice, the poor, the oppressed everywhere, will weep for him, the Savior of his country, the Liberator of four million slaves, the People’s friend. … His name will forever be revered … The Nation still lives.”
In 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, a group of Union veterans established “Decoration Day” on May 30 as a time to remember and decorate the graves of service members with flowers, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation.