You are here

Photograph of Lincoln, Shortly Before His Death, 1865

Abraham Lincoln. Seated Figure of Lincoln in 1865, days before his death
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_3635
Document Description
A photograph of Abraham Lincoln shortly before his death. Photographed by Alexander Gardner in Washington, D.C., 1865.
How does President Lincoln look in this in this picture? Is he older in this picture than in his circa 1848 portrait?
President Lincoln was only fifty-six years old in 1865. What events in his life made him look old before his time?
How are the stresses of the Civil War depicted by President Lincoln’s aging?
How do you think he felt in this picture?
What do you think he was like?
Why is he known as Honest Abe?
What characteristics did he have that made him a leader?
Do you think that he knew what he was doing was monumental?
Historical Challenges
Observe the clothes President Lincoln is wearing in this photograph. After researching men's clothing in the 1860s, draw and label various articles of clothing that American men wore at the time this photograph was taken. Then describe how men's fashions have changed since the 1860s and how they have stayed the same.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: About how many years passed between when Lincoln's earliest known photograph was taken and when this photograph was taken? About how old was President Lincoln when this photograph was taken?
Science: What were some of the photographic processes being used at the time this photograph was taken?
English Language Arts: This photograph was taken at the end of the Civil War after Lincoln had already been elected for a second term as President. Pretend you are President Lincoln and write about what you want to accomplish in your second term as President.
Stone, Tanya Lee. Abraham Lincoln. DK Publishing, December 2004. ISBN: 0756608341
Turner, Ann. Abe Lincoln Remembers. HarperCollins Children's Books, January 2003. ISBN: 0060511079
Freedman, Russel. Lincoln: A Photobiography. Houghton Mifflin Company, August 1989. ISBN: 0395518482

About this Activity


Lesson Topic:


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.

Essential Question
How do individuals influence national and global events?
Check for Understanding
Describe the individual in the photograph and evaluate the influence of Lincoln on the start and outcome of the Civil War.