History of Abraham Lincoln for Kids

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 in Kentucky to parents who were very poor at the time. They lived in the middle of the woods in a very small log cabin his father built. The woods were full of wild animals and no one else lived nearby. Every night Abe and his family slept on a hard dirt floor. When Abe was old enough to work he and his father, Thomas, ate a small breakfast, picked up their axes, and ventured off into the thick woods to chop down trees to make the land flat for farming. It was very hard work and they worked all day long. Abe became very strong chopping wood. He also began to grow very tall for his age. He grew so much that his pants became too small and because his parents were poor they couldn’t afford to buy him new ones. Some people thought he looked funny because he was so tall and skinny, but they liked Abe because he was kind and funny. 

In Abe’s town there wasn’t a school, so most days he just worked. For a short time a teacher lived a few miles away so Abraham did learn a little, but just enough to read and write. Once Abe learned to read it became his favorite thing to do. He only had a couple books, but he spent any free time he had reading. When he learned something new he repeated the words over and over until he knew them by memory. He also wrote new words down. This helped him remember the words so he could use them later. 

After Abe and his father cleared the land of trees, they began farming. Most days he’d take a book out to the field and read in between planting. His mother, Nancy, read to him and his sister. She knew learning was very important and taught Abe this from a young age. Abe loved his mother very much.

When Abe was only nine his mother became sick and died. He and his family were very sad. Not long after this, his father left him and his sister for nine months while he went to find a new wife. Can you imagine being left alone for that long? Somehow Abraham survived, finding help from caring neighbors. Eventually, his father returned with their new mother. When Abe saw on the road he ran and hugged her, even though he didn’t know her. He was just happy to have a mother again. 

Sarah turned out to be a very good mother to Abe. She found him new books and was kind to him. Abe’s father Thomas was hard on him. He was also known to be a very good storyteller. This was a talent Abe picked up and was known for later in his life.

Once Abraham was old enough to be on his own, he left home and started working for himself. He knew that by working hard, he could improve his life. He had a job moving goods down the river, then later worked in a store. Once while working in the store, someone paid the wrong amount of money. That night Abe walked very far to return the money. This is where he got his nickname “Honest Abe.” Honesty means telling the truth. 

One day in town Abe went to the courthouse and saw a lawyer arguing a case. A lawyer is someone who understands the law and often helps defends others when they need something. When Abe heard the lawyer speaking, he decided being a lawyer was what he wanted to do. Without going to a big school, Abraham read and studied and repeated words on his own until he knew everything he needed to to become a lawyer. This took lots of time and practice but soon he became very smart and understood the law. He passed all the tests he needed and before long became a lawyer. He traveled from town to town on his horse helping others.

While working as a lawyer, Abe became interested in politics. Politics involves law and government and voting in new leaders. Abe wanted to become a leader so he could shape and change the country for the better. His first job in the state government was the House of Representatives. Later, he was part of the U.S. House of Representatives. There he helped pass laws to build railroads and support banks so the state could grow and improve.

At the same time slavery was a tragic problem in United States. Slavery is when someone is forced to work without any pay. Many Americans had slaves that they treated very poorly and made them work very hard. Abe knew slavery was horrible and was against slavery it spreading to the new states in America. He argued this against another leader named Stephen A. Douglas. These arguments became very intense at times, because Americans were very upset about slavery, either being for it or against it. 

At this time Abe ran for President of the United States. Many Americans in the South were against Abe being president, because they wanted to keep slavery. Also, many Americans thought Abe could never win because he was just a farm boy from the woods who didn’t have very much money or schooling. But Abe cared about helping the country and to everyone’s surprise he won and became the President of the United States! The people who loved Abe were very excited that such a caring man had become  their new president.

But Southerners who wanted to keep slavery were angry and wanted to break off from America. They said they would form a new country where they could keep their slaves. This was called The Civil War, because it was a war between two parts of our country, the North and the South. Soon very dangerous fighting began and many soldiers on both sides died. It was a very sad time for the United States.

Abraham Lincoln wanted more than anything to keep the country together. He believed America was stronger and better as one country. But he was also very sad to see soldiers dying on both sides. Some wanted to quit the fight, but Abe was determined to not give up. He gave the Gettysburg Address and his bold words inspired Americans to follow him. He also worked to create new laws to stop slavery even when it was unpopular to do so. 

Finally, the war came to an end when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the North. It was a time of much celebration for the North. Many lives had been lost, but in the end the country stayed together and the slaves became free. Some leaders may have been harsh to the losing side of the war, but Abraham Lincoln was determined to show kindness and mercy to the South and do all he could to rebuild the broken country.

Not long after the war ended, while Abe was watching a play in Ford’s Theater he was shot by the assassin John Wilkes Booth. The Americans who loved Abe were very sad at this news. They had lost the president who cared for them and saved the country. But having done all he could, Abraham Lincoln has gone down in history as one of the greatest presidents of all time.

Like Abe, no matter where you were born or to whom, you can decide to improve yourself and be a good person. Abe had very little, but he read everything he could and studied and worked until he could make a living for himself. He also decided to help his country by running for different offices in the government. These aren’t easy jobs, but when good people lead they can make a great difference. Like Abe, you can be aware of what is going on in your own communities and in your country. And when you’re old enough you can vote for good leaders and even become one yourself. Just remember, no matter your circumstances, if you make the decision to improve yourself and do good things, you can do it!

Clara Barton For Kids

When was the last time you helped someone? Did it feel like it was very important? How did you feel at the time? Most people go through their lives performing acts of service at one time or another. Clara Barton was a special person who devoted her entire life to helping others, and tried to be of service in whatever she did – in her family, in her work, even on the battlefield of the American Civil War!

Clarissa Barton was born Christmas Day in 1821.

She started going to school when she was just three years old, and she was very good at reading and spelling. Clara only had one friend because she was so shy and timid.

At the age of ten, her brother David fell from the roof of a barn and hurt his head very badly. Clara wanted to help take care of him, so she learned how to give him his medicine, and how to place leeches on his body – which was a typical medical practice at the time. Even after the doctors gave up on treating her brother, Clara continued to help care for him, and he eventually got better. 

While Clara was growing up, her family moved in order to help a family member take care of their house and farm. Clara was happy and persistent in offering her help, which included repairing and repainting the house that Clara’s family lived in. Clara loved to play with her cousins, and loved activities such as horseback riding. 

As a teenager, Clara’s parents encouraged her to become a schoolteacher as a way to help her overcome her shyness. Clara obtained her teaching certificate and was a very successful teacher, able to handle even the most rambunctious and energetic children. Clara was asked to open a free public school in New Jersey. The school became very successful, and Clara would teach classes to over 600 people. 

Clara later moved to Washington, D.C. and worked in the U.S. Patent Office as a clerk, helping to file and keep track of patents. Clara was the first woman to receive a clerkship in the federal government, and her salary was the same as the male clerks in the Patent Office. 

While she worked at the Patent Office, the American Civil War began. In The Civil War the Northern States and the Southern States fought over whether the nation should be divided or stay together. During the war many soldiers were hurt in battle. Clara went to the railroad station in Washington D.C. to help nurse the wounded men who had been transported there. She brought them the clothing, food, and supplies they needed to recover from their injuries. As she worked with the men, Clara learned how to store and distribute medical supplies. She worked hard to help the soldiers feel cared for; she often read books to them, helped them write letters to their families, and talked to them to help keep them in good spirits. Clara believed this is what she was meant to do in life, andbegan to look for ways  to help the soldiers fighting in the war. In 1862 in Virginia she saw the awful fighting first hand and helped to care for wounded soldiers near several other battles, including Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. In order to gather supplies, Clara even placed an ad in the newspaper, and people in the area helped to donate supplies to take care of the wounded soldiers. Even when supplies weren’t available, Clara still did everything she could to help. For example,at one battle where they didn’t have any bandages, the wounded were treated using corn-husks instead. The soldiers nicknamed Clara ‘the Angel of the Battlefield’ for the help that she gave them. 

Clara was known for helping all soldiers who needed aid, even if they fought for the other side, which in this case was the South. She said ‘I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while out soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.’ Clara was brave and helped soldiers even while battles were taking place around her; while she was tending one soldier a bullet from the fighting tore through the sleeve of her dress!

After the war ended, Clara discovered that the relatives of soldiers who had died in the war were sending letters to the War Department trying to find their loved ones. These letters were going unanswered because the soldiers had been buried in unmarked graves, which meant that no one knew what had happened to them or where they were buried. Clara wrote to Abraham Lincoln asking for permission to start responding to the families and trying to locate their missing loved ones. President Lincoln said yes, and she began running the Office of Missing Soldiers. Clara Barton and her assistants wrote over forty thousand replies to letters, helping to locate more than twenty-two thousand missing men! During the summer of 1865, Clara helped to find, identify and properly bury thirteen thousand individuals who had died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp. She would continue to work with the Office of Missing Soldiers for four more years, helping to identify and bury twenty thousand more Union soldiers and ensuring that their graves were marked. 

Clara gave lectures around the United States about her experiences during the war, and drew large crowds when she spoke. After her speaking tour, a doctor suggested that she travel, to rest and remove herself from the physically and mentally demanding work she had done. She decided to travel to Europe.

While in Europe, Clara Barton worked with the organization known as the International Red Cross. Clara helped to prepare military hospitals and gave aid to the Red Cross Society during the Franco-Prussian War. She helped poor people in Strasbourg find work after the Siege of Paris, and was put in charge of distributing supplies to the people of Paris. Because of her work, Clara was given the Golden Cross of Baden and the Prussian Iron Cross. 

She was so inspired that she began to petition for an American branch of the International Red Cross to be created. Clara argued  that not only could the American Red Cross be helpful in war, but it could also give relief and aid during natural disasters like earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes. It was founded in 1881, with its first local branch in New York, and Clara served as the first president of the American branch. They built their headquarters in Washington, D.C. near the White House. She was able to help with  such disasters as the Johnstown Flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889 (at the time one of the worst disasters in American history) and the Galveston Flood in 1900. 

Clara continued to help the Red Cross across the world  as well. In 1897 she sailed to Constantinople and helped to open the first American International Red Cross headquarters in Turkey. She would also take several trips to Armenia to provide relief and aid, and she worked in hospitals in Cuba.

After Clara resigned as the president of the American Red Cross, she founded the National First Aid Society, an organization meant to start local first aid programs.

To this day The American National Red Cross continues to be an important part of our country. They provide emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education throughout the United States. 

Clara continued to give speeches and lectures about her work after she left the Red Cross organization. She published a book about her life called The Story of My Childhood in 1907. She would pass away five years later after contracting pneumonia. 

The work that Clara Barton did to help others and the example she set of continuous service continues to be an inspiration. In 1948, a postage stamp with a portrait of Clara and an image of the American Red Cross symbol was created. Clara Barton was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973. 

The next time you see someone who needs help, remember Clara Barton and her example of service. There are always opportunities to help others, large and small, and our acts of service can help others see the importance of giving aid and being helpful however possible.