There is no debating the fact that Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest figures in American history. Born in a one-room log cabin in southeast Kentucky, he was not given a middle name by his parents who were simple farmers. Lincoln was an avid reader and taught himself much more than what the only 18 months of schooling taught him as a child. Driven by the desire to become a lawyer, he studied law on his own, becoming a successful lawyer eventually, after holding a multitude of jobs and positions throughout his younger years.
As a president, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, playing a key role in the passage of the thirteenth amendment which ended slavery in America. This, however, is just what most people know of him, but there is so much more about the great man that people are unaware of. Without further ado, here are 10 interesting facts about Abraham Lincoln most people don’t know.
10His mother died of milk sickness
In 1818, when Abraham Lincoln was just 9 years old, his mother Nancy died of a mysterious so-called ‘milk sickness’ that took the lives of countless other people in the area. It would later be discovered that milk sickness was a result of cows ingesting poisonous white snakeroot which made the milk poisonous as well.
9Lincoln would test rifles outside the White House
While as a president, Lincoln was commander-in-chief of the Union’s army, he was under no obligation to test-fire any rifles personally, but he did it anyway. He seemed particularly interested in the artillery used by Union troops during the Civil War, which is why he would often attend artillery and cannon tests whenever they took place. Lincoln would also meet with inventors and arms manufacturers whenever they would showcase new weapon designs. As a matter of fact, Lincoln himself test-fired muskets and repeating rifles on the grounds surrounding the White House.
8He is the only president to have obtained a patent
Even though Benjamin Franklin is well-known for his creative mind and for his many inventions, he didn’t reserve any patents in his lifetime due to his belief that practical inventions should be used by all people with no limitations whatsoever. Lincoln on the other hand, designed an ingenious way to keep vessels afloat in shallow waters by using empty metal air chambers attached to the sides. It was for this design that he obtained patent #6,469 in 1849.
7Lincoln lost five elections before becoming president
Before his presidency, Lincoln took part in five separate elections in which he lost. Over the years, he lost the race for the Illinois General Assembly in 1832, a race for the US Congress, two races for the US Senate, and a campaign for a vice-presidential nomination. It wasn’t until 1858 that he became a prominent figure in the Republica Party, a role that eventually got him the 1860 Republican presidential nomination that would later get him the presidency.
6He broke a few civil liberties to help with the war effort
Because of the fact that groups of citizens would disrupt rail lines or riot during the early days of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended writ of habeas corpus, giving government officials the capacity to imprison anyone who would hurt the Union’s war effort. Furthermore, several newspapers were also shut down or intimidated throughout the war in order to get them to comply.
5Lincoln came under fire on the battlefield
While visiting the front lines at Fort Stevens in July 1864, Lincoln got frighteningly close to gunfire, nearly getting hit on several occasions. This happened during the Confederate’s attack on Washington in July 1864, a battle that Union soldiers would eventually win. It is said that Colonel Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. screamed at Lincoln on the top of his lungs: “Get down, you fool!” while they were under incoming fire, thus saving Lincoln from getting hit.
4He was a very good wrestler
Few people know this, but Abraham Lincoln is enshrined in the Wrestling Hall of Fame. Thanks to his long limbs, Lincoln was quite an accomplished wrestler in his youth, losing just one of his almost 300 matches. He was so confident, in fact, that he once challenged an entire crowd of onlookers after winning a match. To this day, Abraham Lincoln holds the honor of ‘Outstanding American’ in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
3Grave robbers tried to steal his corpse
In 1876, a gang of counterfeiters from Chicago attempted to steal Lincoln’s body from his tomb in order to hold it at ransom. They wanted to hold the corpse for a ransom of $200,000 along with the release of their best counterfeiter from prison. The Secret Service, however, after infiltrating the gang, learned about their unusual operation and promptly moved Lincoln’s body to an unmarked grave which was then encased in a steel cage and 10 feet of concrete.
2He created the Secret Service just hours before being assassinated
The same day Lincoln met his end at the hands of infamous conspirator John Wilkes Booth, he signed the legislation creating the US Secret Service. This happened on April 14, 1865, just hours before attending Ford’s Theatre. Originally, the Secret Service had the purpose of fighting against widespread currency counterfeiting. It wasn’t until two other presidents were killed that the Secret Service was finally given the task to protect the US President.
1His assassin’s brother saved the life of Lincoln’s son
Interestingly enough, Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes, saved the life of Lincoln’s son a few months before the assassination. While on a train platform in Jersey City, New Jersey, the president’s oldest son Robert Todd Lincoln fell into the open space between the platform and a moving train as a result of crowd movement. It was the saving hand of famous actor Edwin Booth who reached out from the crowd and pulled the young man to safety by his coat collar.