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Lincoln in Kansas - Part 4

The War President

Abraham Lincoln's election pushed the country towards Civil War. Southern states began to leave the Union, and war began just a little over a month into his term. The first shots were fired less than three months after Kansas became a state.

Regimental flag of the Second Kansas CavalryThe Civil War included fighting west of the Mississippi. While few battles were fought in Kansas, the state's troops saw action in neighboring states. The Second Kansas Cavalry fought in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma (then known as Indian Territory).  This is the unit's regimental flag (top, right).

New Englander Harriet Beecher Stowe's book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is sometimes credited with inciting the Civil War. The book's images of slavery inflamed opinions in both the North and South.

An ordinary looking sofa in the museum collections has a unique connection to Stowe. The author was said to have sat on the sofa in Ohio while listening to stories that inspired scenes in her famous novel.

Legend has it that Lincoln said upon meeting Stowe, "So you're the little woman who started this great war."

Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery

National Cemeteries

Lincoln signed legislation establishing National Cemeteries in 1862. This included the existing graveyards at Kansas forts Leavenworth and Scott. These cemeteries were designated to honor fallen Civil War soldiers. 

This is the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery in northeast Kansas (center, left).

A tribute to the president came in the naming of Fort Lincoln, a small army base near Fort Scott during the Civil War.


James Henry LaneKansas Connection: James Lane

As one of the state's first U.S. senators, James Lane wasted no time in making Lincoln's acquaintance.

Lane organized a group of Kansans to camp out at the White House to protect Lincoln in the early weeks of the war. The Confederacy was located less than a mile away, just across the Potomac River. Lincoln appreciated the efforts of Lane and his Frontier Guard.

Lane also was responsible for recruiting the first African American regiment in the northern states--the First Kansas Colored Infantry. This took place months before Lincoln's order allowing black troops in the federal army.

Another notable Kansas connection related to the Civil War was one of Lincoln's most successful generals, William Tecumseh Sherman.  Before the war, Sherman had tried his luck at farming in Kansas and briefly practiced law in Leavenworth.  He had little success at either endeavor.

The People's Business

Although the war often overshadows his presidency, Lincoln was concerned with so much more. The business of the nation had to continue, and he signed into law legislation that had far-reaching effects in Kansas.

Students at Kansas State University, the nation's first land grant schoolLincoln signed the Homestead Act in May, 1862. It allowed farmers to claim 160 acres of land if improvements were made within five years. By the end of the Civil War, 15,000 claims had been filed.

The Morrill Land Grant College Act provided for the establishment of agricultural schools. Kansas State University (bottom, left) became the first college in America to be officially designated a land grant school in 1863.

Lincoln is known to have financially contributed to only one college in his lifetime.  He gave $100 for the construction of Parmenter Hall at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, in 1864.

Gown worn to Lincoln's inaugural ball in March, 1865 Kansas Connection: The Ushers

The country witnessed the unlikely spectacle of a war-time presidential election when Lincoln was elected to a second term in late 1864. The president and many citizens hoped for a reunited country. The end of the war was nearing.

John Usher served as Lincoln's last Secretary of the Interior. John and his wife Margaret, like other Cabinet members and their wives, prepared for the Inaugural Ball in March, 1865. Margaret Usher wore this >gown (bottom, right) to the ball. Just a little over a month later, the war officially ended.

The Ushers settled in Kansas after John left office.



Lincoln in Kansas is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.

  1. The Back Story - The Lincoln Douglas debates
  2. I Think I Would Go to Kansas - Lincoln's 1859 Kansas trip
  3. Rail Splitter of the West - Presidential campaigns
  4. The War President - Civil War years
  5. He Is In Glory - The assassination and its aftermath
  6. How Well Do You Know Abraham Lincoln? - Take our fun quiz

Contact us at KSHS.KansasMuseum@ks.gov