By the time of Lincoln's inauguration, seven states had already seceded and six of those states had united under the banner of the Confederate States of America. Yet Lincoln, in his inaugural address alone, did more to try to avert the Civil War than either Pierce or Buchanan--his two predecessors--had done during their entire terms. Even as he refused to recognize the legality of the secessionist state governments, he expressed willingness to amend the Constitution. He was firm that slavery not be extended to new states and territories, but he was willing to guarantee its continuation within the states where it existed at the time of his inauguration. Among so many of Lincoln's quotations that capture the essence of America like no other President has ever done, there is this beautiful passage from his first inaugural address: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies ... The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
But there was to be no compromise. The failures and active collusion of Buchanan and Pierce with pro-slavery factions had set the course of secession too far down the track. Five weeks after Lincoln's inaugural address, Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumpter and started the Civil War. From that point on, Lincoln was resolute in his determination to defeat the Confederate States and restore the Union. From directing the grand strategy of the war effort to managing the diplomacy of defusing foreign plots to aid the South to rallying the people of the North with his matchless oratory, America could not have had a more talented or capable president during this crucial period. And Lincoln did all this while suffering serious personal setbacks, including the death of his son Willie in 1862.
Lincoln was re-elected in a landslide in the election of 1864. Tellingly, even with the heavy casualties and brutal fighting that characterized the war, nearly 80 percent of the soldiers who voted, voted for President Lincoln. Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address in March of 1865: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." General Lee surrendered to General Grant on April 9th,1865, effectively ending the Civil War. On April 14th, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Washington, D.C.