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By Louise Chipley Slavicek

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On February 6 and February 17, a relatively unknown Union general named Ulysses S. Grant captured two strategically vital forts — Henry and Donelson — on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, thereby opening a path into Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi for the northern forces. Lincoln’s joy over the Union victories in Tennessee was to be short-lived. On February 20, the president suffered a devastating loss when his 11-year-old son, Willie, died of typhoid. q 6/19/03 11:11 PM Page 59 “TO SAVE THE UNION” This famous 1864 portrait of Lincoln with his youngest son, Tad, appears to show the president reading a book to his child.

S. soil, his Whig critics pointed out that the land where the fighting began in 1846 was actually claimed by both Texas and Mexico. q 6/19/03 11:13 PM Page 34 ABRAHAM LINCOLN war had started. The president paid no attention whatsoever to the freshman congressman from Illinois, but back home Abe’s Democratic rivals gleefully nicknamed him “Spotty” Lincoln. In the wake of this embarrassing episode, Lincoln threw himself into a new cause—the 1848 presidential election. Ironically, the Whig nominee, Zachary Taylor, was a hero of the Mexican–American War, which officially ended in February 1848, when Mexico recognized Texas as part of the United States and relinquished California and New Mexico.

Now Abraham Lincoln was turning his attention to his nation’s capital—and the next chapter in his remarkable ascent. C. S. annexation of Texas, which had won its independence from Mexico in 1836. By the time Lincoln arrived in the capital, American troops had won a string of victories. With the end of the Mexican – American War in sight, President James Polk announced that as restitution for starting the war, Mexico must hand over the huge provinces of California and New Mexico. q 6/19/03 11:13 PM Page 33 THE ROAD TO THE PRESIDENCY General Zachary Taylor led his troops to victory in the Battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican – American War.

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