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In 1831, young Abe Lincoln leaves his father's log cabin to make his way in the world. On his journey to New Orleans to deliver a load of pigs, Abe meets Ann Rutledge in New Salem, Illinois. His delivery completed, Abe returns to New Salem, where he enters into a small business with storekeeper Denton Offut, falls in love with Ann and wins the respect and friendship of the townspeople. Abe is so well liked that Ninian Edwards of the Whig Party comes to town to convince him to run for State Assembly. Abe accepts the challenge, but his victory is overshadowed by Ann's death, and haunted by a sense of doom and lack of ambition, he leaves the legislature after his first term to return to the law. A fateful meeting with Mary Todd, an ambitious, driven woman, however, changes the course of Abe's life for Mary is determined to force Abe to fulfill his destiny. Mary's determination drives Abe away, because he realizes that entering politics and taking a stand on slavery will mean the dissolution of the Union. However, after a visit to New Salem, Abe returns, ready to accept Mary and her sense of purpose. They are married, and several years later, when the tension between North and South reaches a danger point, Abe runs against his old opponent, the well-known and established Stephen Douglas. In a series of electrifying debates, Abe is catapulted into the national consciousness. Knowing that his election to president will mean the secession of the South, Abe resolutely accepts his victory and leaves for Washington, bidding his cheering friends and home in Illinois farewell, never to return again.