January 24, 1865

Abraham Lincoln Exercises Clemency: “Let This Boy Be Discharged...”

Autograph Endorsement Signed
1 page
SMC 1811
In late January 1865, President Lincoln spent considerable time reviewing the results of army courts-martial cases. He was especially interested in capital sentences, and the pleas made by ordinary citizens on behalf of men under military arrest and incarceration. Here, for unspecified reasons, he directs the release of “this boy” who had enlisted in the Union Army and received the standard bonus:
 
Let this boy be discharged on refunding any bounty received.

Perhaps the boy was a bounty jumper - one of many who signed up for the enlistment bonus and then deserted. Perhaps he was underage, or simply A.W.O.L. But it seems just as likely that Lincoln, having for four terrible years presided over a conflict that had already taken the lives of 600,000 of his countrymen - would do anything to prevent one more drop of blood being shed, by anyone, for any reason. He was merciful, and he was exhausted, like the country itself, with death.
Autograph Endorsement Signed (“A. Lincoln”), as President, 1 page, duodecimo, no place [Washington, D.C.], January 24, 1865.
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