President Lincoln Reviews Court Martials

July 18, 1863

In six-hour session President Lincoln reviews a number of pardon cases; regarding one, he writes Advocate General Joseph Holt regarding the case of soldier Michael Delany sentenced to be executed: “Let him fight instead of being shot.”

“I am in a state of entire collapse after yesterday’s work,” Presidential aide John Hay writes the next day.  “I ran the Tycoon through One hundred Court martials! A steady sitting of six hours!”  Hay writes in his diary: “Today  we spent 6 hours deciding on Court Martials, the President, Judge [Joseph] Holt & I was amused at the eagerness with which the President caught at any fact which would justify him in saving the life of a condemned soldier.  He was only merciless in cases where meanness or cruelty were shown.”

Cases of cowardice he was specially averse to punishing with death.  He said it would frighten the poor devils too terribly, to shoot them.  On the case of a soldier who had once deserted & reinlisted he indorsed, “Let him fight instead of shooting him.

One fellow who had deserted & escaped after conviction into Mexico, he sentenced, saying, “We will condemn him as they used to sell hogs in Indiana, as they run.”

Hay writes colleague John G. Nicolay: “Bob [Lincoln] & I had a fearful orgie here last night on whiskey and cheese.  The house is gradually going to the bad since you left.”  He added: “Mrs Lincoln goes North early next week. She will remain in New York some days & then she & le dauphin Bobbe will away to the Montagnes Blanches [White Mountains].

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Published in: on July 18, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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