Father Appeals to President Lincoln for Son’s Parole

June 13, 1864

John M. Powell writes an impassioned if ill-spelled letter to President Lincoln that results in his son’s release: “You requested me to give you in writing what I desired you to do, in relation to my poor unfortunate son now in Alton Prison. At my ernest solicitation, and upon the statement of the surgeon that he could not be saved if left in the Hospital. Genl. Rosecrans Paroled him, so that his mother could take him to the Hotel and administer to his comforts and perhaps save his life. He is still as low as a man can be with — Typho-Malarial fever.

No man could have regretted more than I did that my son was seduced into the rebel army. He was at Oxford University Mississippi — and was surrounded by all the malign influences which have been so fatal to the young men of the South. I have tried to convince him that his oath to support the so called confederacy is of no binding effect; but I have been wholy unable to overcome his scruples of conscience. He will never return to the Confederate Army; though he considers it a point of honour not to forsware himself by takeing the oath required of him here. I would be glad to convince him of his error; but I would not persuade him to do any thing which would humiliate him in his own estimation — indeed I do not believe the boy can be induced to take the oath, and he will be compelled to go back to Prison unless you will interfere to Parol him. It is my purpose to send him to Princton College, where he himself desires to go in order to finish or complete his education.

What I now ask of you, is that you will order this young mans Parol to be taken with the condition that he will not return to the so called Confederacy. I am myself ready to give any bond for his good behavior which may be required. I have no doubt that after mature reflection and with the lapse of sufficient time, his judgment will be so enlightened that he will see his position in very different light from that in which he now views it.

I appeal to you, Mr President, as a father who can readily under stand the feelings, by which I am now prompted. I have been faithful to the Union, and I am truly anxious that my Son shall become satisfied of his error — a result which I have no doubt, mild treatment will effect. I would not do violence to his concience — and I beg you to spear him the terrors of a military prison in his present feeble condition.

I have myself been quite sick since I saw you — that is the reason why I have not complied with your suggestion by writing sooner.

President Lincoln writes Thomas Webster regarding invitation to address Great Central Fair at Philadelphia: “Will try to leave here Wednesday afternoon, say at 4 P.M. remain till Thursday afternoon, and then return. This subject to events.

President Lincoln writes to Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas: “Complaint is made to me that in the vicinity of Henderson [Kentucky], our military are seizing negroes and carrying them off without their own consent, and according to no rules whatever, except those of absolute violence. I wish you would look into this & inform me, and see that the making soldiers of negroes is done according to the rules you are acting upon, so that unnecessary provocation and irratation be avoided.” Thomas responds: “Telegram of this date recd.1 I have no doubt there has been ground for complaint in the vicinity of Henderson, Ky, but I will take immediate measures to prevent a recurrence of any acts of violence on the person of officers engaged in recruiting colored troops in Ky.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “On Monday, the 13th. The Prest. Directed me to give tot he Secy. of War, Genl Wallace[‘]s two orders no. 30 and 33, and telling me that the Secy. would issue an order revoking them, on the ground (not touching the legal merits of the question) that they relate to a subject about which the Genl. Ought not to give any order, without consulting the head of the Dept.

“I called on the Secy. and delivered the orders. He was evidently gruff and out of temper – talked harshly of Senator Johnson of Md., and of rebels and sympathize[r]s – and was barely civil to me – I told him that it was an easy thing to denoun[c]e men as rebels and disloyalists, and sometimes done to screen usurpation and oppression &c. That if all the persons and property aimed at by Genl. W.[allace] were tainted with rebellion that would give the Genl. No power of confiscation.

“He evidently hates to give the order, and if done at all, it will be very ungracefully.

Note. Friday, June 17, I do not know that the order is yet given.

Afterwards, the P[r]es[iden]t. Told me that the Secy. of War had written a letter to Genl. W[allace] (which he saw and was satisfied with) to stay the order; and that he had seen Genl W’s telegram admitting the re[eip]t of it., the order has not been enforced.

Presidential aide John Nicolay leaves White House for a western vacation to recover from ill health.

President Lincoln writes his son Robert: “My dear Son Washington, June 14, 1864.

Of course I will try to give the sittings for the `Crayon.’”

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