Lincoln Stops the Execution of Two Underage Soldiers
On October 8, 1863, Lincoln telegraphed Major General George G. Meade about the impending executions of two underage soldiers:
I am appealed to in behalf of August Blittersdorf, at Mitchell’s Station, Va., to be shot tomorrow as a deserter. I am unwilling for any boy under eighteen to be shot, and his father affirms that he is yet under sixteen. Please answer. His regiment or company not given me. I am appealed to in behalf of John Murphy, to be shot tomorrow. His mother says he is but seventeen. Please answer.
On October 12, Lincoln telegrammed Meade again to say that he had confirmed that Blittersdorf was only fifteen years old and was pardoned. Of Murphy, he wrote:
The father and mother of John Murphy, of the One hundred and nineteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, have filed their own affidavits that he was born June 22, 1846, and also the affidavits of three other persons. . . . I therefore, on account of his tender age, have concluded to pardon him, and to leave it to yourself whether to discharge him or continue him in the service.
There were many such telegrams; Lincoln spent hours going over such cases, obviously with great care and attention, and always seeking a way to save a soldier from execution.
Lincoln Speeches and Writings 1859-1865, Library of America, p. 527-28.
Copperhead Vallandigham, Banished to the Confederacy, Loses Ohio Gubernatorial Election
October 13, 1863. The off-year election in Ohio held October 13, 1863 resulted in the defeat of the Democratic candidate for governor, Clement Laird Vallandigham. After Vallandigham’s conviction in May by a military court of speaking and working to weaken the government’s war effort, Lincoln had banished Vallandigham to the Confederacy. But Vallandigham had traveled surreptitiously to Canada and continued to run for the Ohio governorship from there — unsuccessfully, as it turned out.
Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography, Philip B.Kunhardt, et al, p. 220.
Editor’s Note: Entries submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Executive Director, Vermont Humanities Council.