March 24, 1864
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Washington, March 24, 1864
Major Gen Bulter
Fort Monroe, VA
Please, if you can effect special
exchange for J.F. Robinson, 1st Lieut. Co, E. 67 P.R.
further C.L. Edmonds 1st Lieut. Co. D. 67 P.R.
No. 3 F.N.
3 Chg Ex Mans.
Recd. 6:10 P.M.
Sen 11:40 P.M.
This analysis makes use of a heuristic for historical thinking know as SCIM-C developed by David Hicks, Peter Doolittle and Tom Ewing. For more about this historical thinking heuristic please see [ttp://www.historicalinquiry.com http://www.historicalinquiry.com]
Summary of the telegram
In this telegram, President Lincoln requested that General Benjamin Butler arrange prisoner exchanges for James F. Robinson of Company E. and Charles L. Edmonds of Company D. both of the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment (P.R.).
The Context for this telegram
James F. Robinson is listed <ref> See this list of captured officers from Pennsylvania regiments http://www.sciway3.net/cmp-csa/states/pa.html</ref> as having been captured July 15, 1863 at Winchester, Virginia. Robinson served in the 67th Pennsylvania infantry regiment that was part of the Second Battle of Winchester, fought June 13-15, 1863. The 67th was surrounded and captured on the last day of the battle. Several of the captured prisoners were sent to Libby prison.<ref>A narrative on the 67th with information about the battle from is available at http://www.pa-roots.com/pacw/infantry/67th/67thorg.html. For more on the capture of 67th see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_Winchester#June_15:_Johnson.27s_attack_at_Stephenson.27s_Depot </ref> Winchester is in the Shenandoah Valley of Virgina just few miles south of the Maryland border. The Second Battle of Winchester was part of the Gettysburg campaign. Confederate troops under Richard Ewell handily defeated Union troops under Robert H. Milroy. Over 2,500 Union troops surrendered during the 3 day battle.<ref>Official Records: Return of Casualties in the Union forces at Winchester, Va., June 13-15, 1863.</ref>
Charles L. Edmonds was a prisoner at the Libby prison in Richmond Virginia. He was among the 150 Union troops who escaped Libby on February 9, 1864, but was recaptured some days later <Ref> For a list of Union officers who had been recaptured by February 12, 1864 see http://www.mdgorman.com/Written_Accounts/Whig/1864/richmond_whig_21264.htm </ref>
The following note in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy Basler provides additional information on Robinson and Edmonds. "The roster of the Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania Regiment lists these men as James T Robinson, discharged on March 24, 1865, and Charles L. Edmonds, mustered out on December 18, 1864."<ref>See The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, (1957), p.265, online at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=lincoln;cc=lincoln;type=simple;rgn=div1;q1=J%20f%20Robinson;singlegenre=All;view=text;subview=detail;sort=occur;idno=lincoln7;node=lincoln7:577</ref>
Inferences about the telegram
Lincoln seemed to have been concerned with the fate of officers who had been recaptured after the Libby prison escape. On March 19, 1864 Lincoln telegramed Butler to arrange the release of T. Ten Eyck, another prisoner at Libby who participated in the escape<ref> See this telegram at http://wiki.lincolntelegrams.com/index.php?title=March_19,_1864</ref>. Although Ten Eyck did not actually escape, he was involved in the digging of the tunnel escape route. We might infer that Lincoln was concerned that Edmonds would be mistreated after his recapture.
There is some confusion over the middle initial in Robinson's name. Basler listed Robinson's initial as T in his annotation, although his transcription and ours record the name as J. F. Robinson. At least two web-based sources contain a record of a James F. Robinson as a 1st Lieutenant in the 67th Pennsylvania infantry Regiment. One was created by an amateur civil war historian in South Carolina (also referenced in the context for this telegram) and is online at http://www.sciway3.net/cmp-csa/states/pa.html. This website is hosted at the South Carolina Information Highway at http://www.sciway3.net/, which hosts dozens of historical and genealogical sites related to South Carolina history. The second online source is a website listing decedents of members of the 67th and is online at http://www.petersburgbreakthrough.org/67thPAroll.htm. This site is maintained and hosted by an amateur historian named David H. Jones, and it is focused on remembering and honor the participants in the Petersburg campaign of 1864.