November 1, 1864(2)

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Telegram Sent on: November 1, 1864(2).
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Transcript

Executive Mansion

Washington, November 1, 1864-2

Hon. A Hobbs

Malona, New York


When is Nathan Wilson, of whom you telegraph, to be found?

A. Lincoln

Sent 7:45 pm

By MYC



Historical analysis

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 http://www.historicalinquiry.com


Summary of the telegram

On November 1, 1864, Lincoln telegraphed from the White House to Hon. A Hobbs in Malone, New York, asking about the whereabouts of a man named Nathan Wilson.

The Context for this telegram

Albert Hobbs, a senator in the New York Legislature, had telegraphed Lincoln on November 1, saying that Wilson, who had been sentenced for desertion, was his nephew and for his pardon. He replied to Lincoln’s telegraph on November 2, answering that Wilson was in the 22nd Massachusetts Regiment. Wilson had been sentenced to be shot on November 4th, 1864.

During the Civil War, the largest single topic in Lincoln's telegrams was reviewing and answering appeals of military court martial decisions, specifically considering pardons for those sentenced to death. According to Hay, Lincoln actively sought reasons to grant clemency and stay an execution. Lincoln's decision for a pardon typically included the phrase found in this telegram, that it was stayed "until further order" which Lincoln insinuated to a father of a soldier pardoned that his intention in the phrase was never to give further orders. Lincoln stated his rational for clemency as: "I don't believe it will make a man any better to shoot him, while if we keep him alive, we just may get some work out of him."[1]

In a telegram sent the next day, November 2 [1], Lincoln telegraphed Lieutenant General Grant asking for the suspension of Nathan Wilcox.


Inferences about the telegram

It is unclear who Major-General Din is. In another telegram dated January 20, 1865, Lincoln wrote to Major General Din as well but in the records of Union generals during the Civil War, there is not a General named Din. It can be conjectured that perhaps Major-General referred to Major-General Adin Ballou Underwood from Milford, Massachusetts. He became major in the 33rd regiment in July 1862 and participated in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.


Notes

  1. Wheeler, T. (2006). Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War, p. 103-6. Harper Collins Books, New York.