November 24, 1864 (1)

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Telegram Sent on: November 24, 1864 (1).
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War Department

Washington City,

Nov. 24, 1864

Hon. Henry M. Rice

St. Paul, Minn.

Have suspended executions

of deserters named in your dispatch, until

further order from here.


14 Chg Ex Man

no 1W

Rec'd 8.50A

SN 938

By McK

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

Summary of the telegram

President Abraham Lincoln sent this telegram to Henry Rice in St. Paul, Minnesota on November 24, 1864. In this telegram, Lincoln explained to Rice that he suspended the executions of Union deserts until further notice. Lincoln referred to a dispatch that Rice sent to Lincoln.

The Context for this telegram

Fort Snelling was used during the Civil War as an induction station for the War Department. This location trained more than 24,000 recruits. Fort Snelling was also used as a base of a concentration camp during the Dakota War of 1862 [1]. At the time of this telegram, Colonel Robert N. McLaren was in charge at Fort Snelling [2].

Abraham Lincoln was apt to suspend the execution of many imprisoned men and women during the Civil War when the punishments did not adequately fit the crime. Many of his telegrams called for the suspension or delaying of executions. President Lincoln was sent a telegram from Governor Stephen Miller and Henry Rice, a former U.S. senator from Minnesota on November 23, 1864 that stated, "We respectfully apply for postponement of execution for thirty (30) days of...five (5) deserters now under sentence of death at Fort Snelling." This telegram was a direct response to Rice's dispatch. [3].

Inferences about the telegram

Interestingly enough, this telegram was sent out of order. This telegram was timestamped as sent at 9:38 while the telegram labeled November 24, 1864 (2) [4] was timestamped as sent at 9:39. While one minute doesn't make much of a difference, it is interesting to note that telegrapher McK accidentally sent these telegrams in the incorrect order. Both were received by McK at the same time.

It can be inferred from Lincoln's message that the execution of the five deserters would never occur as he frequently asked for executions to be suspended "until further order from [him]." Additionally, this is further proof that Lincoln felt that execution would not fit the crime of deserting the Union.

By stating in this telegram that Lincoln suspended the executions of the deserters named in Rice's dispatch, it was clear that Lincoln was asked this favor and that it wasn't originally decided by him.


  1. Information gathered from
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  3. Information gathered from;view=fulltext.