November 24, 1864 (2)

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Telegram Sent on: November 24, 1864 (2).
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Transcript

War Department

Washington City,

Nov. 24, 1864


Officer in Command at

Fort Snelling, Minn.


Suspend execution of

Patrick Kelly, John Lennor, Joel H. Eastwood, Thomas

J. Murray, and Hoffman until further order from

here.

A.Lincoln


No.2 W

20frd

Recd 8.50am

sent 939

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 http://www.historicalinquiry.com

Summary of the telegram

President Abraham Lincoln has sent a telegram to the officer in command at Fort Snelling, Minnesota asking for the executions of Patrick Kelly, John Lennor, Joel H. Eastwood, Thomas J. Murray, and Hoffman to be suspended until further notice.

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." President Lincoln responded the following day to Mr. Rice that he had suspended the execution of the five men [3].

Inferences about the telegram

Interestingly enough, this telegram was sent out of order. Lincoln's telegram that is labeled November 24, 1864 (1) [4]. was timestamped as sent at 9:38 while this telegram 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 delivered to be sent by McK from the President 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.

The wording of the telegram is very direct and asks the officer in command to refrain from executing those five men. Lincoln's message is very clear and leaves no questions.

Notes

  1. Information gathered from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Snelling#Civil_War_and_afterwards.
  2. Information gathered from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/lincoln8/1:263?rgn=div1;view=fulltext.
  3. Information gathered from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/lincoln8/1:263?rgn=div1;view=fulltext.
  4. Seen here: http://wiki.lincolntelegrams.com/index.php?title=November_24,_1864_(1).