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Lincoln Telegrams - execution leniency

This is a quantitative analysis of telegrams sent by Lincoln between March 10, 1864 and April 12, 1865 specifically mentioning execution.

Erin Coppola-Klein

on 26 April 2010

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Transcript of Lincoln Telegrams - execution leniency

To When were the Telegrams sent? Lincoln's Leniency Telegrams During the period between March 10, 1864 and April 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln sent over 300 telegrams, 85 of which specifically addressed people who had been tried and sentenced to death. These sentences were given for a number of accusations like desertion, sleeping on watch, spying, and murder. Lincoln, known for his humanity, was frequently appealled to for leniency by family members of those who were slated for execution. This is a quantitative analysis of the 85 telegrams dealing with these requests. Leniency telegrams were not sent
evenly throughout the year. They
peaked during the winter months,
hitting a monthly high of 22 in
February, 1865. The fewest leniency
telegrams were sent in July, 1864,
when none were sent. What did the Telegrams say? Lincoln took the death penalty very seriously and wanted to be sure that any person sentenced to death had gotten a fair and speedy trial. The vast majority of the leniency telegrams order executions to be suspended, but not necessarily quashed. In almost all these orders, Lincoln asked that the files and case notes be sent to Washington for personal review and that the execution be suspended until he could review the case. In many cases, executions were postponed long enough for new evidence to be reviewed that may, or may not, have changed the accused sentence. commuted senteces were reduced to hard labor, life in prison, or time in a prisoner of war camp. examples of "other" content:
amnesty proclamation
turning case over to Gen. Dix
sever case from record To Whom were the Telegrams sent? Most of the telegrams were addressed to a specific person. However, 31 of the 85 were sent to non-specific individuals, like the Officer in Charge or the Commanding Officer. Maj. Gen. Rosencrantz often appears in telegrams written by Lincoln as Maj. Gen. Rosecrans and Gen. Meade's name is sometimes spelled without the e. General Grant received the most leniency telegrams, by far. This leads to a number of questions: Did Grant have more men under his command, or did he have more disciplinary problems? Was he most often near prisons or forts where those waiting to be executed were held? In two cases, Lincoln wrote telegrams to citizens, Mrs. Christiana A. Sack and Ms. Mary McCook Baldwin. In Ms. Sack's case, he initially refused to postpone the execution of Henry Sack. However, telegrams in the following days show that President Lincoln requested information from the Commanding Officer that lead to the commutation of Henry's death sentence to life in prison. Where where the Telegrams sent? The telegrams were sent to 14 different states. Not surprisingly, the majority were sent to the border states of Tennessee, Virginia, and Missouri. However, 14 telegrams, mostly to Gen. Grant, were sent without a specific location. The numbers for some states, like Virginia and Massachusetts, reflect multiple telegrams sent on behalf of one individual (see "To whom did the telegrams give leniency?"). The chart shows more specifically where the telegrams went within each state. To Whom did the Telegrams give Leniency? Although the leniency telegrams do not guarantee that these folks escaped execution, the following men (and three women) had Lincoln intervene on their behalf between March 10, 1864 and April 12, 1865. Most of them had their executions suspended until their cases could be reviewed, and some had their executions overturned. In many cases, these individuals had more than one telegram sent regarding thier case; sometimes to seek information, sometimes to notify others about the change in sentencing (see "What did the telegrams say?"). Multiple people with the same last name suggests that perhaps certain families continued to plead their cases to President Lincoln for a variety of incarcerated family. Listed here are the names as transcribed from the Lincoln Telegrams website (http://lincolntelegrams.com). Mispellings were rampant and those here reflect the spelling in the original telgrams. John H. Abshier
William H. Gibney
Charles Leninbline
Charles Carpenter
young Pery from Wisconsin
O. Kellog John S. Young
William R. Bridges
Patrick Jones of the12th Tennessee Cavalry
Private Co. B of the 1st Iowa Cavalry
J.W. Pryor
Thomas Doherty or Welsh
William H. H. Cummings of the 24th Mass. Volunteers
Henry Sack
Amos Lemney Robert Bridges
Jesse A. Broadway
Thomas R. Miller
Albert G. Lawrence of the 16th Massachusetts Regiment
Private P. Larolle
Nathan Wilcox
Nanor Mason
Samuel J. Smith
George Brown (aka George Rock)
Robert W. Reed
Major Wolf
Patrick Kelly
John Lennon
Joce H. Eastwood
Thomas J. Murray
Sargent Oliver B. Wheeler of the 6th Regiment, Missoury Volunteers
John and James Berry
Mrs. Nancy A. Thompson
John McNutty (aka Joseph Riley)
James P. Boileau
Kingsworth Holland
John Doyle Lennan (aka Thomas Doyle, John Lennon)
James R. Mallory
George S. Owen
Waterman Thornton
S. M. Elliot
R. E. Peacher
Solomon Spiegel of the 9th Michigan Cavalry
Henry Stark of the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry
Mrs. Boating (aka Mrs. Wolff) William Stanley
Thomas Samplugh
William H. of Company B 56th Massachusetts Volunteers
Hamel Shaffer
Barney Rooker of the 15th New York Cavalry
Cornelius E. Peacher
John Murphy
Private Henry W. Young of the 63rd New York Volunteers, Co. E
W. E. Walker Simon Shaffer of the New York 15th
John Davis (aka John Lewis)
Thomas Adaws of the 186th Pennsylvania Volunteers
Private James Hycks of the 678th Pennsylvania Volunteers
Hugh F. Riley of the 11th Massachusetts Volunteers
Major T. C. Jameson
Lieut. Samuel B. Davis
George A Maynard of Co. A 46th New York Vetran Volunteers
Lieut. Henry A. Meck, of the 1st US Colored Cavalry
Mrs. E. R. Ewell James Lynch (aka Henessy)
John C. Brown (aka William A. Craven)
James Brown
Luther T. Palmer of the 5th New York Artillery
William Randallof the 5th New York Heavy Artillery
George W. Brown of Co. A 15th New York Engineers
Charles Love of the 7th New Hampshire Volunteers
A. Craven
Jackson Stewart and Randall
Henry Bolo (aka Henry Boho)
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