On July 18, 1863, in a six-hour session, President Lincoln reviews several pardon cases; regarding one, he writes Advocate General Joseph Holt regarding the case of soldier Michael Delany sentenced to be executed: “Let him fight instead of being shot.”
“I am in a state of entire collapse after yesterday’s work,” Presidential aide John Hay writes the next day. “I ran the Tycoon through One hundred Court martials! A steady sitting of six hours!” Hay writes in his diary: “Today we spent six-hours deciding on Court Martials, the President, Judge Joseph Holt, and I was amused at the eagerness with which the President caught at any fact which would justify him in saving the life of a condemned soldier. He was only merciless in cases where meanness or cruelty was shown.” Lincoln was especially averse to punishing with death cases of cowardice. Lincoln said, "it would frighten the poor devils too terribly, to shoot them." Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.