Abraham Lincoln declared the end of slavery with his Emancipation Proclamation. But he also reviewed death sentences of soldiers who were court-martialed during the Civil War.
Slate's David Plotz renewed interest in one such hand-written note he saw after he toured the National Archives' vaults recently.
The document immortalizes Lincoln's decision to spare a soldier's life. Michael Delaney had deserted one Colorado regiment in 1862, but was fighting for another when he was arrested. Lincoln overturned the death sentence since the man had re-enlisted, writing with dazzling succinctness,
Let him fight instead of being shot. A Lincoln
As Slate's Plotz noted, "I guess it's not surprising that the author of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address could manage to convey humanity, common sense, and a flash of dark wit in just seven words."
A post on the Facebook page (yes, it has one) of the Foundation for the National Archives adds, "This document is a great example of how even the tiniest margin notes can make a record breathtaking."
A spokesperson for the National Archives emailed Yahoo News that Lincoln's note is not a new discovery. As the Atlantic Wire makes clear, the message has been previously documented in biographies of the 16th president.
More than a footnote in history, this little gem is certainly new to us, and worth a look.
- Emancipation Proclamation