As the Civil War Enters Its Final Phases.
On December 8, 1863, both to weaken the Confederacy and looking toward the end of the war, President Lincoln issued a proclamation granting a full pardon, with restoration of all rights of property except as to slaves, to Confederates who would take an oath of allegiance to the United States and promise...
On December 8, 1863, both to weaken the Confederacy and looking toward the end of the war, President Lincoln issued a proclamation granting a full pardon, with restoration of all rights of property except as to slaves, to Confederates who would take an oath of allegiance to the United States and promise not to take up arms against it. It provided in part:?“I…do solemnly swear, in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all acts of congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves…So help me God.”
The Confederacy instituted the first military draft in American history, and many soldiers had been conscripted into the Confederate service contrary to their will. Many other Confederates were prisoners of war who had seen all they cared to of combat and military prisons. And plenty of men had been enthusiastic enlistees in the Confederate armies early in the war, but with the tide turned in favor of the Union, they saw less reason to leave their families and farms, and even less cause to lose their lives. People in these positions, mainly in Union custody though sometimes seeking to flee to it, sought to take the oath of allegiance and be released from captivity and out from under any threat of loss of their property. They applied to the President for permission to do so, usually individually but sometimes in groups, and he was glad to oblige.
“Let the men herein named take the oath of Dec. 8, 1863 and be discharged. A. Lincoln.”
Autograph Endorsement Signed as President, Washington, December 13, 1864. “Let the men herein named take the oath of Dec. 8, 1863 and be discharged. A. Lincoln.” This is a particularly nice example, matted and framed with a 19th century engraving of him. It was signed while Sherman was marching through Georgia and just two weeks after the Battle of Franklin ended Confederate hopes in the West. It is easy to see how this group of men taking the oath saw the Confederate cause as lost.
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