President Andrew Johnson Pardons a Pennsylvanian Who Had Served For Two Days in the Confederate Army During Lee’s Invasion of the State in the Gettysburg Campaign

The service was quite likely involuntary, so Johnson exercised clemency and ordered the man released

John Reed of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, fled to Canada to avoid military service, and when drafted refused to report. In August 1865 John killed the Deputy Provost in his district for reporting on him to the authorities. John’s brother Mengle was accused of being an accessory in the murder, but the Grand...

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President Andrew Johnson Pardons a Pennsylvanian Who Had Served For Two Days in the Confederate Army During Lee’s Invasion of the State in the Gettysburg Campaign

The service was quite likely involuntary, so Johnson exercised clemency and ordered the man released

John Reed of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, fled to Canada to avoid military service, and when drafted refused to report. In August 1865 John killed the Deputy Provost in his district for reporting on him to the authorities. John’s brother Mengle was accused of being an accessory in the murder, but the Grand Jury failed to find a bill against him. So the local Bedford authorities arrested Mengle again, this time for treason for joining the rebel army during Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania in the Gettysburg Campaign. His two days of service in Lee’s army was, many believed, involuntary and was essentially forced labor. They stated that the facts of his service were exaggerated to gin up a case against Mengle and prevent him from testifying on behalf of his brother in his upcoming murder trial.

Alexander H. Coffroth, member of Congress from the 16th District of Pennsylvania, was one of those who thought the treason charge against Mengle Reed was inappropriate. To end the matter, he presented the facts and an application for pardon to President Andrew Johnson, and succeeded in having the pardon granted.

Document signed, as President, September 14, 1865, stating: “Whereas one Mengel Reed…is now under arrest on a warrant from the United States District Court…And whereas I am assured that the circumstances of his case render him a proper object of executive clemency, Now Therefore, let it be known that I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States…do hereby grant to the said Mengel Reed a full pardon for the offense with which he stands charged.” The document is countersigned by Secretary of State William H. Seward.

With the war over, Johnson was in favor of pardoning former Confederate soldiers who took the oath of allegiance, and was in fact doing so. Many of these men had voluntarily enlisted and served in the Confederate Army for four years. One can imagine his attitude towards trying someone for treason who had served for two days, and perhaps involuntarily at that.

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