Lincoln and his Cabinet: This piece bears his signature and that of his Attorney General .
Amidst the swirl of the Civil War, Lincoln earned a reputation as a deeply compassionate and kind man, and this reputation reached from the battlefields into American legend. This is the picture that has come down to us, and we envision him as a man who was generous of spirit, who pardoned...
Amidst the swirl of the Civil War, Lincoln earned a reputation as a deeply compassionate and kind man, and this reputation reached from the battlefields into American legend. This is the picture that has come down to us, and we envision him as a man who was generous of spirit, who pardoned soldiers who fell asleep on guard duty, showed leniency whenever possible, and aided widows and orphans. Because of his position as President, he had opportunities to prove or disprove this reputation, as many requests for pardons, deferrals of executions, and pleas to aid soldiers came to him.
Joseph S. B. Wood enlisted at the start of the war in 1861 and joined the 8th Missouri Infantry. This was a battle regiment that saw extensive service during the first three years of the war in the Mississippi and Western Theaters. It first fought against pro-Southern guerrillas attacking supply trains, then joined in the Federal occupation of Paducah, Kentucky. In February 1862, the regiment fought at Fort Donelson, then later at Shiloh. After a two-month-long campaign, it was the first regiment to enter the strategic rail center of Corinth, Mississippi, following the Confederate evacuation in May 1862, and in late December, it took part in the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou. In January 1863, it stormed the breastworks of Fort Hindman to capture Arkansas Post. The 8th Missouri saw considerable service in the Battle of Vicksburg.
In the late Winter of 1863, an incident occurred that caused problems between Wood with his superior officer, George K. Budd. Budd evidently saw fit to order him dishonorably dismissed, and when Wood appealed, the case reached the Attorney General himself. Missourian Edward Bates was one of the original Team of Rivals, and Wood's story, replete with tales of years in battle, was meaningful to him. He wrote to the President, via Lincoln's aide, John Nicolay, about Wood's case. Lincoln too saw merit, and ordered Wood honorably discharged.
Autograph endorsement signed, March 30, 1863. "Let Joseph S. B. Wood of Company C. 8th Regiment Mo. Vols. be honorably discharged, and the order enclosed to Geo. K. Budd, St. Louis, MO." The note is written on an envelope addressed by Attorney General Edwin Bates, and free franked by him. A free frank of Bates is itself uncommon.
Lincoln's confidence in Wood was not misplaced. The soldier re-joined the army the following year and remained in the military until the end of the war.
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