Note from Lincoln spares soldier’s life

Claudine Zap
Copyright National Archives

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.