A Pardon for “Little Sister”

Today in History, December 14: 1863 –

President Lincoln grants amnesty to his sister-in-law, Emilie Todd Helm, whose Confederate General husband had been killed at the Battle of Chickamauga. Emilie had made her way to DC and was staying in the White House with the President and her half sister, Mary Todd Lincoln. This was part of a plan Lincoln had to re-unite the Union.

By his order, any Confederate “rebel” that would swear an oath of loyalty to the Union would be granted amnesty. Lincoln hoped this would foster reconciliation and diminish the ranks of the Confederate Army.

Ironically, “four score and seven” years earlier, the British Army had pronounced the same decree, stating that any “rebel” involved in the Revolutionary War who would swear an oath of loyalty to the British Crown, would be granted amnesty; and the British decree was proffered for the same reason. In 1776 it met with limited success. In 1863, it met with some success, but the war would continue for two more years.

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