Memories of Lincoln, Today.
In 1861 a young soldier, exhausted, serving double guard duty after a long march — fell asleep during sentinel duty. The military response was swift: he was Court Martialled, and was to be shot by a firing squad.
Abraham Lincoln, it was said — had been notified of the soldier’s record. That he deserved death was not at question, and the court martial proceeded, the execution sentence read, and then he was pardoned.
The soldier, William Scott, went on to fight with valor and died in combat charging rifle pits. As we’ve learned in America, the ability of people around the president to tell the truth can be compromised, and the last words of William Scott were ..“I hope my last actions have given justice to the decision of our president to have pardoned me… I wish my last words to be a prayer for the continued well-being of Abraham Lincoln, my president”.
Carl Sandburg, in his role as biographer — researched the event and found the soldier to have been returned from the battlefield in a deep coma, and publicly stated this last, dying wish — had never been uttered. He also shot down the story that Abe Lincoln had ridden to the place where Scott was court martialled, and saved his life, and making him promise to never sleep on sentinel duty again. In fact, the president simply sent a letter of pardon on the advice of his generals. But he went further, and stated that Abraham Lincoln did not know Scott, or that he did not personally consider him and his case. In fact, he did.
This was not a great error to have been made on behalf of the biographer, but it points to the character of Abraham Lincoln and to our presidents, in general. An American president participates in a long tradition of caring about each life that they have the power to save. Abraham Lincoln chose to save the life of one soldier, against odds.
President Lincoln, as a boy — had a saying that he told those closest to him — meant more to him than many others. He would say to himself.. “In a hundred years, would any of this make a difference?”