position in which soldiers and sailors (privates) are placed by the law of the last Congress and your proclamation issued thereon for amnesty and pardon to deserters who shall voluntarily return to duty. The object of the statute is obviously to enable parities guilty of this heinous military crime to purge themselves, and without fear of subsequent punishment restore themselves to favor. No limition is made and no direction, but all are invited to return. Now, the suggestion I desire to make is this: Why should not the same clemency be extended to those cases where the deserter has been arrested and returned, or where he has been tried, convicted, and is under sentence of court-martial? It is very hard that one man by greater skill and greater faithlessness to duty, by avoiding detection until the issuing of your proclamation, shall be enabled to purge himself by simply returning, while another man less guilty may be serving out a sentence of court-martial which has been imposed subsequent, it may be, to the date of the proclamation. In my view it would be an act of high and commanding clemency, which at not time could be exercised so advantageously for the Army and so acceptably to the country, and which would be so entirely in accordance with your personal kindness to and interest in the private soldiers of our Army, to proclaim a pardon to all persons now under sentence for desertion or absence without leave, in which no aggravating circumstances appear and upon the recommendation of responsible parties in each particulars case. This would be the crowning act of kindness and would endear not only the Commander-in- Chief, but the Government itself, to the soldiers and their relatives, many of whom have been alienated by what fathers, brothers, and relatives. I trust under such restrictions as may secure this kindness to the deserving you will frame and promulgate a general pardon and amnesty to all.
To illustrate the propriety of this I will state you a case. Andrew Allen is a private in Company K, Third Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, Department of Washington, D. C. He has in Boston
a young wife entirely dependent upon him, and three children, the oldest not four years of age. I am informed by Colonel Gardniner Tufts, our State agent at Washington, who has examined the case at my request, that "he is a good and faithful soldier, one who has been and can been sentenced not for "desertion," but for "absence without leave," to be "dishonorably discharged from the service, to be confined at hard labor for the period of six years, the first twenty days of each and every month to wear a 24-pound ball attached to his leg by a chain three feet in length, and to forfeit all pay and allowance." This inhuman sentence could not be imposed by a judge of the highest judicial tribunal of this Commonwealth for any crime, but I understand the court-martial that imposed this sentence was presided over by a "captain" in the service. Such things ought not to be.
I inclose you a copy of General Court-Martial Orders, Numbers 128, dated Washington, March 8, 1865,* the first presided over by a captain, where the person is sent to Clinton Prison, New York, although he belonged in this Commonwealth, and in addition to being confined for five years in the State prison he is to war a ball and chain for the entire period. I would call your attention to the fact that no aggravating circumstances are set forth in the charge, as they should be to warrant such a sentence.