THE SYMPATHY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
 DURING the earlier years of the Civil War, there were many
desertions from the army. Military law when strictly
enforced required that all deserters should be shot.
But President Lincoln's big heart had pity for the
young fellows, and he pardoned so many that they army
officers became alarmed.
"If a man had more than one life," he said on a certain
occasion, "I think a little shooting would not hurt
this fellow; but after he is once dead, we cannot bring
him back, no matter how sorry we may be. So the boy
must be pardoned."
General Butler protested. "The whole army is being
demoralized. There are desertions every day."
"How can it be stopped?" asked the President.
"By shooting every deserter," answered Butler.
"You may be right," said Mr. Lincoln, "probably are.
But, Lord help me, how can I have a butcher's day every
Friday in the Army of the Potomac?"
Once at the very turning point of a battle, a
 soldier was so overcome with fear that he dropped his
gun and ran from the field. His action came near
throwing his whole company into confusion. After the
battle he was tried by court-martial and sentenced to
His friends appealed to the President.
"I will put the order for execution by," he said,
"until I can settle in my mind whether this soldier can
better serve the country dead than living."
Another case was that of a cowardly fellow for whom no
one could say a good word. Not only had he run away
during the heat of battle, but it was shown that he was
a thief and untrustworthy.
"Certainly this fellow can serve his country better
dead than living," said the officer.
But Mr. Lincoln had known the boy's father, a worthy
man and patriot. He took the death warrant and said
that the thought he would put it in the pigeonhole with
the rest of his "leg cases." "These are cases," he
said in explanation, "that you call by that long title,
‘Cowardice in the face of the enemy,' but I call them,
for short, my leg cases. If Almighty God has given a
man a cowardly pair of legs, how can he help running
away with them?"
 The President was never so taken up with the mighty
affairs of the nation as to forget the humble needs of
the common people. He was never so overcome with his
own burdens and griefs that he could not speak words of
sympathy and cheer to others who were sorrowful and
broken-hearted. There are many examples that show how
truly noble was his soul.
The following letter, written to a stricken mother whom
he did not know, is one of such examples:—
"Dear Madam: I have been shown in the files of the War
Department a statement that you are the mother of five
sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine
which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a
loss so over-whelming. But I cannot refrain from
tendering to you the consolation that may be found in
the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray
that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of
your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished
memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that
must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon
the altar of freedom.
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