Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Looking for James H. Lane's pardon

I really don't like unanswered questions. However, delving into the murky past provides me with scores, nay, hundreds of unanswered questions.  Writing the book on the Branch-Lane brigade is no exception. I would still like to know what flag was issued to the brigade on the eve of the Seven Days campaign. I'd still like to know just how far to the left the 33rd NC was at the battle of Second Manassas. Just why did Lane and some of his lieutenants go into the fight on the afternoon of May 12, 1864, unarmed? Maybe in time, I will find these answers. Nevertheless, this project is just about finished for me.

Of course, there are several instances where I have made some pretty good finds - like information on the role of the brigade on day two at Gettysburg, and Lane's personal observation about Appomattox. Some really good stuff you will not find in other places.

There is, however, one piece I am still seeking: James H. Lane's pardon.

Lane wrote his letter on July 10, 1865, from Matthews County, Virginia, the home of his parents. The letter is short, just one page.

"I respectfully make application for pardon under your amnesty proclamation of May 29, 1863, and ask to be restored to all the rights of a citizen of the United States. I entered the Confederate service from the State of North Carolina, and served as a Brigadier General in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States from the 1st of November 1862 to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. I am without property and without money. My address is Norfolk, Va Care of Mr. William R. Hudgins."

There is just one other piece - on July 11, 1865, Lane went before the provost marshal and took the Oath of Allegiance. Missing is the date Lane was granted his pardon.

Lane, post-war, with cloth covering the buttons on his Confederate coat. 
In trying to find Lane's pardon, I came across an article entitled "The Soldier's Burden: A Study of North Carolina Confederate Officer Request for Amnesty." According to the article, US President Andrew Johnson issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction on May 29, 1865. Former Confederate soldiers were all pardoned, unless they fell into one of fourteen classes. Lane, serving as a brigadier general, was excluded and had to write the president, through the governor, asking to be pardoned. Lane should have sent his letter to North Carolina governor W. W. Holden, although nothing in the file indicates this.

There were thousands of applications that flooded into Washington City. Johnson was slow on pardoning Confederate officers. While there does not appear to be evidence that Lane ever did, other former Confederate officers frequently wrote friends in Washington City, inquiring about their application and asking for intervention.

President Johnson, in an attempt to speed up Reconstruction, pardoned all but men who fell into three classes on September 7, 1867. Men who had served as Confederate brigadier generals were still in the unpardoned class. On July 4, 1868, Johnson granted amnesty to all former Confederates, except a group of 300, who were under indictment in United States courts under the charge of treason or other felonies. Johnson issued his final mass pardon on December 25, 1868.

As far as I can tell, James H. Lane should have been pardoned on July 4, 1868. I've not found where he was under indictment, although he was once arrested and imprisoned at Fortress Monroe for incendiary speech. He was later released when it was discovered it was another man named Lane making the remarks.

But then again, I don't having anything that actually says Lane was pardoned on July 4, 1868. The search goes on..... 

1 comment:

Rick Walton said...

interesting dilemma...I bet you already checked this, but a quick search of MARS shows "Governors Office volumes recording Holden's recommendations for Civil War pardons (1865-1867)" within Holden's Microfilmed Papers, Call Number: MfP.133. If you ever need a retrieval from the Archives, especially if you have a call number, I am happy to be your Raleigh resource.

Rick Walton