Pardons of President Andrew Johnson

Were the Confederates Traitors for Seceding From the Union ?

The answer is a resounding NO !!!

The Constitution contained no provision that covered Secession. No Confederate was ever tried or convicted for treason, which carried the penalty of death.



40th Congress 2nd Session – Executive Document Number 16



40th Congress              HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES                        Ex, Doc.

2d Session                                                                                           No. 16









Final report of the names of persons engaged in rebellion who have been pardoned

By the President



DECEMBER 4, 1867. – Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and ordered to be printed.


To the House of Representatives:


I transmit herewith a final report from the Attorney General, additional to reports submitted by him December 31, 1866, March 2, 1867, and July 8, 1867, in reply to a resolution of the House of Representatives of December 10, 1866, requesting a ”list of names of all persons engaged in the late rebellion against the United States government who have been pardoned by the President from April 15, 1865, to this date; that said list shall also state the rank of each person who has been so pardoned, if he has been engaged in the military service of the so-called confederate government, and the position, if he shall have held any civil office under said so-called confederate government; and shall also further state whether such person has, at any time prior to April 14, 1861, held any office under the United States government; and if so, what office; together with the reasons for granting such pardons; and also the names of the person or persons at whose solicitation such pardon was granted.”

                                                                                    ANDREW JOHNSON

            WASHINGTON, December 4, 1867.



The above is found on P. 269 of SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL PARDONS FOR CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS: A listing of former Confederate Soldiers requesting full pardon from President Andrew Johnson: Part 2 – INDEX. Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee, 37377-0400 ( Central Mississippi Regional Library: GENEA; 973.75; SPE; v.2. Item ID: 13470101011203. Library System Bar Code: 1 3470 10101 1203.



Pp. i-iii (PART 1)

Following the Civil War many of the southern men were not given amnesty in the general amnesty proclamations due to various factors. These men had to apply for a “special pardon” to be given by President Andrew Johnson. For most of these men, they had to apply to their own governor first and then to the President. In many cases, one or the other of these two knew these men personally and this made the decision more difficult.

During the Civil War, Federal officials recognized a need for new laws to deal with the rebellious acts of a large part of the Southern population. Because ‘treason’ seemed too strong a word and death too severe a penalty for many of the acts in support of the Confederate cause, the Congress of the United States passed acts on July 31, 1861 (12 Stat. 284), and July 17, 1862 (12 Stat. 589), that fixed penalties for lesser crimes of ‘conspiracy’ and ‘rebellion.’ The latter act also provided for future pardon and amnesty by Presidential proclamation to be extended “…to any persons who may have participated in the existing rebellion…with such exceptions and at such time and on such conditions as he may deem expedient for the public welfare.”

The first of such amnesty proclamations was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on 8 December 1863. It extended pardon to persons taking an oath of support for the Constitution and the Union and to abide by all Federal laws and proclamations in reference to slavery made during the period of the rebellion. Six classes of persons were excluded from the benefits of the amnesty:

  1. Civil or diplomatic agents or officials of the Confederacy
  2. Persons who left judicial posts under the United States to aid the rebellion
  3. Confederate military officers above the rank of Army colonel or Navy Lieutenant
  4. Members of the U.S. Congress who left to aid the rebellion
  5. Persons who resigned commissions in the U.S. Army or Navy and afterwards aided in the rebellion
  6. Persons who treated unlawfully black prisoners of war and their white officers.


A supplementary proclamation, issued 26 March 1864, added a seventh exception (persons in military or civilian confinement or custody) and provided that members of the excluded classes could make application for special pardon from the President.


On 29 May 1865, President Johnson issued his first amnesty proclamation. Johnson’s Attorney General, James Speed, had advised the President that while Lincoln’s pardons were valid, his proffer of amnesty ceased to function with the end of the war and therefore, a new proclamation was necessary. In the new proclamation, Johnson cited the failure of many to take advantage of Lincoln’s earlier proclamation and noted that many others had been unable to do so because of their participation in the rebellion after the promulgation of the December 1863 amnesty. Under the new proclamation, 14 classes of persons were excepted from the general amnesty. Johnson incorporated Lincoln’s seven exceptions with a few alterations and added the following:

  1. Individuals who had absented themselves from the United States in order to aid in the rebellion
  2. Graduates of West Point or Annapolis who served as Confederate officers
  3. Ex-Confederate governors
  4. Persons who left homes in territory under the United States jurisdiction for purposes of aiding the rebellion
  5. Persons who engaged in destruction of commerce on the high seas or in raids from Canada
  6. Voluntary participants in the rebellion who had property valued at more than $20,000.00
  7. Persons who had broken the oath taken under the provisions of the proclamation of 8 December 1863.


President Johnson indicated that he did not wish to deny pardon to any in the excepted classes, but he “intended they should sue for pardon, and so realize the enormity of their crime.” There were, however motives other than repentance in the minds of many applicants. A Presidential pardon would restore a citizen to his former civil rights, and would also provide immunity from prosecution for treason and from confiscation of property. Thus, the President was soon besieged with thousands of applications, and by the fall of 1867 he had granted about 13,500 individual pardons.

On 7 September 1867, Johnson issued a second amnesty proclamation narrowing the number of excepted classes to three and reducing the number of those still un-pardoned to about 300. His third proclamation, which excluded only Jefferson Davis, John C. Breckinridge, Robert E. lee and a few others was issued 6 July 1868. On Christmas Day of that same year, Johnson’s final amnesty proclamation was extended “unconditionally and without reservation” to all who had participated in the rebellion. [NOTE: Text Color added for emphasis]

Lists of persons pardoned under Johnson’s first amnesty proclamation are contained in the following:

House Executive Document No. 31, 39th Congress, 2d Session, serial 1289

House Executive Document No. 116, 39th Congress, 2d Session, serial 1293

House Executive Document No. 32, 40th Congress, 1st Session, serial 1311

House Executive Document No. 99, 39th Congress, 1st Session, serial 1263

House Executive Document No. 16, 40th Congress, 2d Session, serial 1289


These records are microfilmed in their entirety in Record Group 94 of the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office 1780-1917 in publication M1003. These seventy-two rolls of film contain all of the original applications with the letters and statements made in behalf of each of the almost 20,000 men to apply for Special Pardon. No search into one’s family is complete until you have their own words and those of their friends who vouched for them at a critical time in their lives.

James L. Douthat


Signal Mountain, Tennessee




P.O. Box 400

Signal Mountain, Tennessee


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