In the summer of 1862, a young man belonging to a Vermont regiment was found sleeping at his post. He was tried and sentenced to be shot. The day was fixed for the execution, and the young soldier calmly prepared to meet his fate.
Friends who knew of the case brought the matter to Mr. Lincoln's attention. It seemed that the boy had been on duty one night, and on the following night he had taken the place of a comrade too ill to stand guard. The third night he had been again called out, and, being utterly exhausted, had fallen asleep at his post.
As soon as Mr. Lincoln understood the case, he signed a pardon, and sent it to the camp. The morning before the execution arrived, and the President had not heard whether the pardon had reached the officers in charge of the matter. He began to feel uneasy. He ordered a telegram to be sent to the camp, but received no answer. State papers could not fix his mind, nor could he banish the condemned soldier boy from his thoughts.
At last, feeling that he must know that the lad was safe, he ordered the carriage and rode rapidly ten miles over a dusty road and beneath a scorching sun. When he reached the camp he found that the pardon had been received and the execution stayed.
The sentinel was released, and his heart was filled with lasting gratitude. When the campaign opened in the spring, the young man was with his regiment near Yorktown, Virginia. They were ordered to attack a fort, and he fell at the first volley of the enemy.
His comrades caught him up and carried him bleeding and dying from the field. "Bear witness," he said, "that I have proved myself not a coward, and I am not afraid to die." Then, making a last effort, with his dying breath he prayed for Abraham Lincoln.