Description

    Abraham Lincoln issues a pass for Confederate firebrand Roger A. Pryor

    Abraham Lincoln Autograph Pass Signed "A. Lincoln" as president. One page, 3.25" x 2", [Washington, D.C.], February 25, 1865. The pass reads in full, "Allow the bearer, Roger A. Pryor, to pass to Gen. Grant, and report to him for exchange. [Signed] A. Lincoln." On the verso is the faded stamp, "From War Office." The pass is slightly soiled.

    Roger Atkinson Pryor (1828-1919) has a truly amazing story. Shortly before the Civil War, Pryor, a distant relative to Robert E. Lee, was elected a congressman from Virginia. While in Congress, he was an outspoken advocate for slavery and one of the most fervid militant secessionists. Shortly after Lincoln was elected, Pryor traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, to pressure the state into attacking Fort Sumter. On April 12, Pryor was asked to fire the first shot at the fort, but against his nature, he declined. In the early years of the war, he served in the Confederate Congress, but soon joined the Confederate Army and was promoted to brigadier general. He was captured on November 28, 1864, and held at the Fort Delaware, a prison for Confederate prisoners of war located at the mouth of the Delaware River.

    The Southern firebrand, though, had influential men working on his exchange. On February 6, 1865, editor Horace Greeley wrote President Lincoln asking that Pryor be exchanged. General Grant disagreed, writing a letter the next day suggesting that the rebel remain locked up. But other men such as Washington McLean and John W. Forney also wrote letters asking for Pryor's exchange. Confused about what to do with the prisoner, the president asked General Grant on February 24 what he should do. Grant responded the next day, "Send Pryor on here and we will exchange him; He can do us no harm now." That same day, President Lincoln issued Pryor this pass and sent him to General Grant "for exchange." This began the conversion of Confederate Brigadier General Pryor into an ardent Unionist (after the war he moved from Virginia to New York where he partnered in a law firm with one of the most hated Union generals by Southerners, Benjamin Butler).

    This pass is accompanied by three letters and a newspaper article. Two of the letters are dated from the late 1920s and regard Lincoln's pass for Pryor.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2010
    14th-15th Thursday-Friday
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