This database contains applications from former Confederates for presidential pardons from 1865-1867. Not all Confederates will be found in this database. Confederates who had already been granted a pardon or amnesty under the proclamation made by President Lincoln in 1863 are most likely not listed in this collection. Also, this record set contains records only for amnesty applicants who, at the time they applied for amnesty, needed special permission from the President. Hence, most ordinary Confederate soldiers will not be included in these records because their case did not require special Presidential consideration.
On May 29, 1865, President Johnson issued an amnesty proclamation. Under this proclamation any former Confederate who had not already taken advantage of President Lincoln’s 1863 amnesty proclamation, could receive amnesty, upon their taking an oath to defend the Constitution and the Union, and to obey all Federal laws and proclamations in reference to slavery made during the rebellion. President Lincoln’s 1863 amnesty proclamation had similar requirements.
The proclamation excluded amnesty from the following individuals except upon special application to the President:
- Individuals who had absented themselves from the U.S. in order to aid in the rebellion
- Graduates of West Point or Annapolis who served as Confederate officers
- Ex-Confederate governors
- Persons who left homes in territory under U.S. jurisdiction for purposes of aiding the rebellion
- Persons who engaged in destruction of commerce on the high seas or in raids from Canada
- Voluntary participants in the rebellion who had property valued at more than $20,000
- Persons who had broken the oath taken under the provisions of the proclamation of 1863
- Civil or diplomatic agents or officials of the Confederacy
- Persons who left judicial posts under the U.S. to aid the rebellion
- Confederate military officers above the rank of Army colonel or Navy lieutenant
- Members of the U.S. Congress who left to aid in the rebellion
- Persons who resigned commissions in the U.S. Army or Navy and afterwards aided in the rebellion
- Persons who treated black prisoners of war and their white officers unlawfully
- Persons in military or civilian confinement or custody
The president received thousands of amnesty applications. By late 1867 he had already granted 13,500 pardons. In September 1867, the president issued a second proclamation which reduced the number of exception categories from 14 to 3. On July 4, 1868 President Johnson issued his third proclamation which only excluded Jefferson Davis (President of the Confederate States of America), John C. Breckinridge (Confederate Secretary of War and a Confederate general), Robert E. Lee (Confederate general), and a few others. On Christmas Day of the same year Johnson issued his final proclamation, which granted amnesty to all who had participated in the rebellion.
About the Records:
The records contained in this database primarily consist of about 14,000 files of pardon applications with related records (affidavits, oaths of allegiance, recommendations for executive clemency, etc.) submitted between 1865 and 1867 for President Johnson’s 1865 amnesty proclamation. A few of the applications had been submitted to President Lincoln for earlier amnesty proclamations. These files usually contain a lot of information on the applicant’s background and activities during the war.
These records are arranged alphabetically by state and surname of applicant. Searching for a name in this database will get you to the image of the coversheet of the application file for that individual. The images immediately following the coversheet are all of the records included in that file. Therefore, be sure to use the “Next” button in the image viewer in order to see all images pertaining to your ancestor. Once you see another coversheet image (usually distinguishable by the “Received from Department of Justice” stamp located on the page), you have entered a new application file.
Some of the above information was taken from: Publication Details of Case Files of Applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons (“Amnesty Papers”), 1865-1867, Microfilm Publication M1003, National Archives, Washington, D.C.