An old man whose son had been convicted of gross crimes in the army and sentenced to be shot came to plead with Lincoln. As the boy was an only son, the case appealed to Lincoln; but he had just received a telegram from Butler which read: "Mr. President, I beg you not to interfere with the court-martials of this army. You will destroy all discipline in the army."
Lincoln handed the old man the telegram, and he watched the shadow of disappointment and sorrow come over the man's face as he read the message. He suddenly seized his hand and exclaimed, "By jingo! Butler or no Butler, here goes!"
He wrote out an order and handed it to the father. The man read the order, which was as follows: "Job Smith is not to be shot until further orders from me. Abraham Lincoln."
"Why," said the father, "I thought it was going to be a pardon. You may order him to be shot next week."
"My old friend," said Lincoln, "evidently you do not understand my character. If your son is never shot until an order comes from me, he will live to be as old as Methuselah."