The First Turkey Pardon
Late in 1863, a live turkey was sent to Lincoln family in the White House for the holidays. Tad Lincoln, age 10, quickly befriended the bird. Tad taught the turkey to follow him as he walked around the White House grounds. The turkey was named Jack, and Tad fed him as a pet.
When the time neared to prepare the turkey for the Christmas meal, Tad burst into his father’s Cabinet meeting. He was crying loudly. Tad told his dad that Jack was about to be killed, and that he had obtained a temporary delay from the “executioner” so he could put Jack’s case before the president. Tad said, “Jack must not be killed; it is wicked!” President Lincoln replied, “Jack was sent here to be killed and eaten…I can’t help it.” Tad, still sobbing, said, “He’s a good turkey, and I don’t want him killed!”
Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States of America, paused in the midst of the Cabinet meeting. He took out a card, and on it he wrote an order of reprieve. Jack’s life was to be spared, and Tad raced out of the Cabinet meeting to show the presidential order to the “executioner.”
Earlier that year: the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1 - 3, 1863. There were 57,225 casualties in this single battle. America was engulfed in grief.