"Let me see generation times, will we hear children singing rhymes? Sweet memories gone by..."

29 July 2013

Presidential Pardon

May the spirit so strong in the shadow and storm
Hold fast to what is right
And surely as you breathe the gentle air of peace
This land shall shelter in the light of love
This land shall shelter in the light
--"Land Of Light" by Roy Gullane

In July of 1865, my 4th-great-grandfather Elijah Baker, living in Richmond, Virginia, applied for a presidential pardon after the Civil War.  That petition was granted 148 years ago today, and a "full pardon and amnesty" was issued by President Andrew Johnson.

Elijah was a well-known business man in Richmond, and the owner of "Baker's Premium Bitters".  According to his advertisements, these bitters cured a wide variety of ailments:  dyspepsia, nervous headaches, deranged liver, ague, diarrhea, and malarial troubles.

For Diseases which arise from the Stomach and Bowels, BAKER'S PREMIUM BITTERS are peculiarly adapted, while in the incipient stages of BILIOUSNESS, NERVOUSNESS, COUGHS and COLDS, they are superior to all other remedies.  The fact that a single bottle has cured ague and fever of six months' standing, and relieved nervous headache which had resisted all sorts of remedies for years, are proof sufficient that they possess healing virtues rarely found in medicinal preparations.  So simple and effectual are their operations, and yet so certain are their beneficial results, that all who try them once ever after adopt them as the great panacea for all ills.

I'm not sure of his reasons for applying for a pardon.  I've found little evidence that he was directly involved in the conflict, beyond selling some cords of wood to the Confederacy.  His only son, Dabney Baker, did enlist in the Confederate army, though his service was brief.

Certainly Elijah suffered some losses, though, from both sides.  In March 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis declared martial law in Richmond, placing the city under the command of General John Winder.  His first order was to forbid liquor sales in the city, and soon after, Baker's Bitters were seized.  I'm not sure how long this lasted, but his business did continue after the war was over.

In October of 1864, two of Elijah's horses, which he claimed were valued at $7,000, were taken during a raid by the Union army.

In October last, when the Yankee raiders, under Command of Cortz, came up as near Richmond as Majr Christians farm, they met my team + self on the road + deprived me of my two + only farm horses, they were as good + as valuable as any in the Country + not being able to replace them, my farming interest suffered but little short of my first loss.

During this month however I succeeded in capturing two of the enemys horses at + on my farm beyond White Oak Swamp + have brought them out of their lines + into Richmond.  Their value though is not by half of those I lost, but hope to use them at my other place nearer Richmond + within our lines.

Elijah Baker's petition for amnesty was filed on July 18, 1865:

I most respectfully represent that I am a Virginian by birth, am now in the 56th year of age, was always most decidedly opposed to the Rebellion, and did nothing of myself to bring on the War.  I have never borne arms against the United States, and the only assistance I ever rendered the so called Confederate cause was such as I was of necessity compelled to render in consequence of my being a resident of a Southern State.  Like most of the Southern people, I have been greatly injured in my pecuniary interest by the actings and doings of the Government of the so called Confederate States.  I am sincerely glad that peace has been restored and hope that we shall never again have a repetition of the scenes of the last four years.  I consider myself a Loyal Citizen of the Government of the United States and shall do all in my power to support and sustain the same.  I have taken the oath of amnesty mentioned in your proclamation of the 29th May last, as will appear by the annexed certificate.

I consider my estate worth over twenty thousand dollars.

I was the owner of 15 slaves at the date of the emancipation proclamation of the late President of the United States, to whose emancipation I consent, and I do not desire that slavery shall ever again exist in the State of Virginia.

No proceedings have been commenced, to my knowledge, for the confiscation of my property or any part thereof.

I most respectfully ask that the pardon and amnesty mentioned in your proclamation aforesaid of the 29th of May last may be extended to me.

So many years after the fact, it's impossible to gauge how sincere Elijah was, but it is worth noting that the notary witnessing his oath was his son-in-law, James Wood.

Ten days later, on July 29, 1865, amnesty was granted:

Whereas, Elijah Baker of Henrico County Virginia by taking part in the late rebellion against the Government of the United States, has made himself liable to heavy and penalties;

And whereas, the circumstances of his case render him a proper object of Executive clemency;

Now, therefore, be it known, That I, Andrew Johnson, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in consideration of the premises, divers other good good and sufficient reasons me thereunto moving, do hereby grant to the said Elijah Baker a full pardon and amnesty for all offences by him committed, arising from participation, direct or implied, in the said rebellion, conditioned as follows, vix:  This pardon to begin and take affect from the day on which the said Elijah Baker shall take the oath prescribed in the Proclamation of the President, dated May 29, 1865;  and to be void and of no effect if the said Elijah Baker shall hereafter, at any time, acquire any property whatever in slaves, or make use of slave labor;  and that he first pay all costs which may have accrued in any proceedings hitherto instituted against his person or property;

And upon the further condition, That the said Elijah Baker shall notify the Secretary of State, in writing, that he has received and accepted the foregoing pardon.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto signed my name and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.


  1. Hey, this is my 3rd great grandfather. I live in Richmond currently. My name is Ashley Hefner.

  2. Hello,

    I actually own a parcel of land that used to be owned by Elijah Baker. I have an old deed here that says in 1869 he sold the property to a "William Smith (colored)" ... It is on Carrington St...do you happen to have any additional information surrounding this moment in time?