Grover Cleveland

Veto Message

July 17, 1888

To the House of Representatives:

I return without approval House bill No. 8078, entitled "An act granting a pension to Theresa Herbst, widow of John Herbst, late private Company G, One hundred and fortieth Regiment of New York Volunteers."

John Herbst, the husband of the beneficiary named in this bill, enlisted August 26, 1862. He was wounded in the head at the battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863. He recovered from this wound, and on the 19th day of August, 1864, was captured by the enemy.

After his capture he joined the Confederate forces, and in 1865 was captured by General Stoneman while in arms against the United States Government. He was imprisoned and voluntarily made known the fact that he formerly belonged to the Union Army. Upon taking the oath of allegiance and explaining that he deserted to the enemy to escape the hardship and starvation of prison life, he was released and mustered out of the service on the 11th day of October, 1865.

He was regularly borne on the Confederate muster rolls for probably nine or ten months. No record is furnished of the number of battles in which he fought against the soldiers of the Union, and we shall never know the death and the wounds which he inflicted upon his former comrades in arms.

He never applied for a pension, though it is claimed now that at the time of his discharge he was suffering from rheumatism and dropsy, and that he died in 1868 of heart disease. If such disabilities were incurred in military service, they were quite likely the result of exposure in the Confederate army; but it is not improbable that this soldier never asked a pension because he considered that the generosity of his Government had been sufficiently taxed when the full forfeit of his desertion was not exacted.

The greatest possible sympathy and consideration are due to those who bravely fought, and being captured as bravely languished in rebel prisons.

But I will take no part in putting a name upon our pension roll which represents a Union soldier found fighting against the cause he swore he would uphold, nor should it be for a moment admitted that such desertion and treachery are excused when it avoids the rigors of honorable capture and confinement.

It would have been a sad condition of affairs if every captured Union soldier had deemed himself justified in fighting against his Government rather than to undergo the privations of capture.


Grover Cleveland, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives