Record of Dismissal of John J. Key

September 26-27, 1862

We have reason to believe that the following is an exact copy of the record upon which Major John J. Key was dismissed from the military service of the United States.

Executive Mansion

Major John J. Key Washington, Sept. 26. 1862.

Sir: I am informed that in answer to the question “Why was not the rebel army bagged immediately after the battle near Sharpsburg?” propounded to you by Major Levi C. Turner, Judge Advocate &c. you answered “That is not the game” “The object is that neither army shall get much advantage of the other; that both shall be kept in the field till they are exhausted, when we will make a compromise and save slavery.”

I shall be very happy if you will, within twentyfour hours from the receipt of this, prove to me by Major Turner, that you did not, either litterally, or in substance, make the answer stated. Yours, A. LINCOLN

(Indorsed as follows)

“Copy delivered to Major Key at 10.25 A.M. September 27th. 1862.


At about 11 o’clock, A.M. Sept. 27. 1862. Major Key and Major Turner appear before me. Major Turner says: “As I remember it, the conversation was, I asked the question why we did not bag them after the battle at Sharpsburg? Major Key’s reply was that was not the game, that we should tire the rebels out, and ourselves, that that was the only way the Union could be preserved, we come together fraternally, and slavery be saved”

On cross-examination, Major Turner says he has frequently heard Major Key converse in regard to the present troubles, and never heard him utter a a [sic] sentiment unfavorable to the maintainance of the Union. He has never uttered anything which he Major T. would call disloyalty. The particular conversation detailed was a private one A. LINCOLN.

(Indorsed on the above)

In my view it is wholly inadmissable for any gentleman holding a military commission from the United States to utter such sentiments as Major Key is within proved to have done. Therefore let Major John J. Key be forthwith dismissed from the Military service of the United States. A LINCOLN.

The foregoing is the whole record, except the simple order of dismissal at the War Department. At the interview of Major Key and Major Turner with the President, Major Key did not attempt to controvert the statement of Major Turner; but simply insisted, and sought to prove, that he was true to the Union. The substance of the President’s reply was that if there was a “game” ever among Union men, to have our army not take an advantage of the enemy when it could, it was his object to break up that game.


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