President Joe Biden’s great-great-grandfather received a pardon from President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, according to The Washington Post.

Biden’s paternal great-great-grandfather, Moses Johnson Robinette, was convicted of stabbing a fellow Union Army employee, the Post reported. Robinette allegedly stabbed John J. Alexander, a civilian brigade wagon master, after he was confronted for allegedly making an inappropriate comment about a female cook in the mess shanty, and was later pardoned by Lincoln.


The stabbing occurred on March 21, 1864, at a Union Army camp in Beverley Ford, Virginia, along the banks of the Rappahannock River, the Post reported. Robinette was serving as a veterinary surgeon in the U.S. Army Quartermaster’s Department, responsible for the care of military horses and mules that pulled artillery wagons, despite not having formal training as a physician or veterinarian.

“[W]hatever I have done was done in self defence, that I had no malice towards Mr. Alexander before or since. He grabbed me and possibly might have injured me seriously had I not resorted to the means that I did,” Robinette said during his military court-martial, the Post reported. Robinette was charged with attempted murder and violations of good order and military discipline, among others.

The court-martial unanimously convicted Robinette on all charges except attempted murder, the Post reported. Three months later, he began his sentence of two years of hard labor on Dry Tortugas Island near Key West, Florida, a place described at the time as “America’s Siberia.”

Shortly after his arrival, three Union Army officers wrote to request clemency from Lincoln for Robinette, the Post reported. They claimed that he was “defending himself and cutting with a Penknife a Teamster much his superior in strength and Size, all under the impulse of the excitement of the moment,” while noting his loyalty to the Union cause.

Robinette was “ardent, and Influential … in opposing Traitors and their schemes to destroy the Government,” the three officers claimed. “Think of his motherless Daughters and sons at home! … [Praying for] your interposition in behalf of the unfortunate Father … and distressed family of loved Children, Union Daughters & Union Sons.”

Robinette’s cause was also endorsed by Republican Sen. Waitman T. Willey of West Virginia, who recommended to Lincoln that he be pardoned.

“Pardon for unexecuted part of punishment. A. Lincoln. Sep. 1. 1864,” Lincoln wrote following the receipt of a report from U.S. Army Judge Advocate General John Holt about the case. The Department of War later issued Special Order 296, which freed Robinette from prison after just over one month of incarceration.

Robinette had previously run a hotel in Grafton, Virginia, by a station of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, with the hotel being destroyed during the Civil War, the Post reported. He returned to Allegany County, Maryland, where his family had fled from Virginia, after being released from prison and died in 1903.

Robinette’s granddaughter, Mary Elizabeth Robinette, was the mother of Joseph Robinette Biden Sr., Biden’s father.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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