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Biden's Indebted to Lincoln

By Edward Epstein

Washington D.C.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

President Joe Biden's full name is Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., and Moses J. Robinette was the president's great-great grandfather on his father's side.

During the Civil War, Moses Robinette was employed as a civilian veterinarian for the Army of the Potomac, a vital role at a time in a pre-mechanized era when the army relied on thousands of horses and mules. While stationed in Beverly Ford, Virginia, Robinette got into a heated argument with John J. Alexander. Robinette drew his pocket knife, allegedly while intoxicated, and Alexander suffered non-lethal knife wounds.

Robinette was court-martialed and sentenced to two years in jail. He was sent to the Dry Tortugas Islands off south Florida to start his sentence. Friends wrote to President Abraham Lincoln seeking a pardon, and after aides investigated the case and passed their findings along to the White House, Lincoln pardoned Robinette on September 1, 1864.

Robinette went home to his family farm in western Maryland and lived on until 1903.

The full, fascinating story of the fight and pardon was told recently in a Washington Post article available at

For Lincoln scholars, a particularly fascinating aspect of the story was that Robinette's story was buried for decades in the vastness of the National Archives. It was recently uncovered by teacher, historian and Lincoln scholar David J. Gerelman, who found transcripts of Robinette's court martial. Gerelman's work shows the stories yet to be uncovered about Lincoln's momentous presidency.

Biden happens to be a big Lincoln fan. The 46th president has decorated the Oval Office in the White House with a portrait of the 16th, which hangs there along with George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.

The president's inaugural speech on January 21, 2021, delivered just two weeks after the tumultuous events of January 6, 2021, specifically echoed Lincoln's calls during earlier troubled times to bring the nation together.

Biden looked back to January 1, 1863, when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Biden said, “When he put pen to paper, the president said, and I quote: ‘If my name ever goes down into history, it’ll be for this act. And my whole soul is in it.’ My whole soul is in it. Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation, and I ask every American to join me in this cause.”

(White House Photo)


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