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Letter to Mrs. Bixby

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Abraham Lincoln 1809 - 1865


Mrs. Bixby Letter

Executive Mansion

Washington, D.C.

November 21, 1864


Dear Madam,


I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.


I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.


I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.


Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln


President Lincoln wrote this letter expressing condolences to Mrs. Bixby, a widow who it was believed had lost five sons in the Civil War.  After Lincoln wrote this letter it was later learned that only two of Mrs. Bixby's five sons had actually died in battle.  In fact, one of her sons had deserted the army, one was honorably discharged and it is unclear what happened to the other son.  Mrs. Bixby was believed to be a Confederate sympathizer and destroyed the original letter.


A reprint of the letter appeared in an eastern newspaper.  The authorship of this letter is much debated and many scholars believe it was actually written John Hay, one of President Lincoln's secretaries.


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