Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
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.
feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which
should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss
so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you
the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the
Republic they died to save.
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.
very sincerely and respectfully,
Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler et
Note - The authorship of this letter is
much debated and many scholars believe it was actually written
John Hay, one of President Lincoln's secretaries.
Lincoln wrote this letter expressing condolences to Mrs.
Bixby, a widow who it was believed had lost five sons
in the Civil War.
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.
Bixby was believed to be a Confederate sympathizer and
destroyed the original letter.
reprint of the letter appeared in an eastern newspaper.