Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to Mrs. Bixby

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 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. 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

A letter written by President Lincoln and hand delivered to Mrs. Bixby on November 25, 1864; the letter was reprinted in the Boston Evening Transcript that same day. Although it has been suggested that Linclon’s personal secretary, John Hay, wrote the letter, most historians believe that the writing is quintessentially Lincolnesque. The letter has been quoted by many military leaders and statesmen over the years, most recently by President Bush on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The letter is engraved on a plaque at a memorial garden at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, California.

For further reading: The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through his Words by Ronald White, Random House (2005)