to Mrs. Bixby
the fall of 1864, Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew wrote
to President Lincoln asking him to express condolences to
Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow who was believed to have lost five
sons in the Civil War. Lincoln's letter to her was printed
by the Boston Evening Transcript. Later it was revealed that
only two of Mrs. Bixby's five sons died in battle (Charles
and Oliver). One deserted the army, one was honorably discharged,
and another deserted or died a prisoner of war.
authorship of the letter has been debated by scholars, most
of whom now believe it was written instead by John Hay, one
of Lincoln's White House secretaries. The original letter
was destoyed by Mrs. Bixby, who was a Confederate sympathizer
and disliked President Lincoln. Copies of an early forgery
have been circulating for years but are not genuine.
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
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
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,