Royal Arch Chapter No. 177
Letter to Mrs. Bixby Portrait Plate
This letter became very
well known in 1998 after its use in the film Saving
Executive Mansion, Washington, November 21, 1864.
Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts:
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
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
The original of the Bixby letter was never
found. However, facsimiles were very common. Below is a facsimile produced in
1891 by New York's Huber Museum and sold to the public for $1.00.
It was later learned Mr. Lincoln had been
misinformed as to the number of Mrs. Bixby's sons who had been killed. She had
actually lost only two sons in the war. Sgt. Charles N. Bixby was killed May
3, 1863. Pvt. Oliver Cromwell Bixby was killed July 30, 1864.
However, Corp. Henry Cromwell Bixby was discharged on December 19, 1864.
Pvt. George Way Bixby was captured July 30, 1864, and then deserted to the
enemy. He moved to Cuba after the Civil War. Edward
Bixby also deserted from his unit. The information on Mrs. Bixby’s sons
comes from p. 277 of Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic to Prophet by Wayne
C. Temple (Mayhaven Publishing, Mahomet, Illinois, 1995).
Historians differ whether Lincoln or his
secretary, John Hay, authored the letter.