1910 Lincoln Royal Arch Chapter No. 177

 Lincoln Letter to Mrs. Bixby Portrait Plate

This letter became very well known in 1998 after its use in the film Saving Private Ryan.

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 freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln.

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.

 

         

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