Greetings Cosmic Americans!
You have probably heard of the Bixby letter - Abraham Lincoln's letter to a bereaved mother of five sons killed fighting for the Union cause. Many have pointed to this letter to illustrate an example of Lincoln's finest prose...some suggesting that it stands with the Gettysburg address as a masterpiece in the English language. And of course, it was used in the film Saving Private Ryan as - shall we say - motivational literature.
Like with many stories concerning Lincoln, the Bixby letter story has been questioned, critiqued, and even surrounded by a little controversy. Yes, Lydia Bixby had five sons in the Union army, but may have indeed supported the Confederacy - seems odd, but I read it somewhere on the Internet - so it must be true (snicker). Further, it turns out that three of Bixby's sons died after the war. What's more...some have argued that the letter was actually written not by Lincoln, but by his secretary, John Hay.
Who knows? But however you slice it - it is quite a remarkable note. The original has gone lost to the ages, but the letter was reprinted and widely distributed. A Cosmic America Facebook friend sent me an image of this engraving. If you find it difficult to read - below is the transcription:
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. 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,
Heavy stuff, wouldn't you say?