DALLAS – A Texas museum hopes a document found in its archives turns out to be an authentic government copy of Abraham Lincoln’s eloquent letter consoling a mother thought to have lost five sons in the Civil War.
The famed Bixby Letter, which the Dallas Historical Society is getting appraised as it prays for a potential windfall, has a fascinating history.
The original has never been found. Historians debate whether Lincoln wrote it. Its recipient, Lydia Bixby, was no fan of the president. And not all her sons died in the war.
The letter, written with “the best of intentions” 144 years ago next week, is “considered one of the finest pieces of American presidential prose,” said Alan Olson, curator for the Dallas group. “It’s still a great piece of writing, regardless of the truth in the back story.”
So before this discovery historians disagreed on whether Lincoln was the true author of the letter, some suggesting that it may have been written for Lincoln by John Hay, one of the President’s secretaries. The text is as follows:
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 that would 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, 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,
Hopefully this discovery will prove Lincoln did write the letter as it is one of my favorites, very touching indeed.