This letter is thought to have been sent to Lydia Parker Bixby by President Lincoln when it was initially reported that Mrs. Bixby had lost all five of her sons in a single battle. As it turned out, she had lost only two sons in the battle. His kind and thoughtful words were typical of his recognition of the horrible price being paid by so many families supporting the Union.
President Lincoln's letter to Mrs. Bixby was printed by the Boston Evening Transcript on November 25, 1864, the same day it was delivered to her by the adjutant General of Massachusetts, William Schouler. The following is the text of the letter as it appeared in the Transcript:
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,