A letter to a mother who lived in Boston, who President Lincoln mistakenly believed lost her five sons in the war. Carl Sandburg wrote of this letter, “More darkly than the Gettysburg speech the letter wove its awful implication that human freedom so often was paid for with agony.”
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864
To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.
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 week 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.
Your very sincerely and respectfully,