Lincoln’s Letter to Mrs. Bixby

98

In honor of Presidents’ Day:

One of my favorite scenes in Saving Private Ryan is when General George Marshal reads/recites this letter by Abraham Lincoln:

It’s difficult to read this letter without emotion. It is an astounding example of good writing: eloquent, concise, and profoundly moving. Every word is perfectly chosen and perfectly placed. If you are thinking, no one writes letters like this anymore, I would say, no one has ever written letters quite like this.

I was not surprised to learn that there is much debate among historians about the letter. No one doubts that it is real, but there are some who believe it was penned by Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay. It’s generally accepted that Lincoln was misinformed about Mrs. Bixby’s sons. Only two were killed in battle. Two others were held prisoner, but survived the war. The fifth, and youngest, went AWOL. At least that’s what Wikipedia tells me.

Historians have been critical of Mrs. Bixby herself as well. It is likely she was a Confederate sympathizer who destroyed the original copy of the letter.

I find all that interesting, of course, but none of it changes the astonishing beauty of the Bixby Letter. It was written with all sincerity to a mother mourning the loss of five sons. Do you know what’s it’s like to encounter suffering people and to want desperately to say something meaningful and kind? Something that will somehow ease their pain? I know of nothing more difficult. I’ve been there. Everything comes out wrong. I’ve said the wrong things with good intentions. I’ve said nothing when I should have said something. And I’ve spoken when I should have kept quiet.

That’s why I find this letter so astonishing. It expresses sympathy with humility and also offers genuine consolation. That word itself is perfect, isn’t it? Consolation. It means “comfort in a time of grief.” This letter doesn’t try to heal or explain. It doesn’t offer platitudes or propaganda. It acknowledges both the power and limitations of words. It merely affirms the one hope of those who have lost loved ones in battle — that they died for something that matters.

Visit WriteAtHome.com Today!

*****

Comments? Questions? Leave them below!

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. gta 5 cheats ps3 money cheat code offline
    gta 5 cheats ps3 money cheat code offline03-20-2017

    Im grateful for the post.Really looking forward to read more. Cool.

  2. look at more info
    look at more info03-20-2017

    Great, thanks for sharing this blog article. Keep writing.

  3. Alecia
    Alecia03-20-2017

    Hi! Do you know if they make any plugins to help
    with SEO? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted
    keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains.
    If you know of any please share. Thanks!

  4. you can try these out
    you can try these out03-20-2017

    Very neat blog post. Great.

  5. Bird Seeds
    Bird Seeds03-20-2017

    Pretty! This has been a really wonderful article. Thank you for supplying this information.

  6. weedmaps dispensary store
    weedmaps dispensary store03-19-2017

    Wow, incredible blog structure! How long have you been running a blog for? you make running a blog glance easy. The total look of your web site is magnificent, let alone the content material!

  7. Tandy
    Tandy03-19-2017

    I’ve been browsing online more than 2 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.

    It is pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion,
    if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be
    a lot more useful than ever before.

  8. PRINCE2 Riyadh
    PRINCE2 Riyadh03-19-2017

    Major thanks for the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

  9. satta matka net com,
    satta matka net com,03-17-2017

    Say, you got a nice blog article.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

  10. xxjav
    xxjav03-17-2017

    Music started playing anytime I opened this web site, so annoying!

  11. check out
    check out03-17-2017

    Muchos Gracias for your post.Really thank you! Really Cool.

  12. Umzuge Berlin
    Umzuge Berlin03-17-2017

    Post writing is also a excitement, if you know then you can write if not it is difficult to write.

  13. best garbage disposal
    best garbage disposal03-16-2017

    What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?

  14. nanny
    nanny03-16-2017

    It as arduous to find knowledgeable individuals on this matter, however you sound like you already know what you are speaking about! Thanks

  15. 24/7 taxi service
    24/7 taxi service03-16-2017

    just like to say cheers for a remarkable post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don at have time to look over it all at the

  16. Earn money
    Earn money03-16-2017

    Thanks again for the article post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

  17. earning with products
    earning with products03-16-2017

    that it can easily likewise remedy additional eye mark complications to ensure you can certainly get one

  18. Augusto de Arruda Botelho
    Augusto de Arruda Botelho03-16-2017

    Hello! I just want to offer you a big thumbs up for the great info
    you have got here on this post. I am coming back to
    your web site for more soon.

  19. Hilary Clinton
    Hilary Clinton03-16-2017

    I think other site proprietors should take this web site as an model, very clean and wonderful user genial style and design, as well as the content. You are an expert in this topic!

  20. play online casino
    play online casino03-16-2017

    I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my trouble. You are incredible! Thanks!

  21. Παιδικό Δωμάτιο
    Παιδικό Δωμάτιο03-16-2017

    Really enjoyed this blog.Much thanks again. Cool.

  22. WordPress .Com to .org
    WordPress .Com to .org03-16-2017

    Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write on my website something like that. Can I take a portion of your post to my site?

  23. blacklister
    blacklister03-15-2017

    Im obliged for the post.Really thank you!

  24. Exchange Bitcoins to PayPal
    Exchange Bitcoins to PayPal03-15-2017

    Unquestionably believe that which you said. Your favorite

  25. rezeptfrei
    rezeptfrei03-15-2017

    Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic article post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

  26. schelder veere
    schelder veere03-14-2017

    I truly appreciate this post.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

  27. diademas dolce petit
    diademas dolce petit03-14-2017

    uggs outlet sale cheap ugg boots ugg outlet online uggs uk uggs on sale uk uggs discount ugg boots goedkope uggs kopen

  28. Bitcoin Mining
    Bitcoin Mining03-14-2017

    Wow, amazing weblog structure! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging glance easy. The full glance of your site is magnificent, let alone the content!

  29. Find weed app
    Find weed app03-14-2017

    I went over this website and I believe you have a lot of wonderful info , saved to my bookmarks (:.

  30. Red Carnation Hotels
    Red Carnation Hotels03-14-2017

    wow, awesome article post.Really thank you! Fantastic.

  31. fun88 mobile
    fun88 mobile03-13-2017

    This particular blog is really entertaining and besides informative. I have picked up helluva helpful things out of it. I ad love to return over and over again. Thanks a lot!

  32. furniture mod minecraft
    furniture mod minecraft03-13-2017

    Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic blog.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

  33. Real Estate investors Lenders
    Real Estate investors Lenders03-13-2017

    term and it as time to be happy. I ave read this publish and if I may

  34. trading services
    trading services03-13-2017

    You have brought up a very superb points , thankyou for the post.

  35. facebook promotions
    facebook promotions03-13-2017

    Muchos Gracias for your blog post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

  36. Turkey Yacht Charter
    Turkey Yacht Charter03-12-2017

    Thanks-a-mundo for the post.Much thanks again. Awesome.

  37. DNA test
    DNA test03-12-2017

    This very blog is obviously cool and diverting. I have discovered many useful tips out of it. I ad love to visit it again soon. Cheers!

  38. Hotel booking
    Hotel booking03-12-2017

    pretty valuable stuff, overall I imagine this is worthy of a bookmark, thanks

  39. sell on amazon
    sell on amazon03-11-2017

    tottenham hotspur jersey ??????30????????????????5??????????????? | ????????

  40. facebook video downloader
    facebook video downloader03-10-2017

    You are my breathing in, I own few web logs and occasionally run out from brand . Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it. by E. B. White.

  41. thay doi giay chung nhan dau tu
    thay doi giay chung nhan dau tu03-10-2017

    You made some clear points there. I did a search on the issue and found most persons will approve with your blog.

  42. Entertainment gossip news
    Entertainment gossip news03-10-2017

    Some times its a pain in the ass to read what blog owners wrote but this site is really user genial !.

  43. pc software full download
    pc software full download03-10-2017

    Well I definitely enjoyed reading it. This subject provided by you is very practical for correct planning.

  44. Eierkocher angebot
    Eierkocher angebot03-10-2017

    Really enjoyed this blog article.Really thank you! Really Cool.

  45. free global shipping
    free global shipping03-10-2017

    wow, awesome article post.Really thank you! Great.

  46. security dienstleistungen berlin
    security dienstleistungen berlin03-10-2017

    wow, awesome blog.Much thanks again. Much obliged.

  47. Jasa Like Instagram
    Jasa Like Instagram03-10-2017

    You ave made some decent points there. I checked on the web for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this site.

  48. Wonderkids
    Wonderkids03-10-2017

    Thanks for this post, I am a big big fan of this web site would like to keep updated.

  49. ar condicionado sp
    ar condicionado sp03-08-2017

    Your style is very unique in comparison to other folks I have read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you ave got the opportunity, Guess I all just bookmark this site.

  50. fashion book review in Italy
    fashion book review in Italy03-08-2017

    It?s actually a great and helpful piece of info. I am satisfied that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  51. Letting Agents Oldbury
    Letting Agents Oldbury03-08-2017

    You made some really good points there. I checked on the net to learn more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.

  52. cccam pay server
    cccam pay server03-07-2017

    WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options

  53. derby
    derby03-07-2017

    You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

  54. clothes
    clothes03-07-2017

    There is definately a lot to learn about this subject. I really like all the points you have made.

  55. real estate dominican republic
    real estate dominican republic03-07-2017

    weblink How do you create a blog or a blog webpage?

  56. australia search engine optimisation
    australia search engine optimisation03-07-2017

    It as hard to come by educated people for this topic, however, you seem like you know what you are talking about! Thanks

  57. real houses for sale
    real houses for sale03-07-2017

    I truly appreciate this article post.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

  58. tsx market summary
    tsx market summary03-07-2017

    I’а†ve recently started a web site, the info you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

  59. tsx dow jones today
    tsx dow jones today03-07-2017

    Thank you ever so for you article.Really thank you! Really Great.

  60. More about the author
    More about the author03-06-2017

    I think this is a real great post.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

  61. dating classifieds
    dating classifieds03-06-2017

    Thanks a lot for the article post.Much thanks again. Awesome.

  62. Replacement Simonton Windows
    Replacement Simonton Windows03-06-2017

    Many thanks for sharing this first-class piece. Very inspiring! (as always, btw)

  63. leihwagen mieten
    leihwagen mieten03-06-2017

    I truly appreciate this blog.Really thank you! Awesome.

  64. venue finder
    venue finder03-06-2017

    A round of applause for your blog article.Much thanks again. Awesome.

  65. London venues
    London venues03-06-2017

    Thanks a lot for the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

  66. mike tyson
    mike tyson03-05-2017

    5dlSuM Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I ave been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Many thanks

  67. Holly Wittnebel
    Holly Wittnebel03-03-2017

    Great site. Thank you for sharing.

  68. Yong Higginbothan
    Yong Higginbothan03-03-2017

    Cool site. Thank you for sharing.

  69. Tifany Ballagh
    Tifany Ballagh03-03-2017

    I simply must tell you that you have written an excellent and unique article that I really enjoyed reading. I’m fascinated by how well you laid out your material and presented your views. Thank you.

  70. Guadalupe Valenzula
    Guadalupe Valenzula03-03-2017

    I truly got into this post. I found it very interesting and loaded with unique points of interest. I like to read material that makes me think. ThanksThank you for sharing this great content.

  71. Tonisha Rizvi
    Tonisha Rizvi03-03-2017

    Great site. Thank you for sharing.

  72. Cyrus
    Cyrus02-06-2015

    The most powerful and well written letter I have ever heard.

    This is true art.

  73. John Breithaupt
    John Breithaupt03-03-2014

    This letter has never struck as being Lincoln’s; it’s not his voice. “Assuage” and “beguile” are not words that he used; “assuage the anguish of your bereavement” is not a Lincoln phrase. “Loved and lost”, “altar of freedom” and so on are genteel cliches, which Lincoln avoided. The phrasing is flowing, expansive, but Lincoln’s prose, especially when there was powerful feeling behind it, became taut and controlled.

    These are personal impression and will seem right to no one who doesn’t share them to already.

    • Quentin W. Buetow
      Quentin W. Buetow03-25-2016

      I am in awe of your longevity, Mr. Breithaupt. I have never before met, in person or online, a one hundred and fifty-plus year old individual! I am so amazed by your vigor and health, sir.

      You CAN appreciate my sarcasm, right?

      How do YOU know what President Lincoln’s preferred writing style was like? Were you there? Were you a witness to the letter writing? Did the President consult with you on the specific words and phrases he (or his ghost-writer) should employ?

      No?

      (nods) Yeah, I thought that might be the case. You’re just yet one more example of an anonymous Internet blow-hard who enjoys trolling blogs and posting contentious replies.

  74. suzi bumbera
    suzi bumbera02-19-2013

    good to know, wasn’t sure about it being the original, it’s what was said that matters anyway…

  75. Suzi Bumbera
    Suzi Bumbera02-18-2013

    but the writings in or of itself…in or of? is an outlet of , outlet?? of a way to tell a mother a of her childrens demise…so thoughtfully put into words…

  76. Suzi Bumbera
    Suzi Bumbera02-18-2013

    mmmmm..relevant

  77. Suzi Bumbera
    Suzi Bumbera02-18-2013

    Although may be or be not relevant, the handwriting is impeccable as well…if written by Lincoln…

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-18-2013

      This isn’t the original. That doesn’t exist. It was created with a (very neat) electronic font. :)

  78. Suzi Bumbera
    Suzi Bumbera02-18-2013

    Everything comes out wrong. I’ve said the wrong things with good intentions. I’ve said nothing when I should have said something. And I’ve spoken when I should have kept quiet. wow, so well said, Brian…so true. Seen the film on numerous occasions, an just reading the first part, my eyes swell…thank you for sharing…seriously.

Leave a Reply

If you like a post, please take a second to click "like," and comment as often as you like.
We promise not to correct your grammar!