Sunday, March 07, 2004

Does anyone remember the letter that General Marshall pulled out of his desk and read in the movie Saving Private Ryan? I'd actually read the letter in a book of quotations many years ago and began to form a better opinion of Mr. Lincoln because of it. Harve Presnell (the actor portraying General Marshall) had perfect delivery... I actually had a chill go down my spine as he read it. In my opinion, it is one of the most eloquent, moving letters ever written in the english language.

Executive Mansion
Washington, D.C.
November 21, 1864
Dear Madam,
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 which should 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 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,
Abraham Lincoln

I read a few months ago that only two of Mrs. Bixby's sons had been killed and thought to look on web to find out what happened to the other three. It seems that there are several different stories floating around. In some accounts one was captured, one deserted and one was seriously wounded.

What I was not expecting was to find that some scholars believe the letter to be a forgery, while others believe it was actually written by Lincoln's secretary, John Hay.

I would hate to think it's a forgery... I'd rather believe John Hay wrote it. Of course there is still the possibility that Lincoln did write it...