1. Category:
  2. Fine Art (2,667)

World's Most Beautiful Letter Inspired by American Patriotism

Unknown place made
Origin Date:
overall: 14 in x 10 7/8 in
Item ID:
Holding Institution:
Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, courtesy of the Indiana State Museum
Available for Viewing:
Fine Art


This colored lithograph features the text in script of President Abraham Lincoln's letter to Mrs. Bixby on a yellow background. At the top left of the letter is a head and shoulders illustration of President Lincoln. To the viewer's right of the letter is the American flag on a flagpole. At the bottom edge of the letter is an illustration of a battle scene showing cannons and guns blazing. Below the battle scene is a shield-shaped frame in which is printed the title and a short paragraph about the text of the letter: "Above is a fac-simile of a letter written Nov. 21, 1864, by President Lincoln to the mother of five sons who were killed in the battles of the Civil War. An engrossed copy is prominently displayed on the walls of Oxford University with the notation: 'One of the finest specimens of pure English extant.' Without dissent among experts, this letter, written by Lincoln under the generous impulse of the moment, is accepted as the world's best model of expressive English." In September of 1864, Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew wrote the War Department suggesting that the President write Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a Boston widow who purportedly had lost five sons in the war, a letter of condolence. President Lincoln wrote the letter on November 21, 1864, which was delivered to Mrs. Bixby by Massachusetts Adjutant-General William Schouler on November 24, 1864. Apparently he had stopped by the Boston Evening Transcript newspaper office on the way to Mrs. Bixby's house because the text of the letter was published in the November 25, 1864, afternoon "second edition" of the newspaper. The text of the letter is known only by the newspaper account as the original handwritten letter has never been found. The Bixby letter is widely regarded as one of Lincoln's finest, although some controversy exists concerning the authorship of the letter. The text reads: To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass., Dear Madam, I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjustant 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, A. Lincoln" For more information about this letter, copy and paste into your browser the following URL: http://papersofabrahamlincoln.org/how-you-can-help/our-search-for-documents/notes-on-the-bixby-letter