As we close out this Memorial Day weekend, I hope everyone has taken the time to honor the brave men and women that are no longer with us. They have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this great nation and we are forever in their debt.
In the fall of 1864, President Abraham Lincoln penned a letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow who at the time was believed to have lost five sons in the Civil War. His words serve as a reminder of the blood that has been spilled for our freedom, the lives lost and the pain of those left behind:
Executive Mansion, 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 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,
*Note: I am aware that some scholars now believe the letter was written by John Hay, a White House Secretary and that after the fact, it was learned Ms. Bixby “only” lost two of her five sons in battle.