21
Nov
08

On This Day, 11-21-2008: A. Lincoln Writes to Mrs Bixby

November 21, 1864

Lincoln allegedly writes to mother of Civil War casualties

Legend holds that on this day in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln composes a letter to Lydia Bixby, a widow and mother of five men who had been killed in the Civil War. A copy of the letter was then published in the Boston Evening Transcript on November 25 and signed “Abraham Lincoln.” The original letter has never been found.

The letter expressed condolences to Mrs. Bixby on the death of her five sons, who had fought to preserve the Union in the Civil War. The author regrets how “weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.” He continued with a prayer that “our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement [and leave you] 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.”

Scholars continue to debate the authorship of the letter, and the authenticity of copies printed between1864 and 1891. At the time, copies of presidential messages were often published and sold as souvenirs. Many historians and archivists agree that the original letter was probably written by Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay. As to Mrs. Bixby’s loss, scholars have discovered that only two of her sons actually died fighting during the Civil War. A third was honorably discharged and a fourth was dishonorably thrown out of the Army. The fifth son’s fate is unknown, but it is assumed that he deserted or died in a Confederate prison camp. Despite its dubious origins, the letter’s text became even more famous when it was quoted in Steven Spielberg’s World War II film epic Saving Private Ryan (1998).

“Lincoln allegedly writes to mother of Civil War casualties.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Nov 2008, 09:52 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52014.

A. Lincoln’s Letter to Mrs. Bixby

Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 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 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

November 21, 1975

Congressional report charges U.S. involvement in assassination plots

A Senate committee issues a report charging that U.S. government officials were behind assassination plots against two foreign leaders and were heavily involved in at least three other plots. The shocking revelations suggested that the United States was willing to go to murderous levels in pursuing its Cold War policies.

The Senate Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, chaired by Senator Frank Church, alleged that U.S. officials instigated plots to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba of the Congo. In addition, the U.S. officials “encouraged or were privy to” plots that led to the assassinations of Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam, General Rene Schneider of Chile, and Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. The attempts against Castro failed, but the other four leaders were killed. There was also evidence suggesting U.S. involvement in a number of other assassination plots against foreign leaders.

The committee indicated that it had no specific evidence that an American president ever authorized an assassination. However, it went on to declare that “whether or not the President in fact knows about the assassination plots, and even if their subordinates failed in their duty of full disclosure, it still follows that the President should have known about the plots.” The Central Intelligence Agency came in for special condemnation for its efforts to recruit Mafia hit men to kill Castro and mercenaries to assassinate Lumumba. In the report’s conclusion, the committee declared that, “We condemn the use of assassination as a tool of foreign policy [and] find that assassination violates moral precepts fundamental to our way of life.”

President Gerald Ford criticized the decision to release the report, claiming that it would do “grievous damage to our country” and would be used by “groups hostile to the United States in a manner designed to do maximum damage to the reputation and foreign policy of the United States.”

“Congressional report charges U.S. involvement in assassination plots.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Nov 2008, 09:58 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2491.

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