America’s Most Famous Letter

Abraham Lincoln signed it. A lot of scholars say he didn’t write it. Now, newly discovered evidence helps solve an enduring mystery.

In a records box in a back office in a house in the hills of Vermont, six letters about Abraham Lincoln’s famous “letter to the Widow Bixby” lay unknown and undisturbed. For how long is uncertain, although this author’s fingerprints made last March were the only ones visible in the thick chalky dust of years.Read more »

The Trouble With The Bixby Letter

The stirring Civil War document featured in Saving Private Ryan grew out of a lie and probably wasn’t really written by Lincoln

Saving Private Ryan , Steven Spielberg’s big movie of 1998, prefaces its plot with the very moving reading of a famous letter of condolence written by Abraham Lincoln to Lydia Bixby, a widow in Boston who had lost five sons in the Civil War. The letter, dated November 21, 1864, says: “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. Read more »