To Mrs. Lydia 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 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, A. LINCOLN.

Controversy over the claim that John Hay composed this letter has somewhat abated, with the claim remaining unproved. Lincoln was in error as to Mrs. Bixby’s five sons because her case had been inaccurately presented to him by the Adjutant General’s Office. Later investigations have revealed that only two sons were killed: Sergeant Charles N. Bixby, Twentieth Massachusetts Infantry, killed May 3, 1863, and Private Oliver C. Bixby, Fifty-eighth Massachusetts Infantry, killed July 30, 1864. Private George W. (A.?) Way (Bixby), Fifty-sixth Massachusetts Infantry, who had enlisted under an assumed name, was captured July 30, 1864. Imprisoned first at Richmond and later at Salisbury, North Carolina, George Way was reported (1) to have deserted to the enemy and (2) to have died in prison at Salisbury. Neither of these reports has been established beyond doubt. Corporal Henry C. Bixby, Thirty-second Massachusetts Infantry, was honorably discharged at Boston on December 17, 1864. Private Edward (Arthur Edward) Bixby, First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, deserted May 28 or 29, 1862.

To John Phillips

                                         Executive Mansion.  Washington,
My dear Sir                    21st. November, 1864

I have heard of the incident at the polls in your town, in which you bore so honored a part, and I take the liberty of writing to you to express my personal gratitude for the compliment paid me by the suffrage of a citizen so venerable.

The example of such devotion to civic duties in one whose days have already extended an average life time beyond the Psalmist’s limit, cannot but be valuable and fruitful. It is not for myself only, but for the country which you have in your sphere served so long and so well, that I thank you. Your friend and Servant

A. LINCOLN.

On November 9, 1864, F. W. Emmons of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, wrote Lincoln:

“I send you with this, a pamphlet of ‘The Centenarian Deacon John Phillips [‘]—of the celebration of his one Hundreth birth day and am happy to inform you that he still lives, now in his 105th year.

“He is a Democrat, of the Jeffersonian School: voted for Washington, as President of the United States; and, yesterday, voted for your re-election to this honorable and responsible place.

“He rode from home, two miles, to our Town Hall, with his son, Col. Edwd Phillips, aged 79 yrs, to cast this vote. He entered it between two unfurled flags of his country, bearing on them the Stars and Stripes; all within, at the time rising, with uncovered heads, to do him homage. And when offered two votes, to take his choice, he said: ‘I vote for Abraham Lincoln.’

“He has been, for several years, the oldest citizen of this town; and is now, probably, the oldest man in the commonwealth. . . .”

On January 16, 1865, Phillips replied to Lincoln’s letter:

“I trust you will pardon me in trying to answer the kind letter you sent me for which I would return my thanks.

“It was an honor I never expected to receive and feel that your goodness of heart with respect for my extreme age alone prompted the act—while your mind and time must be occupied by so many national cares and anxieties.

“I feel that I have no desire to live but to see the conclusion of this wicked rebellion, and the power of God displayed in the conversion of the nation.

“I beleive by the help of God you will accomplish the first—and also be the means of establishing universal freedom and restoring peace to the Union.

“That the God of mercy will bless you in this great work and through life is the prayer of your unworthy servant.”

Reply to Maryland Union Committee

November 17, 1864

The President, in reply, said: “He had to confess that he was fully notified of the intention thus kindly to call upon him, and by that means he had a fair opportunity offered to be ready with a set speech; but he had not prepared one, having been very busy with his public duties; therefore, he could only speak as the thoughts might occur to him. He would not attempt to conceal from them the fact that he was gratified at the results of the Presidential election, and he would assure them that he had kept as near as he could to the exercise of his best judgment, for the promotion of the interests of the whole country; and now, to have the seal of approbation marked on the course he had pursued was exceedingly gratifying to his feelings. He might go further and say that, in as large proportion as any other man, his pleasure consisted in the belief that the policy he had pursued would be the best and the only one that could save the country. He had said before, and would now repeat, that he indulged in no feeling of triumph over any one who thought or acted differently from himself. He had no such feeling towards any living man.

“When he thought of Maryland in particular, it was that the people had more than double their share in what had occurred in the elections. He thought the adoption of their free State constitution was a bigger thing than their part in the Presidential election. He could, any day, have stipulated to lose Maryland in the Presidential election to save its free constitution, because the Presidential election comes every four years and the adoption of the constitution, being a good thing, could not be undone. He therefore thought in that they had a victory for the right worth a great deal more than their part in the Presidential election, although he thought well of that. He once before said, and would now say again, that those who had differed from us and opposed us would see that it was better for their own good that they had been defeated, rather than to have been successful. Thanking them for their compliment, he said he would bring to a close that short speech.”

To Stephen A. Hurlbut

Private                                  Executive Mansion
Major General Hurlbut     Washington, Nov. 14. 1864

Few things, since I have been here, have impressed me more painfully than what, for four or five months past, has appeared as bitter military opposition to the new State Government of Louisiana. I still indulged some hope that I was mistaken in the fact; but copies of a correspondence on the subject, between Gen. Canby and yourself, and shown me to-day, dispel that hope. A very fair proportion of the people of Louisiana have inaugerated a new State Government, making an excellent new constitution—better for the poor black man than we have in Illinois. This was done under military protection, directed by me, in the belief, still sincerely entertained, that with such a nucleous around which to build, we could get the State into position again sooner than otherwise. In this belief a general promise of protection and support, applicable alike to Louisiana and other states, was given in the last annual message. During the formation of the new government and constitution, they were supported by nearly every loyal person and opposed by every secessionist. And this support, and this opposition, from the respective stand points of the parties, was perfectly consistent and logical. Every Unionist ought to wish the new government to succeed; and every disunionist must desire it to fail. It’s failure would gladden the heart of Slidell in Europe, and of every enemy of the old flag in the world. Every advocate of slavery naturally desires to see blasted, and crushed, the liberty promised the black man by the new constitution. But why Gen. Canby and Gen. Hurlbut should join on the same side is to me incomprehensible.

Of course, in the condition of things at New-Orleans, the military must not be thwarted by the civil authority; but when the constitutional convention, for what it deems a breach of previlege, arrests an editor, in no way connected with the military, the military necessity for insulting the Convention, and forcibly discharging the editor, is difficult to perceive. Neither is the military necessity for protecting the people against paying large salaries, fixed by a Legislature of their own choosing, very apparant. Equally difficult to perceive is the military necessity for forcibly interposing to prevent a bank from loaning it’s own money to the State. These things, if they have occurred, are, at the best, no better than gratuitous hostility. I wish I could hope that they may be shown to not have occurred. To make assurance against misunderstanding, I repeat that in the existing condition of things in Louisiana, the military must not be thwarted by the civil authority; and I add that on points of difference the commanding general must be judge and master. But I also add that in the exercise of this judgment and control, a purpose, obvious, and scarcely unavowed, to transcend all military necessity, in order to crush out the civil government, will not be overlooked. Yours truly A. LINCOLN

To Edwin M. Stanton

November 10, 1864

This lady would be appointed Chaplain of the First Wisconsin Heavy Artillery, only that she is a woman. The President has not legally anything to do with such a question, but has no objection to her appointment. A. LINCOLN.

Response to a Serenade

November 10, 1864

It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies.

On this point the present rebellion brought our republic to a severe test; and a presidential election occurring in regular course during the rebellion added not a little to the strain. If the loyal people, united, were put to the utmost of their strength by the rebellion, must they not fail when divided, and partially paralized, by a political war among themselves?

But the election was a necessity.

We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us. The strife of the election is but human-nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case, must ever recur in similar cases. Human-nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.

But the election, along with its incidental, and undesirable strife, has done good too. It has demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility. It shows also how sound, and how strong we still are. It shows that, even among candidates of the same party, he who is most devoted to the Union, and most opposed to treason, can receive most of the people’s votes. It shows also, to the extent yet known, that we have more men now, than we had when the war began. Gold is good in its place; but living, brave, patriotic men, are better than gold.

But the rebellion continues; and now that the election is over, may not all, having a common interest, re-unite in a common effort, to save our common country? For my own part I have striven, and shall strive to avoid placing any obstacle in the way. So long as I have been here I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom.

While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election; and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result.

May I ask those who have not differed with me, to join with me, in this same spirit towards those who have?

And now, let me close by asking three hearty cheers for our brave soldiers and seamen and their gallant and skilful commanders.

To Anson G. Henry

November 9, 1864

With returns and States of which we are confident, the re-election of the President is considered certain, while it is not certain that McClellan has carried any State, though the chances are that he has carried New Jersey and Kentucky.