The Bixby Letter

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Mar 7, 2014
Yes, exactly, it's written to anyone, really, who lost someone so irreplacable, on behalf of everyone.

VERY good take on the Bixby letter, Unionblue, sounds like something Lincoln would have had to say on the subject. :smile:
Yes and the very fact that the same words might have been written to any parent suffering a loss is why the letter continues to have such broad appeal. I was unaware of any of the controversies associated with the letter until I read this thread, but I was familiar with the letter well before Saving Private Ryan. I think it's an eloquent piece of writing.


Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Mar 22, 2009
Collierville, TN
Bump this up on the Date the letter was written.

Here is what I found out about Mrs. Bixby's sons. I wasn't sure if this was covered in the previous discussion.

In reality, only two of Mrs. Bixby’s sons had been killed in the Civil War. One had deserted the Union army in 1862, while another was honorably discharged two years later in 1864. Her fifth son was captured in 1864 and either deserted or died in prison, records are unclear as to which. The “Widow Bixby” herself was later reported by relatives to be a Southern sympathizer and supposedly destroyed the original letter shortly after receiving it from Lincoln

Lydia Parker married shoemaker Cromwell Bixby and they had 6 sons. The following served in the Union army.

(1) Pvt Edward Bixby – 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. Returned to Boston after the wa.

(2) Sgt Charles N. Bixby – 20th Massachusetts Infantry. Killed in action near Fredericksburg, VA.

(3) Cpl Henry Cromwell Bixby – enlisted in 20th Massachusetts and later in 32nd Massachusetts Infantry. Captured at Gettysburg. Paroled and died November 8, 1871

(4) Pvt Oliver Cromwell Bixby, Jr. – 58 Massachusetts Infantry. Wounded at Spotslvania and Killed at Petersburg, VA.

(5) Pvt George Way Bixby – 56th Massachusetts Infantry. Enlisted under the name "George Way," apparently to conceal his enlistment from his wife. Captured at Petersburg on July 30, 1864. His fate after that remains uncertain. Military records report conflicting accounts of him either dying at Salisbury or deserting to the Confederate Army.

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Feb 14, 2012
Central Pennsylvania
Yes, this comes up a lot? The thing is, it tends to come up as a means to discredit someone who lost sons in the war, and an awfully poignant letter. Not that you did, Dixie Rifles- you were merely being academically correct; we get so much nonsense attached to legend, drenched in myth here at CWT, it pays to research!

You just know Lincoln would gladly comfort a Southern sympathizer who buried children- he sure watched his wife mourn Confederate family lost, battle by battle. And it seems here 3 Bixby children vanished from the Thanksgiving table forever, surely enough to enable sympathy?

Makes me think of families like the Sheads, of Gettysburg. Carrie's famous story makes romantic headlines to this day- what a gal! She lost all her brothers to the war- I think 3? One was so young the army would not take him- so he went anyway, worked in camps until of age, immediately died of disease Two sisters died, one post battle from some weird effect, chemicals used to transport soldier's bodies. Carrie's mother quit living- really just quit, poor thing, her father was shattered. One family, one war- POOF, tragically excised from the planet. We only speak of 10 minutes in Carrie Shead's life. If the Bixby family, with their tragedies, can be remembered by a famous letter- it would be good to let it stand.


Retired User
Jan 31, 2017
I cannot imagine the pain of Mrs. Bixby, losing all those sons. God rest her poor soul.

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