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Undoubtedly, Abraham Lincoln was influenced both personally and professionally by the deaths of several brothers during the Civil War, a grievous loss to their mother, Lydia Bixby of Boston. His beautifully written letter to the grieving mother is often quoted as one of the most eloquent of his writings, sometimes mentioned even in the company of the Gettysburg Address. Although there has been controversy from time to time about the recipient of the letter, who she supported in the war (her sons were thought to be fighting for the Union, but some have suggested that she supported the Confederacy), there is no arguing the heartfelt empathy Lincoln communicated in his letter. Likely, the loss of his own child had much to do with this; both as a person and as a president, he communicated in a relatively short missive his sympathy for the grief Bixby was probably feeling, as well as a reinforcement of his belief in the worth of the cause her boys died fighting for: the preservation of the United States of America.
Interestingly, Steven Spielberg's movie, Saving Private Ryan, although set in World War II, is loosely based on the premise of the Bixby situation; Tom Hanks's character is sent on a mission to recover and send home one Private Ryan after it is discovered that his brothers have died in battle; a letter goes out to the boys' mother acknowledging her loss as the search begins in the area around Normandy, France.
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