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Letter to Fanny McCulloughPresident Abraham Lincoln wrote this touching letter of condolence to the daughter of his long-time friend, William McCullough. During Lincoln's law circuit days, McCullough was sheriff and clerk of the McLean County Circuit Court in Bloomington, Illinois. Early in the Civil War he helped organize the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, which he served as Lieutenant Colonel. On December 5, 1862, he was killed during a night charge near Coffeeville, Mississippi. When he wrote this letter Lincoln appeared to be recalling his own grief as a nine-year-old child when his mother died after a short illness in 1818. Even more painful was the recent death of his much-loved 11-year-old son Willie, on February 20, 1862.
Washington, December 23, 1862.
It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once. The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before.
Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.
Your sincere friend
Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler et al.
Image of original letter (Shapell)
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