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During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln often expressed appreciation to individual soldiers, officers, and units for their military service. The quotations shown below reflects a sampling of these tributes.
Schweizer Statue, Gettysburg
© Abraham Lincoln Online
by Abraham Lincoln
To the Army of the Potomac: I have just read your Commanding General's preliminary report of the battle of Fredericksburg. Although you were not successful, the attempt was not an error, nor the failure other than an accident. The courage with which you, in an open field, maintained the contest against an entrenched foe, and the consummate skill and success with which you crossed and re-crossed the river, in face of the enemy, show that you possess all the qualities of a great army, which will yet give victory to the cause of the country and of popular government. Condoling with the mourners for the dead, and sympathizing with the severely wounded, I congratuate you that the number of both is comparatively so small.
I tender to you, officers and soldiers, the thanks of the nation.
--December 22, 1862 printed leaflet distributed to the Army.
The President declared that he would gladly receive into the service not ten thousand but ten times ten thousand colored troops; expressed his determination to protect all who enlisted, and said that he looked to them for essential service in finishing the war. He believed that the command of them afforded scope for the highest ambition, and he would with all his heart offer it to Gen. Fremont.
--May 30, 1863 remarks to a New York committee
The President announces to the country that news from the Army of the Potomac, up to 10 P.M. of the 3rd. is such as to cover that Army with the highest honor, to promise a great success to the cause of the Union, and to claim the condolence of all for the many gallant fallen. And that for this, he especially desires that on this day, He whose will, not ours, should ever be done, be everywhere remembered and reverenced with profoundest gratitude.
--July 4, 1863 announcement from War Department following news from Gettysburg
Honor to the Soldier, and Sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause. Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field, and serves, as he best can, the same cause -- honor to him, only less than to him, who braves, for the common good, the storms of heaven and the storms of battle.
--December 2, 1863 letter to George Opdyke and others
Ladies and Gentlemen: I appear to say but a word. This extraordinary war in which we are engaged falls heavily upon all classes of people, but the most heavily upon the soldier. For it has been said, all that a man hath will he give for his life; and while all contribute of their substance the soldier puts his life at stake, and often yields it up in his country's cause. The highest merit, then is due to the soldier.
--March 18, 1864 Remarks at Sanitary Fair, Washington, D.C.
I am, indeed, very grateful to the brave men who have been struggling with the enemy in the field, to their noble commanders who have directed them, and especially to our Maker....While we are grateful to all the brave men and officers for the events of the past few days, we should, above all, be very grateful to Almighty God, who gives us victory.
--May 9, 1864 Response to serenade, given on the White House portico
Soldiers: I am exceedingly obliged to you for this mark of respect. It is said that we have the best Government the world ever knew, and I am glad to meet you, the supporters of that Government. To you who render the hardest work in its support should be given the greatest credit. Others who are connected with it, and who occupy high positions, their duties can be dispensed with, but we cannot get along without your aid. While others differ with the Administration, and, perhaps, honestly, the soldiers generally have sustained it; they have not only fought right, but, as far as could be judged from their actions, they have voted right, and I for one thank you for it. I know you are en route for the front, and therefore do not expect me to detain you long, and will therefore bid you good morning.
--October 24, 1864 speech to 189th New York Volunteers
Speeches to Ohio Regiments
Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.
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Lincoln's writings are in the public domain; this introduction, photo and quotation collection copyright © 2013 Abraham Lincoln Online.