On May 25, 150 years ago yesterday, President Abraham Lincoln, a close personal friend of Ellsworth's, wrote the following letter to the grieving parents of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth. Not only is this one of the most heartfelt letters that Lincoln ever wrote, but it should also be noted that it would not be long before Lincoln himself would occupy the seat of the grieving parent for the second time. In 1850, Lincoln's son Edward Baker Lincoln, or "Eddie" for short, passed away at the tender age of four. In February of 1862, Lincoln's 11 year old son Willie passed away in the White House, most likely from Typhoid Fever. Clearly, Lincoln understood the pains of losing a child, and this letter below is one of the more remarkable messages that he wrote during his presidency.
To the Father and Mother of Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth:
My dear Sir and Madam,
In the untimely loss of your noble son, our affliction here, is scarcely less than your own. So much of promised usefulness to one's country, and of bright hopes for one's self and friends, have rarely been so suddenly dashed, as in his fall. In size, in years, and in youthful appearance, a boy only, his power to command men, was surpassingly great. This power, combined with a fine intellect, an indomitable energy, and a taste altogether military, constituted in him, as seemed to me, the best natural talent, in that department, I ever knew.
And yet he was singularly modest and deferential in social intercourse. My acquaintance with him began less than two years ago; yet through the latter half of the intervening period, it was as intimate as the disparity of our ages, and my engrossing engagements, would permit. To me, he appeared to have no indulgences or pastimes; and I never heard him utter a profane, or intemperate word. What was conclusive of his good heart, he never forgot his parents. The honors he labored for so laudably, and, in the sad end, so gallantly gave his life, he meant for them, no less than for himself.
In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of my young friend, and your brave and early fallen child.
May God give you that consolation which is beyond all earthly power.
Sincerely your friend in a common affliction--