The Lincoln Mailbag: America Writes to the President, 1861-1865

The Lincoln Mailbag: America Writes to the President, 1861-1865

The Lincoln Mailbag: America Writes to the President, 1861-1865

The Lincoln Mailbag: America Writes to the President, 1861-1865


Harold Holzer, the editor of Dear Mr. Lincoln: Letters to the President, dips once again into Lincoln's bulging mailbag to assemble and annotate a volume of letters, many of them never before published, that the American people wrote to their president during the Civil War - correspondence that offered praise, criticism, advice, threats, abuse, and appeals for help and for special favors from men and women throughout the country. Significantly, this collection may be more representative of the mood of the country at the time than Lincoln might have known; it includes letters from black Americans, originally routed to the War Department's Colored Troops Bureau, that Lincoln never saw. The letters, of course, speak for themselves, but Holzer's introduction and annotations provide historical context for events and people described as well as for those who wrote so passionately to their president in Lincoln's America.


Virtually from the day the book Dear Mr. Lincoln was published in the fall of 1993, I have been urged to undertake a second volume of citizen correspondence to America's sixteenth president. and I have been armed with so much wonderful material ever since that the challenge has become a most welcome opportunity.

Dear Mr. Lincoln opened a window onto citizen sentiment during the Civil War, but could not hope to provide the final word. Thousands of remarkable letters remained all but hidden within the microfilmed reels of Abraham Lincoln's private papers, unread except by historians and archivists. Thousands more had been separated from the official White House files when they were dispatched by clerks to other branches of the government for action. Later they were found or purchased by souvenir hunters desperate to possess relics of the martyred president. Not included in the official Abraham Lincoln Papers in the Library of Congress, they have ended up scattered among private and public collections across the country. They revealed constituent yearning then and deserve no less attention today.

Unavoidably, the first book omitted as much as it included. the economic constraints of commercial publishing limited the size of the book and compelled its editor to delete many of the letters to Abraham Lincoln that deserved inclusion. Such material was anything but dross. in many cases, a rationale driven only by the vagaries of page layout dictated last-minute decisions to cut worthy and compelling letters. They remained unpublished, available only to scholars.

Soon added to this stockpile of valuable material were new letters urged on me by friends and colleagues. Letters came, too, from Lincoln enthusiasts I had never before met. For as I toured cities around the country to promote Dear Mr. Lincoln, I was often approached at the end of such events by members of the audience who had brought their own favorite letters to Lincoln to share with me.

For example, I first learned about an unpublished letter from the . . .

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