Of Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s four sons, only one lived to adulthood. By the time they reached Washington, they had already lost one child, Eddy. The war brought loss and hardship to all Americans, and the Lincolns were not exempted. This letter, for instance, vividly shows 10-year-old Willie coming face-to-face with the war’s awful cost. He writes to his neighbor Henry Remann back in Springfield that family friend Colonel Elmer Ellsworth has been killed.

Ellsworth was an American celebrity and the boys would have met him during a brief time he studied law under Lincoln. He tragically became the first Union officer to die in the Civil War and Willie is telling the story to Henry as best he can. Sadly, Willie himself had less than a year to live, eventually succumbing to illness in the White House.

Photos Album

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Lincoln's Life in Letters Family Photos

Images for Lincoln Life in Letters Family panel.

The documents highlighted in this exhibit are all drawn from our own collection. The originals are in our vault and the images were created by our Papers of Abraham Lincoln project. Please visit their website,, to see more documents written to and by Lincoln from all over the world. If you have a Lincoln document, or know someone who does, please reach out to us. We are always looking for new discoveries.


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