The Washington Post: Lincoln’s letter to a boy

The Raab Collection has partnered with the Washington Post to offer document images and historical descriptions to supplement its 150th anniversary celebration of the Civil War.  Here is the first installment.

"After Lincoln was nominated for president, he was much sought after by journalists and notables who knew little of the Republican nominee. One of these brought along his young son, George Evans Patten.

Lincoln was elected, inaugurated and immediately immersed in the secession crisis. As he was grappling with whether to reinforce the garrison at Fort Sumter and a shortage of U.S. troops, he received a letter from the boy.

Young Patten had told his schoolmates and teacher that he had met President Lincoln and shaken his hand. The boy’s story was greeted with disbelief, but he insisted it was true. Patten’s teacher wrote a letter to the President which, amazingly, reached Lincoln’s desk. The President took the time to write the following.

“Executive Mansion, Washington, March 19, 1861. To Whom it may concern: I did see and talk with Master George Evans Patten, last May, at Springfield, Illinois. Respectfully, A. Lincoln.”

According to the original address panel, which is still present, the letter was sent not to the schoolmaster but to Patten himself.

The letter found its way into the collection of Peter Gilsey, one of the 19th century’s most notable collectors, who was charmed by it. After his death, on February 26, 1903, the letter was sold in the Gilsey sale, with The New York Times reporting not merely the sale but highlighting this specific letter.

Follow our Civil War tweets in the words of the people who lived it, day by day, exactly 150 years later.

Information and image courtesy of The Raab Collection,

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