Letter to Fanny McCullough

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Fanny McCullough
William McCullough

In December 1862, President of the United States Abraham Lincoln sent a brief consoling letter to Fanny McCullough, the daughter of lieutenant colonel William McCullough, following his death in the American Civil War.


Lincoln had met William McCullough years before when Lincoln was a circuit lawyer in Illinois and McCullough was a Circuit Clerk in McLean County. Lincoln would sometimes stay with the McCullough family when he reached the Bloomington, Illinois area of the circuit. McCullough became an ardent supporter of Lincoln beginning with Lincoln's successful run for Congress in 1846. With the start of the Civil War, McCullough petitioned Lincoln to allow him enlist despite his health problems and age. McCullough's request was granted and he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the 4th Illinois Cavalry.[1]

After McCullough was killed December 5, 1862 in an engagement near Coffeeville, Mississippi,[2] his daughter Mary Frances ("Fanny") was inconsolable and locked herself in her room. At the request of David Davis, a mutual friend of Lincoln and the McCullough family, Lincoln wrote to Fanny on December 23.[3]


Abraham Lincoln's letter to Fanny McCullough

Executive Mansion,

Washington, December 23, 1862.

Dear Fanny
It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares; the older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once; the memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer, and holier sort than you have known before.

Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.

Your sincere friend,
A. Lincoln.

Miss. Fanny McCullough.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ VanGorder, Megan (2014). "Close Reading –Letter to Fanny McCullough | History 288: Civil War & Reconstruction". dickinson.edu. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  2. ^ Duis, E. (1874). The Good Old Times in McLean County, Illinois: Containing Two Hundred and Sixty-one Sketches of Old Settlers, a Complete Historical Sketch of the Black Hawk War and Descriptions of All Matters of Interest Relating to McLean County. Bloomington: The Leader Publisher and Printing House. pp. 201–205.
  3. ^ Shenk, Joshua Wolf (2006). Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 187–189. ISBN 0618773444.
  4. ^ "Abraham Lincoln's Letter to Fanny McCullough". www.abrahamlincolnonline.org. Retrieved 2016-08-05.

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