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1864 Stories


By Archibald Chauncey on October 19th, 1864

If you find 15 cents a paltry sum, consider the letter below.

Its ink is smudged and pages worn, passing hand to hand among our cohort.

Dear President Lincoln,

Regarding the 15 cents I have delivered unto you: It is all that I could bear.

In my youth, my family drove west, hoping — as so many others hoped — to see the elephant.

It was not without hardship that I reached Willamette Valley. My father drowned during a routine river-fording. The bite of a rattlesnake left my mother rigid, nerveless and hemorrhaging from the ears. Weeks later, with her strength restor’d by the grace of Dr. Magnerson’s Medical Mercury Drops, an ox crushed her to death. Sister went mad with grief, envisioning herself a three-spined stickleback, and spent days submerging herself in the North Platte River. Shocking no one, she caught the bloody flux and died a slow, fitful death.

Old age has not been kinder.

My five beloved sons — Edward, Charles, Henry, Oliver and George — have all given their lives in the War of the Rebellion. There is nothing left for me.

Kind Abraham, I am broken — in heart and fortune. My blood boils.

But I am with you.

I was to buy a gallon of molasses, but I forsake this humble luxury in exchange for endowing your end: the salvation of our broken union.

Be wise with my 15 cents. Be wise with all that I have.

Yours in trust and trust alone,

Lydia Bixby