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On A Historical Note: New Lincoln Artifact on Display at WKU

Emil Moffatt

A new piece of American history is now on display at the Kentucky Museum, but if you don’t look closely, you might miss it.

The handwritten note from 1864 measures only three inches by three inches, but comes with enormous historical significance. It was written by Abraham Lincoln.

“If it were in anyone else’s hand, it would be insignificant,” said Timothy Mullin, head of the Department of Library Special Collections at WKU.  “But because it is Lincoln, and because it refers to the oath and it really is the essence of how he wanted the war to end.”

The note is dated March 31, 1864 and is written on behalf of a Confederate prisoner of war. It indicates that he’s taken an oath of allegiance to the Union and is to be set free.

The Kentucky Museum has several Lincoln artifacts, but Mullin notes, this one is special.
“We have a number of things where his signature is on a printed document, but this is the only thing written by him,” said Mullin.

Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Ky. His family moved to Indiana when he was seven.

Mullin says the museum doesn’t know the identity of the soldier for whom the note was written, or how much time Lincoln spent pondering over the note.

A handwritten note by Abraham Lincoln, indicating a Confederate soldier had taken an oath to the union.

“Maybe Lincoln leans over and whatever little piece of paper is on his desk he dashes off a note and maybe he tears it off the corner and hands it off, I don’t know,” said Mullin.

The note is on permanent display at the museum, on the campus of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.  It was given to the museum by an anonymous donor.


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