|LINCOLN & MARY TODD LINCOLN|
(CNN) It was days before Christmas 1863, and Abraham Lincoln wanted to offer an example of goodwill to the fractured nation in the midst of the Civil War.
The Craig family, cousins to Lincoln's wife Mary Todd, were a slave-holding family in Arkansas who had fled their plantation as Union forces took over much of the state. But the Craigs were nearing the end of their lives and wished to return to their home for Christmas.
Despite the ongoing war -- or perhaps because of it -- Lincoln agreed. After meeting with the family, he wrote and signed a letter that they could use to safely move past Union forces and reoccupy their Arkansas plantation.
"Mr. and Mrs. Craig, of Arkansas, whose plantation, situated upon the Mississippi River a few miles below Helena, has been desolated during the present war, propose returning to reoccupy and cultivate said plantation," Lincoln wrote in the letter.
"(And) it is my wish that they be permitted to do so, and that the United States military forces in that vicinity will not molest them or allow them to be molested, as long as the said Mr. and Mrs. Craig shall demean themselves as peaceful, loyal citizens of the United States."
Lincoln's original letter, long held by descendants of the Todd family, was recently sold to The Raab Collection and then sold to an interested buyer as a unique example of Lincoln's broader attempts to reunify the country.