ROYAL OAK, Mich. - Volunteers at the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum have made a rare discovery.
The signature of Abraham Lincoln was discovered at the museum on a two by three inch piece of paper, which was cut out of a letter written in 1864.
Museum worker Murial Versagi says she and others found the document at the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum.
"It's just incredible that we have this," says Versagi.
What the letter says
It had been tucked away in boxes of Lincoln memorabilia, collected by one of Royal Oak's historical figures, George A. Dondero.
Versagi says Lincoln's message said "Let John S. Ennis...take the oath of Dec. 8, and his discharge. January 16, 1864" [signed] "A. Lincoln."
The President was responding to a congressman, whose writing is on the other side.
Lincoln was agreeing that if a confederate prisoner of war named John Ennis took a loyalty oath to the union he could go free. Ennis was being held at camp Douglas in Chicago in miserable conditions.
"Our prisoners and the confederate prisoners were dying at the rate of hundreds per day," quotes Versagi.
Museum decides to keep signature
The museum couldn't be sure the signature was authentic until the PBS show 'History Detectives' agreed to check it out.
The show took the document to the Lincoln Museum in in Springfield, Illinois for verification.
Experts on the show did determined the signature is honestly Abe's.
"We have to have a special case made for it," says Versagi. "People can then view both sides of it."
Lincoln had written hundreds of similar letters granting freedom to prisoners. Perhaps he was getting an early start on binding up the nations wounds long before the civil war ended.
"If we put it on auction, it could raise anywhere from ten to thirty thousand dollars for this little two by three inch scrap of paper," says Versagi.
Versagi, however, says the signature is far too precious to sell. It will stay at the museum.
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