Famous letter attributed to Abraham Lincoln likely written by his secretary: Researchers

A well-known letter commonly attributed to President Abraham Lincoln was likely written by his secretary John Hay, finds new research.

The work focuses on the letter written in 1864 to a mother named Lydia Bixby, notifying her of her sons' deaths during the Civil War; it contains the often-quoted lines, "I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save."

The top 20 presidents in US history, according to historians

21 PHOTOS
The top 20 presidents in US history, according to historians
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The top 20 presidents in US history, according to historians

20. George H. W. Bush

Best leadership quality and rank: International relations (No. 8)

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19. John Adams 

Best leadership quality and rank: Moral authority (No. 11)

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18. Andrew Jackson

Best leadership quality and rank: Public persuasion (No. 7)

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17. James Madison

Best leadership quality and rank: Moral authority (No. 9)

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16. William McKinley Jr.

Best leadership quality and rank: Relations with congress (No. 10)

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15. Bill Clinton 

Best leadership quality and rank: Economic management (No. 3)

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14. James K. Polk

Best leadership quality and rank: Crisis leadership (No. 9), Administrative skills (No. 9)

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13. James Monroe 

Best leadership quality and rank: International relations (No. 7)

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12. Barack Obama

Best leadership quality and rank: Pursued equal justice for all (No. 3)

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11. Woodrow Wilson

Best leadership quality and rank: Vision (No. 7)

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10. Lyndon Baines Johnson

Best leadership quality and rank: Relations with congress (No. 1)

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9. Ronald Reagan

Best leadership quality and rank: Public persuasion (No. 5)

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8. John F. Kennedy

Best leadership quality and rank: Public persuasion (No. 6)

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7. Thomas Jefferson

Best leadership quality and rank: Relations with congress (No. 5), Vision (No. 5)

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6. Harry S. Truman

Best leadership quality and rank: Crisis leadership (No. 4), Pursued equal justice for all (No. 4)

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5. Dwight D. Eisenhower 

Best leadership quality and rank: Moral authority (No.4)

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4. Theodore Roosevelt 

Best leadership quality and rank: Public persuasion (No. 2)

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3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
 
Best leadership quality and rank: Public persuasion (No. 1), International relations (No. 1)

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2. George Washington 

Best leadership quality and rank: Economic management (No. 1), moral authority (No. 1), Performance within the context of his times (No. 1)

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1. Abraham Lincoln 

Best leadership quality and rank: Crisis leadership (No. 1), administrative skills (No. 1), Vision (No. 1), Pursued equal justice for all (No. 1)

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Despite the letter's high profile, there has long been a dispute among historians about whether Lincoln actually wrote it, reports Newsweek.

As such, researchers decided to apply a method they developed called N-gram tracing which, according to a news release by the University of Manchester in the U.K., uses a computer to "accurately analyse even very short pieces of writing in order to distinguish between different authors."

After the team applied the technique to hundreds of texts written by both men, they used it to assess the Bixby letter and found that the writing matched Hay's almost 90 percent of the time.

Despite the strong outcome, they plan to continue researching the letter and testing the method.

US presidents in their younger days

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US presidents in their younger days
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US presidents in their younger days

This is the Naval Academy yearbook picture of a former president, can you guess who it is?

Click through to reveal the answer.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

ANSWER: Jimmy Carter

(Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

This precious portrait was taken in the 1800's, do you recognize that face?

Click through for the answer. 

(Photo by Interim Archives/Getty Images)

ANSWER: Franklin Delano Roosevelt

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

This president served as a five-star general before his time in the White Hosue.

(Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

ANSWER: Dwight Eisenhower 

(Photo by Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

The president pictured here is posing with his older brother.

Did that hint help? Click through for another one.

(Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Here is another picture of that president at a young age.

(Photo by John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

ANSWER: Ronald Reagan

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Can you guess who this young high school student is?

Click through to reveal the answer.

(Photo by Getty Images)

ANSWER: Bill Clinton

(REUTERS/Dominick Reuter)

This adorable six-month-old would later become President of the United States, click through to see who.

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

ANSWER: Harry Truman

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

This teen violinist went on to serve as president for two terms.

(Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

ANSWER: Richard Nixon

(Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Can you guess who this ten-year-old boy is?

Click to the next picture to see if you were right.

(Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).

ANSWER: Theodore Roosevelt 

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

This picture is from 1964.

Click through to see who this dapper teenager is.

(Copy Photo by Darren McCollester/Newsmakers)

ANSWER: George W. Bush

(REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

When this picture was taken this future president was 21-years-old and owned a newspaper.

(Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

ANSWER: Warren G Harding  

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

This little 18-month-old grew up in Texas.

Click through to see who it is.

 (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

ANSWER: Lyndon B. Johnson

(Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

This nine-year-old future president was born in 1917.

 (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

ANSWER: John F. Kennedy

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

This Naval Aviator Cadet is also a US president.

(REUTERS/Handout)

ANSWER: George H. W. Bush

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

This well-dressed future president was born in Nebraska.

(Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

ANSWER: Gerald Ford

(Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

This young basketball star would go on to serve two terms as president.

(Photo by Laura S. L. Kong/Getty Images)

This portrait features a US president who worked as a mining engineer before his time in the White House.

(Photo by Philipp Kester/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

ANSWER: Herbert Hoover

(Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

ANSWER: Barack Obama

(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

This young man went on to become the 30th president of the United States.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

ANSWER: Calvin Coolidge 

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

This president served as a lieutenant in the Mexican-American War.

(Photo by Interim Archives/Getty Images)

ANSWER: Ulysses S. Grant 

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

This handsome young man would go on to serve two terms as POTUS.

(Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

ANSWER: Woodrow Wilson

(Photo by: Liverani/Andia/UIG via Getty Images)

This sixteen-year-old boy would go on to become the 20th President of the United States.

(Photo by Interim Archives/Getty Images)

ANSWER: James Garfield

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Can you pick out the president in this picture?

(Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

ANSWER: George H. W. Bush & George W. Bush

The picture was the father and son at Yale University when George Bush Jr. was a baby.

(REUTERS/Mike Stone)

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