Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: George Washington Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 5? September 1862

Date: September 5, 1862?

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from George Washington Whitman, Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman, ed. Jerome M. Loving (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975), 63-64. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00326

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Eric Conrad, Kathryn Kruger, Gillian Price, and April Lambert



The 14th of Brooklyn have lost very heavy  among the killed are Captains Davey and Mallery.1  Joe Grummond2 is wounded in the leg. I saw Joe a short time before he was hit and after he was wounded he was carried through the lines of our Regt. It was very discouraging to us as we lay on the hill to see hundreds of men leave their regiments without being hurt at all and some 2 or 300 wounded were either carried or walked through our ranks going to the rear. I think we was completely out generald3  the most of our men was good enough but I think that they was badly handled. Mother I have just received a letter from you dated August 16th which is the only word I have had from home since we left Fredericksburg. We shall probably encamp here for a few days to recruit up a little and I hope you will write to me as soon as you get this. Mother do not feel the least uneaisiness about me as I never was heartier or ruggeder in my life. I am getting tired so good bye to all  I will write again soon4

Much Love to all
G. W. W.5


Notes:

1. George R. Davey, Captain of Company H, and George Mallory, Captain of Company B, both of the Eighty-Fourth Regiment of Infantry, died in battle on August 29, 1862, at Groveton, Virginia. [back]

2. First Lieutenant Josiah M. Grummond, Company H of the same regiment, was wounded in action on August 29, 1862, at Groveton, Virginia. He died of his wounds on September 9, 1862, at Washington, D.C. [back]

3. This remark is especially significant in placing the letter soon after the Second Battle of Bull Run, for historians agree that this Union defeat was owing to the tactical errors of General John Pope, and not to any lack of troop morale. Additionally, George's mention of having received a letter from his mother dated August 16, 1862—the first from home since his regiment moved up from Fredericksburg—seems, at the very least, to place this fragment in the early part of September 1862.It is interesting to note that Walt Whitman shared his brother's disappointment in the Union military leaders. Concerning the first battle of Bull Run, he wrote this description of the Union officers who had returned to Washinton after the battle: "The principal hotel, Willard's, is full of shoulder-straps—thick, crush'd, creeping with shoulder-straps. (I see them, and must have a word with them. There you are, shoulder-straps!—but where are your companies? where are your men? Incompetents! never tell me of chances of battle, of getting stray'd, and the like. I think this is your work, this retreat, after all. Sneak, blow, put on airs there in Willard's sumptuous parlors and bar-rooms, or anywhere—no explanation shall save you. Bull Run is your work; had you been half or one-tenth worthy of your men, this would never have happen'd.)"   Floyd Stovall, ed., Walt Whitman: The Prose Works 2 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1964), 1:28-29.  [back]

4. See Civil War Diary[back]

5. This undated fragment was probably written soon after George Washington Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman from August 17, 1862; it appears to dwell on the same subject: the results of a battle that included the Fourteenth New York State Militia (Eighty-Fourth Regiment of Infantry). In fact, it may well be the last part of the letter of September 5, 1862—which lacks a closing signature. [back]


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