Title: George Washington Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 16 August 1863
Date: August 16, 1863
Related item: After she received this letter from George Washington Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman forwarded George's letter to Walt Whitman and included a note on the verso of the last page of George's letter. See duk.00570.
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Notes for this letter were derived from Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman, ed. Jerome M. Loving (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1975).
Location: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
Whitman Archive ID: duk.00344
Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Tim Jackson, Nicole Gray, Kathryn Kruger, Gillian Price, and April Lambert
Camp near Covington Ky. Sunday eve.
Well here we are again back to old Kaintuck and glad enough we are to get back I can tell you.1
Mother it is a long, long, while since I have had a letter from you, but I hope and trust that you and Mattie, the babies, and all the rest of you are in good health and spirits.
The last letter I received from Walt was written July 17th. Walt seems to be getting along very well and I have no doubt he is doing a great deal of good in the Hospitals at Washington.2 He says you have not heard from Hannah lately, Mother as soon as you hear from her dont fail to send me word how she is getting along, and I hope to hear that she is (at least) well enough to come home. I have been perfectly healthy all through the Vicksburg campaign although there has been considerable sickness in our regt, especially during the last two weeks of our stay at Milldale. We only lost three men by sickness, but the deaths in some of the new regts was frightfull. One woman came on there from Michagan after the body of her son, which she said was the seventh she had lost during the war. Six had been killed in battle, and this one makeing the Seventh, had died of fever and was burried near our camp. I sent you a letter from Milldale, just after our chase after Johnson (did you get it)3 and now, since we have got back to a civalized country, I will write you often.
We struck camp at Milldale Miss. August 6th and marched down to the Yazoo river, where we went on board the boat, and started down the Yazoo, to the Mississippi, and then turned up the Miss. towards Cairo, Illanois. We landed a short time at Hellena Ark, Memphis, Tenn. and reached Cairo, on the morning of Aug 12th where we took the cars for Cincinnatti, Ohio arrived at Cincinnatti about 3 O clock P.M. Aug 14th marched to the 5th St. Market house where the citazens had prepared a nice meal for us, after getting our grub we crossed the river and encamped at this place. We will probaly leave here in the course of a few days, and go to some other part of the State. Some think we will be sent to Tennessee but I think the probabilities are that we will stay somewhere in Ky. for a while to recruit up a bit, as the regt is pretty well used up. We were paid this afternoon up to the 1st of July and tomorrow I shall send you by Express, at least 175 dollars. I see by the papers that Spinnolas command is in Virginia so I suppose Andrew did not go to Newbern,4 We had pretty hard fare while we were down in Miss. but now we are liveing first rate, we get plenty of bread and good butter, Eggs, milk, peaches, Melons, tomatoes, and all that kind of thing. Mother as soon as you get this write and let me know just how you are all getting along.
Jeff. We have had full accounts of the procedings of the mob in New York, and its almost enough to make a fellow ashamed of being a Yorker, the first accounts we saw were in the western papers, and I could hardly believe, that a thing of that kind would be alowed to get such headway in the City of New York,5 it strikes me that it would have been a good idea to have taken Fernando and Ben Wood6 Gov Seymour7 and a few more of the wire pullers and strung them up to one of the trees in the city Hall park. what a pity it is that 4 or 5 of the old regts, had not of been there to of straightened things up a bit, as for myself I would have went into that fight with just as good a heart, as if they had belonged to the rebel army. I am only sory there wasent 10 times as many killed of the rioters as the was. Jeff write to me directly. Mattie, how is it with you and how is the new baby8 getting along. Hattie I suppose is flourishing the same as usual. write to me Matt when you get a chance.
Mother, you may expect to get 175 or 180 dollars nearly as soon as you receive this, use what you want of it and put the rest in the bank. I shall write to Walt in the course of a day or two, write soon direct to Kentucky via Cincinnatti
Good Bye all,
G. W. Whitman
1. The Ninth Army Corps was released from Sherman's Expeditionary Force shortly after returning from the pursuit of Johnston's army, and it started back to Cincinnati, where General Burnside was stationed as head of the Department of Ohio. The Ninth Army, however, was of no immediate use to Burnside, since it had suffered heavy losses from long marches and inadequate food and water while operating under Sherman (see Civil War Diary). [back]
4. Francis Baretto Spinola recruited and first commanded the One Hundred and Fifty-Eighth New York Regiment of Infantry. See George Washington Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman from May 19, 1863. [back]
5. During the period of July 13–15, 1863, the city was disrupted by riots over the application of the 1863 Conscription Act. The disturbance began in the Ninth Ward and spread quickly to other parts of the city. It was precipitated, for the most part, by Irish laborers who feared that the draft law would particularly afflict their ranks because few Irishmen could afford to hire substitutes for their military service or pay the $300 commutation fee. They envisioned that while they were compelled to fight to free Negroes from slavery, that same group would then be available to offer unfair competition in the labor market by accepting jobs at reduced wages. Hence, whereas the riots began as a protest against the draft generally, this cause was soon replaced by anti-Negro sentiment. The city's police force was unable to quell the riots, and order was restored to the city only when Union troops from Gettysburg arrived. Discussing the riots in a letter to Walt Whitman, dated July 9, 1863, Jeff wrote: "I'm perfectly rabid on an Irishman. I hate them worse than I thought I could hate anything. Their conduct for the past week has made me do it" (Feinberg Collection of Walt Whitman, Library of Congress). [back]
6. Fernando Wood, mayor of New York at this time, and his brother Benjamin Wood, both Tammany leaders, were opposed to the Conscription Act. [back]
7. Horatio Seymour, then governor of New York, was politically opposed to Lincoln and against the draft law. Seymour found himself caught between his political antagonism to the federal government and his duty as the governor of New York to restore order to New York City. He asked Lincoln for a postponement of the draft until its constitutional legality could be determined in the courts. This Lincoln refused. [back]