Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 7 March [1865]

Date: March 7, 1865

Editorial note: The annotation, "1865," is in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke.

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.

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

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00434

Contributors to digital file: Wesley Raabe, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Felicia Wetzig



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March 71

Walt

i2 have just got your letter i write to say sis3 is much better she has been down stairs to day and plays about she has lost some of her fat but will regain it again walt why dont you write longer letters and say all about your affairs if you are is4 the same department and if you are well and all about it) it seems strange to get such short letters from you not even to say how you are i hope nothing has Occured to make you uncomfortable i see your piece in the times yesterday5 i will get the eagles6 as you wish but be sure to write to me and write more particularly you will think i have nothing to doo but write but i thought you would want to hear from sis and I want you to write to me without fail sam Pooley7 staid here last night he is very well he has gone home to day to Buffalow he is very much attached to George8 he said when the Captain was sick he was A great mind to play sick to get in the hospital those skeches that sims9 gave George wright has never sent back10 George regrets loosing them he would not give them to any of the officers but george and told him to not let any of them get them away the history of the sketch is quite novel Major wright is going to resign11 and George i think will probally too

good bie Walt write when you get this


Notes:

1. This letter dates to March 7, 1865. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated the letter March 7, and Richard Maurice Bucke later supplied the year 1865. Edwin Haviland Miller, however, dated the letter to 1863 (The Correspondence, 1842–67 [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:372). If not an error in his calendar of letters, Miller may have dated Louisa's letter to 1863 because an article by Walt appeared in the New York Times and because Walt asked Louisa to retrieve copies of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that year. An article by Whitman appeared in both publications in March 1863: "Exemption from Military Service," New York Times, March 15, 1863, and "The Great Washington Hospitals," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 19, 1863. However, Louisa specifically states that the article appeared in the "times yesterday" and dates her letter "March 7." 1865 is correct year because an article by Walt Whitman appeared in the New York Times the previous day ("The Soldiers," New York Times, March 6, 1865). Additional corroboration is provided by a remark about a sketch made by Samuel H. Sims (see Walt Whitman's March 13, 1865 letter to David F. Wright).

The reason that Walt requested copies of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in March 1865 is not known.  [back]

2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt Whitman was the second. For more information on Louisa and her letters, see Wesley Raabe, "'walter dear': The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt" and Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)." [back]

3. Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957) was the younger daughter of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother and sister-in-law. Jessie and her sister Manahatta "Hattie" were both favorites of their uncle Walt. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had informed Walt Whitman on March 5, 1865 that "sis is not well yet she seems to have A kind of fever." The nickname "Sis" was given first to Manahatta but was passed to her younger sister Jessie Louisa when Manahatta became "Hattie." The letter dates to 1865, so "Sis" is Jessie Louisa. [back]

4. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote "are is the same department" but presumably intended "are in the same department." [back]

5. See Walt Whitman's "The Soldiers." [back]

6. The "eagles" refers probably to multiple copies of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. No article by Walt Whitman in the Eagle from late February or early March 1865 is currently known, but his most recent article in that newspaper was "A Brooklyn Soldier and a Noble One" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 19, 1865). Walt may have requested that his mother acquire multiple copies of the article, but no record of his request or her response from early 1865 is extant. The article also appeared on the same date in the Brooklyn Daily Union. See Jerome M. Loving, "'A Brooklyn Soldier, and a Noble One': A Brooklyn Daily Union Article by Whitman," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 20 (March 1974), 27–30. [back]

7. Samuel M. Pooley was a member of the Fifty-first New York Volunteers. His experience as a prisoner of war with George Washington Whitman is described in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 5, 1865 letter to Walt Whitman. Walt in his notes on the Fifty-first regiment wrote that Pooley was "born in Cornwall, Eng. 1836—struck out & came to America when 14—has lived mostly in Buffalo[,] learnt ship joining—left Buffalo in the military service U.S. June, 1861—came out as private—was made 2d Lieut at South Mountain. Made Captain Aug. 1864—got a family in Buffalo" (Manuscripts of Walt Whitman in the Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University). [back]

8. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and remained on active duty until the end of the Civil War. He was wounded in the First Battle of Fredericksburg (December 1862) and was taken prisoner during the Battle of Poplar Grove (September 1864). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with a partner named Smith and later a mason named French. George eventually took up a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]

9. Samuel H. Sims, a captain in George Washington Whitman's Fifty-first New York Volunteers, had been the subject in part of Walt Whitman's "Our Brooklyn Boys in the War" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 5, 1863). Sims died on July 30, 1864 of wounds received near Petersburg, Virginia (see George's August 9, 1864 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman). Walt may have lived in Sims's tent during part of his stay at Falmouth, Virginia, opposite Fredericksburg—a trip that Walt took in search of George after reading his brother's name in the New York Herald among the list of wounded in the Battle of Fredericksburg. As it turned out, George only suffered a minor injury: "I have come out safe and sound, although I had the side of my jaw slightly scraped with a peice of shell which burst at my feet" (see George's December 16, 1862 letter to Louisa). [back]

10. This "Wright" is presumably David F. Wright. Walt Whitman asked Wright to send Samuel H. Sims's sketch to his brother George Washington Whitman (see Walt's March 13, 1865 letter to Wright). Also see "Major Wright" (John Gibson Wright) below. [back]

11. Major John Gibson Wright, the brother of David F. Wright, was taken prisoner with George Washington Whitman at Petersburg, Virginia. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote in herMay 28–June 1, 1868 letter to Walt Whitman that Major Wright had been placed "in the insane assilum very bad." [back]


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