Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 4 August 1863

Date: August 4, 1863

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Thomas Jefferson Whitman, Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), 67-69. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00419

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, Tim Jackson, Kathryn Kruger, and April Lambert

Brooklyn, N. Y.
Tuesday Aug 4th [1863]1

Dear brother Walt,

It has been a long time since I last wrote you, longer than I meant it should be, but I have been very busy indeed  Everything is going about as usual with us at home. We do not hear from George. I feel quite anxious about him and watch the paper quite close for something about the 51st but do not meet with any success.2 Andrew is not getting any better I fear. I think that he will hardly get well again Walt. The doctor[s] all say that he must go out from the seashore if he wants to get well. I am sure that it would be a good thing for him if he could do so for a while. Do you think of any way that it could be done. As for myself I am over head and heels in debt (borrowed money) which I am striving hard to pay up and hardly know how I can do anything worthy of being called help for him. He is badly off. He can hardly speak, nor eat anything, but worse than all I guess that his home comforts are not much. I dont think Nancy has the faculty of fixing things to eat for a sick man. Andrew still goes to the Navy Yard and thereby gets his pay, but I hardly thinks he does anything. Sometime he is much better than others but as a general thing he is mighty badly off. I wish you would think about the matter Walt, and let us hear what your idea is  Andrew wants to go but dont know where to go or how to leave his family. Mother I see is very much excited about him. Mother is getting along about as usual not quite as well perhaps, the warm,—hot,—wethre has a bad effect upon Mother. I dont think she looks as well as she did a month ago  Mattie is getting along first rate. The baby, as a matter of course, is cross,—cross as thunder—but Mat is patient and hard working and so gets along quite well. Hattie is also showing the effects of a so long continued [term?] of hot days and is cross and fretful. She often wishes that you would come and take her on fort Greene.3 She seems to think that that is your mission. The baby is growing finely and is getting to look almost like Hattie did at her age. Her hair is getting lighter and i guess will be about the color of mine

The enclosed $2 is sent $1 by John D. Martin4 and $1 by Henry Carlow.5 I wish you would write me a Hospital letter. I think I can get some money on it. Any way Walt so long as the Spondulix6 comes. A "Mr Fulton, of the New York Times"7 came some time since and got your address and again a few days since and wanted me when I wrote you to ask if you had received a letter from him. He said that he had written you but had not received a reply and [was] afraid you had not received it

Do you have any idea where the 9 Corps is. I guess down in Miss. yet  I think not hearing from George hurts Mother about as much as any thing. I too feel pretty anxious

Ruggles8 thinks that you could make a good thing by writing letters to the Times, better than the lectures.9 Write me, Walt.



1. The year is added in another hand, probably Walt Whitman's. [back]

2. As part of the Ninth Corps, George's regiment had fought in Mississippi under Wililam T. Sherman during July and was now returning to Cincinnati where it arrived August 14, 1863 (Jerome M. Loving, ed., Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman [Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975], 97, 100–101). [back]

3. See Jeff's letter to Walt from 21 March 1863[back]

4. John D. Martin was an engineer. [back]

5. Henry Carlow, an engineer, is listed in the Brooklyn directory for 1859/60, but not in the subsequent years. [back]

6. This slang term, more often spelled "spondulicks," means money or cash. [back]

7. Unidentified. [back]

8. The Brooklyn physician Edward Ruggles (1817?–67) befriended the Whitman family and became especially close to Jeff and Mattie. Late in life, Ruggles lost interest in his practice and devoted himself to painting cabinet pictures called "Ruggles Gems" (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961], 1:90, n. 85). [back]

9. After having contemplated giving lectures for several weeks (see Jeff's letters to Walt from 13 June 1863 and 19 July 1863), Walt Whitman took Ruggles' advice and wrote "Washington in the Hot Season" and "Letter from Washington" for the New York Times (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961], 1:136, n. 14, and 140, n. 27). [back]


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