Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 5 September 1863

Date: September 5, 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), 69-71. 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.00420

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




Brooklyn
Sept 5 18631

Dear Walt,

Mother gave me the enclosed letter to send you some days since but I forgot to mail it till now. We received your letter2 last night. The money from George came all safe  I sent you another letter from George about last Monday, also sent George a letter with the money in it. Andrew has been away in the country but returned yesterday, very much worse.3 He came in to see me this morning and it has made me feel quite down-spirited.  He can neither eat nor drink without the greatest agony. He looks very thin and emaciated. I think that if I had the same sickness that I could get the best of it,4 but Andrew seems to put his whole faith in thinking that some Dr can give him something that will set him all straight. I am going to see the Dr with him this P.M. and I also want him to consult Ruggles5 if he will. I fear the worst for Andrew. I wish you was on here. I think that your advice would be a great thing for him. Cant you come. You speak of coming home. I wish you could come just now. Mother is of course much worried about him. Nancy dont seem to amount to much when trouble comes. You would hardly know Andrew. He is thin weak and generally sickly looking  We have heard nothing from Han lately that I know of  Mother and Heyde keep writing letters to one another but what about I know not. At last the great draft has come and gone and I was not one of the elected. I feel thankful  In our ward the screws were put rather tight. out of a little over 3000 names they drew 1056 nearly one in three, while in other wards the proportion was 1 in 6 and 1 in 7 and in the 9th ward 1 in 10. Tom Geere,6 Tom McEvoy,7 Pat Hughes8 two or three in Amermans9 house, were all hit. It seems to have avoided the Water Works, only one or two out of the whole 40 or 50 employed were hit while in Husted & Carls store10 7 out of 10 were taken. If this is the last of it I feel thankful but I believe Uncle Abe left off some on account of Seymour,11 if so I suppose there will be another spurt. However we wont worry till the time comes  The enclosed $5 is from Mr Moses Lane.12

We have what remains of [three?] old Reg. on the hills by our house. They are fine looking and well behaved men, and look as if they would do their duty any where. If you was home you could have grand times talking with them  One Reg. is from Min. one from Mich. and one from Ohio. What do you think about coming to Brooklyn  I think you better, for awhile any way. I wish you would write to Andrew. He seems to feel wonderfully cast down  Aint the Administrat[ion] got wit enough to see that now is the hour to end the war by whipping the rebels. Dont they know enough to know that unless it is ended in 6 months they will have a hard time to get men to fill the places of what they have now. I fear not.


Jeff


Notes:

1. Dating Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, September 5, 1863, and Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, September 5, 1863, is a problem. In the first of these Jeff incorrectly says that Setember 5 is a Wednesday; actually the fifth was a Saturday. One might assume, then, that both letters were written on Wednesday, September 2, if it were not for Walt Whitman's comment that he received letters from Jeff dated the third (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:143). Perhaps both letters were written on Thursday, September 3, 1863. [back]

2. Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, September 1, 1863 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, 1:139–41). [back]

3. In her letter to Walt Whitman of August 31 (?) Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote: "Andrew has gone to place called freehold...he went last monday as far as suffron station" (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). Andrew's drinking with Jim Cornwell on this trip apparently worsened his health. [back]

4. Jeff was not merely making an off-hand statement praising his own will and constitution. To judge from scattered references in Hannah's undated letters, Jeff was very sick for a short time in the mid-1850s (Heyde, Hannah [Whitman] Collection, Library of Congress). While it is impossible to determine the exact nature of Jeff's illness, he seems to have suffered from severe depression, loss of appetite, and eventually emaciation. Since this was a period of vocational crisis for Jeff, the symptoms suggest that his illness was psychosomatic. [back]

5. The Brooklyn physician Edward Ruggles (1817?–1867) 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" (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, 1:90, n. 85). [back]

6. Tom Geer, a reporter, lived on Myrtle Avenue. [back]

7. Two Thomas McEvoys are listed in the Brooklyn directory: a driver who lived on Navy Street, and a worker in morocco leather who lived on Front Street. [back]

8. Seven people named Patrick Hughes are listed in the 1862/63 Brooklyn directory. [back]

9. Nicholas Amerman was a grocer on Myrtle Avenue. In her letter of May 3 (?), 1860, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman noted that she was "in debt to ammerman about 10 dollars" (Trent). [back]

10. Husted & Carll was a carpet store at 295 Fulton Street. [back]

11. Governor Horatio Seymour of New York. [back]

12. Moses Lane (1823–1882) served as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works from 1862 to 1869. He later designed and constructed the Milwaukee Water Works and served there as city engineer. [back]


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