Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 18 August 1863

Date: August 18, 1863

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:135-137. 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.00783

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Tim Jackson, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Alyssa Olson

August 18 1863

Dear Mother,

I was mighty glad to get George's letter, I can tell you—you have not heard since, I suppose—they must be now back again in Kentucky, or that way, as I see a letter from Cairo, (up the Mississippi river,) that boats had stopt there with the 9th Corps on, from Vicksburgh, going up toward Cincinnati—I think the letter was dated Aug 10. I have no doubt they are back again up that way somewhere.1 I wrote to George, four or five days ago, I directed it Ohio, Mississippi or elsewhere—

Mother, I was very glad indeed to get your letter—I am so sorry Andrew does not get any better, it is very distressing—about losing the voice, he must not be so much alarmed, as that continues sometimes years, & the health otherwise good2—Mother, you must have had a very unhappy day Heyde's first letter came, writing all such stuff as I guess no man living but he can tack together—I know how you must have felt, with your other annoyances, & every thing, mother. I do hope you will try not to let things cast you down, for they pass over somehow, & it hurts one so in old age to be taken down even for a day—Heyde is bound to make as much unhappiness as he can—(he is worse than bed bugs.)

Mother, I wrote to Han about five days ago, told her we had heard from George, & all the news—I must write to Mary too, without fail—I should like to hear from them all, & from Fanny—There has been a young man here in hospital, from Farmingdale, he was wounded, his name is Hendrickson, he has gone home on a furlough, he knows the Van Nostrands very well, I told him to go & see Aunt Fanny.3 I was glad you gave Emma Price my direction here, I should like to hear from Mrs Price4 & her girls first rate, I think a great deal about them, &, mother, I wish you to tell any of them so, they always used me first rate, & always stuck up for me—if I knew their street & number I should write—

It has been awful hot here, now for twenty one days—ain't that a spell of weather?—the first two weeks I got along better than I would have thought, but the last week I have felt it more, have felt it in my head a little—I no more stir without my umbrella, in the day time, than I would without my boots. I am afraid of the sun affecting my head, & move pretty cautious—Mother, I think every day, I wonder if this hot weather is affecting mother much, I suppose it must a good deal, but I hope it cannot last much longer—mother, I had a letter in the N Y Times of last Sunday5—did you see it?

I wonder if George can't get a furlough & come home for a while, that furlough he had was only a flea bite—if he could it would be no more than right, for no man in the country has done his duty more faithful, & without complaining of any thing or asking for any thing, than George—I suppose they will fill up the 51st with conscripts, as that seems the order of the day—a good many are arriving here, from the north, & passing through to join Meade's army—we are expecting to hear of more rows in New York, about the draft—it commences there right away I see—this time it will be no such doings as a month or five weeks ago, the gov't here is forwarding a large force of regulars to New York to be ready for any thing that may happen—there will be no blank cartridges this time—Well, I thought when I first heard of the riot in N Y6 I had some feeling for them, but soon as I found what it really was, I felt it was the devil's own work all through—I guess the strong arm will be exhibited this time, up to the shoulder.

Mother, I want to see you & all very much—As I wish to be here at the opening of Congress, & during the winter, I have an idea I will try to come home for a month, but I don't know when—I want to see the young ones & Mat & Jeff & every body—Well, mother, I should like to know all the domestic affairs home, don't you have the usual things, eating &c. Why, Mother, I should think you would eat nearly all your meals with Mat—I know you must when they have any thing good, (& I know Mat will have good things if she has got a cent left)—Mother, don't you miss Walt—loafing around, & carting himself off to New York, toward the latter part of every afternoon?—how do you & the Browns get along?—that hell-hole over the way, what a nuisance it must be nights—here it is very quiet nights, & I generally have a very good sleep—mother, I suppose you sleep in the back room yet—I suppose the new houses next door are occupied—how I should like to take a walk on old Fort Greene, tell Mannahatta her uncle Walt will be home yet, from the sick soldiers, & have a good walk all around, if she behaves good to her grandmother & don't cut up—Mother, I am scribbling this hastily in Major Hapgood's office, it is not so hot today, quite endurable. I send you my love, dear mother, & to all, & wish Jeff & you to write as often as you can—



1. George wrote to his mother from Covington, Kentucky, on August 16, 1863[back]

2. The rest of this paragraph was omitted in earlier printings of the letter prior to Edwin Haviland Miller's edition. Note also the excisions in Whitman's letters from May 19, 1863, and August 25, 1863[back]

3. See the letter from September 29, 1863[back]

4. See "Letter from Walt Whitman to Sarah Tyndale, 20 June 1857" (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:42–44). [back]

5. "Washington in the Hot Season," New York Times, August 16, 1863; later included in Specimen Days (Richard Maurice Bucke, ed.,The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman, [New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1902], 4:70–74). Whitman wrote the draft letter to Sawyer (August 1863) on the verso of this manuscript. [back]

6. See the letter from July 15, 1863[back]


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