Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 7 June 1864

Date: June 7, 1864

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:230–232. 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.00833

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, Luke Hollis, and Alyssa Olson




Washington
June 7 1864

Dearest mother,

I cannot write you any thing about the 51st, as I have not heard a word—I felt much disturbed yesterday afternoon, as Major Hapgood came up from the Paymaster General's office, & said that news had arrived that Burnside was killed, & that the 9th Corps had had a terrible slaughter—he said it was believed at the Paymaster general's office—Well I went out to see what reliance there was on it—the rumor soon spread over town, & was believed by many—but as near as I can make it out, it proves to be one of those unaccountable stories that get started these times—Saturday night we heard that Grant was routed completely &c &c—so that's the way the stories fly—I suppose you have the same big lies there in Brooklyn—Well the truth is sad enough, without adding any thing to it—but Grant is not destroyed yet, but I think is going into Richmond yet, but the cost is terrible—

Mother, I have not felt well at all the last week—I had spells of deathly faintness, and bad trouble in my head too, & sore throat, (quite a little budget, ain't they?)—My head was the worst, though I don't know, the faint weak spells were not very pleasant—but I feel so much better this forenoon I believe it has passed over—There is a very horrible collection in Armory Building, (in Armory Square hosp.) about 200 of the worst cases you ever see, & I had been probably too much with them—it is enough to melt the heart of a stone—over one third of them are amputation cases—

Well, mother, poor Oscar Cunningham is gone at last—he is the 82d Ohio boy, (wounded May 3d '63)—I have written so much of him I suppose you feel as if you almost knew him—I was with him Saturday forenoon & also evening—he was more composed than usual, could not articulate very well—he died about 2 o'clock Sunday morning—very easy they told me, I was not there—It was a blessed relief, his life has been misery for months—the cause of death at last was the system absorbing the pus, the bad matter, instead of discharging it from wound—I believe I told you in last letter I was quite blue from the deaths of several of the poor young men I knew well, especially two I had strong hopes of their getting up—things are going pretty badly with the wounded—They are crowded here in Washington in immense numbers, & all those that come up from the Wilderness, & that region, arrived here so neglected, & in such plight, it was awful—(those that were at Fredericksburgh & also from Belle Plaine)—The papers are full of puffs, &c. but the truth is, the largest proportion of worst cases got little or no attention—we receive them here with their wounds full of worms—some all swelled & inflamed, many of the amputations have to be done over again—one new feature is that many of the poor afflicted young men are crazy, every ward has some in it that are wandering—they have suffered too much, & it is perhaps a privilege that they are out of their senses—Mother, it is most too much for a fellow, & I sometimes wish I was out of it—but I suppose it is because I have not felt first rate myself—

I am going to write to George to-day, as I see there is a daily mail to White House—O I must tell you that we get the wounded from our present field near Richmond much better than we did from the Wilderness & Fredericksburgh—We get them now from White House, they are put on boats there, & come all the way here, about 160 or 70 miles—White House is only twelve or fifteen miles from the field, & is our present depot & base of supplies—It is very pleasant here to-day, a little cooler than it has been—a good rain shower last evening—the western reg'ts continue to pour in here, the 100 days men, may go down to front, to guard posts, trains, &c—

Well, Mother, how do things go on with you all—it seems to me if I could only be home two or three days, & have some good teas with you & Mat, & set in the old basement a while, & have a good time & talk with Jeff, & see the little girls, &c—I should be willing to keep on afterward among these sad scenes for the rest of the summer—but I shall remain here until this Richmond campaign is settled, any how, unless I get sick, & I don't anticipate that—Mother dear, I hope you are well & in fair spirits—you must try to—have you heard from sister Han?


Walt

You know I am living at 502 Pennsylvania av. (near 3d st)—it is not a very good place, I don't like it so well as I did cooking my own grub—& the air is not good—Jeff, you must write—


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