Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Thomas Jefferson Whitman, 30 January 1865

Date: January 30, 1865

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:249-251. 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.00838

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

January 30 1865.

My dear brother,

Your letter has only just reached me though I see the Brooklyn post office stamp is January 27th—I was gratified with Babcock's and Smith's letters, though I am very sorry they neither of them mentioned the date of Lt Caldwell's letter from Danville.1 If it should be much later than George's, which was November 27th, it would be a relief to know it—but I presume it was one of the same batch. Jeff, I have this morning written to Capt Mason,2 telling him where George is, & asking him, as that would be ten times more likely to get through, if he will have (or direct some proper person) to put up a box of things to eat, & given him George's address to send it through the lines, & said that I or you would pay the bill of course, & be most deeply obliged to him & that I would have enclosed the money in the letter I sent him, but thought it safer to wait & see whether it reached him.3 I have written to George since I have been here in Washington. Also a few lines to Han. We have had very cold mean weather here ever since I arrived till to-day—it is now moderated & very pleasant overhead.

I am quite comfortable, have a comfortable room enough, with a wood stove, & a pile of wood in the room, a first rate & good big bed, & a very friendly old secesh landlady whose husband & son are off in the Southern army—she is different from any I have found yet here, is very obliging, starts my fire for me at 5 o'clock every afternoon, & lights the gas, even, & then turns it down to be ready for me when I come home. I get my meals where I can—they are poor & expensive—You speak of the Indian office—it is a Bureau in the Department of the interior, which has charge of quite a large mass of business relating to the numerous Indian tribes in West & Northwest, large numbers of whom are under annuities, supplies, &c for the government. All I have hitherto employed myself about has been making copies of reports & Bids, &c for the office to send up to the Congressional Committee on Indian Affairs. It is easy enough—I take things very easy—the rule is to come at 9 and go at 4—but I don't come at 9, and only stay till 4 when I want, as at present to finish a letter for the mail—I am treated with great courtesy, as an evidence of which I have to inform you that since I began this letter, I have been sent for by the cashier to receive my PAY for the arduous & invaluable services I have already rendered to the government—I feel quite well, perhaps not as completely so as I used to was, but I think I shall get so this spring—as I did indeed feel yesterday better than I have since I was taken sick last summer.

I spent yesterday afternoon in Armory Square Hospital,4 & had a real good time, & the boys had too. Jeff, you need not be afraid about my overdoing the matter. I shall go regularly enough, but shall be on my guard against trouble. I am also going to some of the camps about here, there is a great chance among them to do good, & they are interesting places every way, for one who goes among the men. I have thought every day of Mother—dear Mother, I hope she gets along well this bitter weather—(about the hoop iron, I think it was the right thing to do5—the least they can do is to take it off)—My dear brother, you must by all means come & see me—Martha, my dear sister, I send you & the dear little torments my best, best love—Jeff, give my respects to Mr. Lane & Dr Ruggles6



1. Babcock, a lieutenant in George's regiment, wrote to Whitman on January 21, 1865, and informed him that the prisoners were "pretty hard up for grub" and wanted things like "Salt Pork and hard tack" sent to them. Aaron Smith, probably of the Fifty-first Regiment, had written to Whitman on May 14 and July 13, 1864, while he was a patient at Carver Hospital, Washington. On January 21, 1865, from Petersburg, he asked Whitman to send supplies to the Danville Military Prison. Lieutenant William Caldwell had been captured at the same time as George. He was a captain when Whitman mentioned him again in a letter from May 25, 1865. According to jottings in a notebook, dated May 23–24 (Clifton Waller Barrett Collection, University of Virginia), Caldwell was born in Scotland and was 27; he had been "in the same fights as George." [back]

2. See Whitman's letter from February 1, 1865[back]

3. Jeff wrote to Walt Whitman on January 31, 1865, "I have almost come to the conclusion that it is hardly possible that the things that we send to George can reach him (yet I propose to keep sending, hoping that a proportion may do so)." [back]

4. This visit is described in Specimen Days (Richard Maurice Bucke, ed., The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman [New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1902], 4:101–102). [back]

5. Jeff informed Walt Whitman on January 26, 1864 that he had used "hoop iron" to strap the box he sent to George. [back]

6. See the letters from January 16, 1863 and April 15, 1863, respectively. [back]


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