Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 24 July 1864

Date: July 24, 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), 1:238-239. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00191

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

Sunday afternoon July 24 18641

My dear friend

Since I last wrote to you my illness has been gradually alleviated, until now I go about pretty much the same as usual—I keep pretty old-fashioned hours, rise early, dine at 1, & go to bed before 10—My head feels clear & comfortable, & my strength has returned almost, but not quite up to what it was. I rec'd Nelly's letter, I could not get over to New York that afternoon—Nelly, my dear friend, you must excuse me—I wished much to see you, too2—I hope you are having a good time & feeling well physically & in good spirits—& the little one, little Jenny, this line is for you, my dear. I hope you too are well—William, I rec'd the volume of Navy Reports, transactions of iron clads, fights, &c. for '62 & '33—it will probably give me material for some pieces, thumb-nail sketches, for my "Drum Taps"—I take it you had that in view in sending it to me—

I am trying to make arrangements to publish my volume—I shall probably try to bring [it] out myself, stereotype it, & print an edition of 500—I could sell that number by my own exertions in Brooklyn & New York in three weeks.

I rec'd Charles Eldridge's last letter—so he is to go down to front again —how I wish I was in Washington to go with him & Major—I should try it as I am, & be glad of the chance—O I almost forgot the big raid—it is already a thing of the past, I find by my own thoughts & memory, but I suppose it would not do to write a letter to Washington so soon & not mention it—

We have heard from my brother George up to the 18th inst.4—he was living & well up to that time—At home here all well as usual—Mother's age I think begins to just show—in a few weeks, she will commence her 70th year—still she does most of her light housework—My sister & her children are well—(Nelly, I write these particulars for you)—

Well, William, about the war I have to inform you that I remain hopeful & confident yet5—I still think Grant will go into Richmond—My brother describes the spirit of the troops as confident & sanguine under all their trials—I wish you to enclose this in your next letter to Nelly—I wish you to give my remembrance & love to the Howells,6 to Miss Howard7 & to Arnold Johnson8—Write soon & tell me all the news—tell me how is Ashton—Good bye & God bless you, my dear friend—



1. The letter is endorsed, "Answ'd."  The envelope for this letter bears the address: William D O'Connor | Treasury Dep't Light house bureau | Washington | D C. It is postmarked: Brooklyn N. Y. | Jul | 25 | 1864. [back]

2. On July 18, 1864, Ellen O'Connor had informed Whitman that she would be in New York on July 20, 1864, and that she wanted to see him. [back]

3. Whitman refers here to the Report of the Secretary of the Navy in Relation to Armored Vessels (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1864). Of this volume O'Connor wrote on August 13, 1864: "I thought it might yield hints for poems. At all events, it gives one a good idea of what the Monitors are and can do. They are . . . an upheld finger of warning to all despotocracy." [back]

4. George's letter is not known; probably it was sent to Hannah. [back]

5. On August 13, 1864, O'Connor, who never emulated Whitman's calm faith in the outcome of the war, wrote: "Alas, Walt! There is no hope of Richmond. The campaign has proved a failure. . . . It is sad to think of the eighty thousand men, veterans, lost so fruitlessly." [back]

6. See Whitman's letter from November 15, 1863[back]

7. See note 7 to the letter from January 6, 1865[back]

8. Arnold Johnson was a friend of the O'Connors and private secretary to Senator Summer; see Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1931), 10. He was listed in the 1866 Directory as a clerk in the Treasury Department. [back]


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