Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 11 September 1864

Date: September 11, 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), 1:241-242. 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.00193

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




Brooklyn
September 11 18641

Dear friend

I have nothing of consequence to write, but I thought I would send you a few lines anyhow. I have just written Nelly a letter, & send to Little Compton—We are full of politics here, the dispute runs high & hot everywhere—I think the Republicans are going to make a stout fight after all, as there is confusion in the opposition camp—the result of course I do not pretend to foretell—

My health is quite re-established, yet not exactly the same unconscious state of health as formerly—The book is still unprinted—Our family are all well as usual—I go two or three times a week among the soldiers in hospital here—

I go out quite regularly, sometimes out on the bay, or to Coney Island—& occasionally a tour through New York life, as of old—last night I was with some of my friends of Fred Gray association,2 till late wandering the east side of the City—first in the lager bier saloons & then elsewhere—one crowded, low, most degraded place we went, a poor blear-eyed girl bringing beer. I saw her with a McClellan medal on her breast—I called her & asked her if the other girls there were for McClellan3 too—she said yes every one of them, & that they wouldn't tolerate a girl in the place who was not, & the fellows were too—(there must have been twenty girls, sad sad ruins)—it was one of those places where the air is full of the scent of low thievery, druggies, foul play, & prostitution gangrened—

I don't know what move I shall make, but something soon, as it is not satisfactory any more in New York & Brooklyn—I should think nine tenths, of all classes, are copperheads here, I never heard before such things as I hear now whenever I go out—then it seems tame & indeed unreal here, life as carried on & as I come in contact with it & receive its influences—

How is Ashton? & is he there again?4 I got a letter from Charley Eldridge yesterday—I suppose he is now in Boston—My dear friend, I often often think of you, & count on our being together again, may be quite soon—meantime good bye & God bless you & I send you my best best love—


Walt

We are having a sloppy rainy dark Sunday here to-day—Lewis Brown (that was in ward K Armory Square) is a clerk in the Provost Marshall's office, cor 18th & I sts5—I got a letter from him the other day—perhaps you may see him some time—I am going off for a couple of weeks soon, to Burlington, Vt.6—O how the rain is pouring down as I write—at the other window sits my mother reading the Sunday Herald—quiet & pleasant & soothing—only us two home to-day—not a word spoken in a long time—


Notes:

1. The letter is endorsed, "Answ'd."  The envelope for this letter bears the address: William D O'Connor | Light house Board Treasury | Department | Washington | D C. It is postmarked: Brooklyn N. Y. | Sep | 11 | 1864. [back]

2. See Whitman's letter from March 19–20, 1863 . Since Gray had written on May 7, 1864, to Whitman that "we are suddenly ordered away to the South-west. I will write when we get settled", he was probably not present. [back]

3. General George Brinton McClellan (1826–1885) was General-in-Chief of the Army of the United States from November 1861, until July 1862, when he was replaced by General Henry W. Halleck. In 1864, when McClellan ran for the presidency, the Democratic party split between war Democrats and peace Democrats. To satisfy the war Democrats McClellan was nominated; to satisfy the peace Democrats C. L. Vallandigham and his followers were allowed to draft the platform. Thomas Jefferson Whitman evidently considered the entire Democratic party as "the peace party" as evidenced from the letter to his brother Walt dated July 7, 1863[back]

4. On August 13, 1864, O'Connor had reported that Ashton was "at Schooley's Mountain, New York, vacationizing." [back]

5. Brown informed Whitman of his appointment on September 5, 1864. Lewis Kirke Brown (1843–1926) was wounded in the left leg near Rappahannock Station on August 19, 1862, and lay where he fell for four days. Eventually he was transferred to Armory Square Hospital, where Whitman met him, probably in February 1863. In a diary in the Library of Congress, Whitman described Brown on February 19, 1863, as "a most affectionate fellow, very fond of having me come and sit by him." Because the wound did not heal, the leg was amputated on January 5, 1864. Whitman was present and described the operation in a diary (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #103). Brown was mustered out in August 1864, and was employed in the Provost General's office in September; see Whitman's letter from September 11, 1864 . The following September he became a clerk in the Treasury Department, and was appointed Chief of the Paymaster's Division in 1880, a post which he held until his retirement in 1915. (This material draws upon a memorandum which was prepared by Brown's family and is now held in the Library of Congress.) [back]

6. There is no indication in Hannah's letter to Whitman on October 17, 1864, of a visit to her in September. [back]


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