Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: George Washington Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 16 May 1864

Date: May 16, 1864

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00354

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library . The transcription presented here is derived from George Washington Whitman, Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman, ed. Jerome M. Loving (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975), 118–119. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, Luke Hollis, Kathryn Kruger, Gillian Price, and April Lambert

Near Spotselvania Court
House, Va
May 16th 1864

Dear Mother

I have just heard that there will be a chance to send letters home this morning, and I improve the oppernitunity to let you know that I am all right so far. We had a pretty hard battle on the 6th. I dont know what the battle is called but it was about 5 miles from Germania Ford on the Rapidan River.1 our Regt. suffered severely loseing 70 in killed and wounded.2 I lost nearly half of my Co but we won the fight and the rebel loss was pretty heavy. We came here on the 8th and there has been fighting going on every day since we came here.3 We have had the best of the fighting so far and its my opinion that Genl Grant has got Lee in a pretty tight spot. We had a severe fight here on the 12th and the loss was heavy on both sides  our Regt lost 20 in killed and wounded  our forces took about 8000 prisoner[s?] and 40 peices of Artillery.

We are now lying in Rifle pitts and things are very quiet this morning. We have plenty to eat and get along very well.

The Army is in first rate spirits and everyone seems confident and hopefull. I have not time to say much at present Mother but when I do get time I will write you a good long letter. You must not feel at all worried about me but take things Cool and comfortable as I do and above all dont worry.

Much love to all. Good Bye.



1. The Battle of the Wilderness (May 5–6, 1864). The Wilderness was a wooded area near Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Union losses approached 18,000, of whom 2,000 were killed; the Confederate loss probably exceeded 10,000. The Ninth Army alone lost 985 men, listed as killed, wounded, or missing. [back]

2. Walt Whitman recorded in his diary for May 9, 1865, "Capt. Pooley asked me if I had seen the canteen struck while on George's side, in one of the Wilderness battles, & half of it wrenched off" (Manuscripts of Walt Whitman in the Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University). [back]

3. Rather than retreat after heavy losses in the Wilderness campaign, Grant pushed on to New Spotsylvania Court House in pursuit of General Lee. [back]


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