Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to George Washington Whitman, 12 July 1861

Date: July 12, 1861

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00378

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. . The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:56-57. 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, Eric Conrad, and Alyssa Olson

[Friday]1 July 12th, 1861.

Dear Brother,

Your letter come to-day. Every thing with us is pretty much the same. Mother is pretty much the same. Some days she [is] better, and some not so well. She has taken a good many sulphur vapor baths. She takes one every other day. She goes down in the cars to the baths, in Willoughby street near the City Hall.2 Sometimes Mat goes with her, [and once in] a while she goes [alo]ne. They are rather agreeable to take—they make one sweat extremely. Mother goes about the same, around the house. She has better use of her arms and wrists than she did there one time—but an hour or two, now and then, generally in the morning, she has bad pains. Her appetite is pretty good. The weather here lately has been awful—three days the heat was as bad as I ever knew it—so I think that had something to do with mother's feeling weak. To-day it is much cooler.

Jeff and Martha and Cis3 and Eddy are all well. Jess is the same as usual—he works every day in the yard. He does not seem to mind the heat. He is employed in the store-house, where they are continually busy preparing stores, provisions, to send off in the different vessels. He assists in that.

We are all very glad the 13th is coming home—mother especially. There have been so many accounts of shameful negligence, or worse, in the commissariat of your reg't. that there must be something in it—notwithstanding you speak very lightly of the complaints in your letters. The Eagle, of course, makes the worst of it, every day, to stop men from enlisting.4

All of us here think the rebellion as good as broke—no matter if the war does continue for months yet.



1. Part of the upper left-hand corner of this letter is missing, and the ink at places is badly blurred. It is one of the few letters extant from Walt Whitman to his brother while the latter was in the army, although, as the "Check List of Lost Letters" indicates, Walt Whitman wrote frequently. For the list of these letters, see "Appendix B" in Miller, Correspondence, 1: 364–370. [back]

2. Henry R. Piercy's sulphur baths; see also Whitman's letter from May 5, 1863[back]

3. Walt Whitman probably intended to write "Sis," his usual nickname for Jeff's daughter Mannahatta. [back]

4. George had enlisted for three months in the Thirteenth Regiment on April 19, 1861, six days after the firing on Fort Sumter. In the letter from June 28, 1861, to which Walt Whitman referred, George, writing to his mother from Camp Brooklyn, near Washington, had said: "Well Mother the three Months is going fast and I shall soon be with you again. I see some very foolish articles in the papers about us sutch as not haveing any thing to eat for 36 hours and being almost naked but you must not believe any thing of the kind as we are as well off as we could expect." [back]


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