Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John Townsend Trowbridge, 6 February 1865

Date: February 6, 1865

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00307

Source: Library of Congress. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:254-255. 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, Kathryn Kruger, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Alyssa Olson

Monday February 6, 1865.

My dear Friend:

As you see by the date of this, I am back again in Washington, moving around regularly, but not to excess, among the hospitals. . . . My health is pretty good, but since I was prostrated last July, I have not had that unconscious and perfect health I formerly had. The physician says my system has been penetrated by the malaria—it is tenacious, peculiar and somewhat baffling—but tells it will go over in due time. It is my first appearance in the character of a man not entirely well.

The talk here is about the late Peace Conference1—the general statement accepted is that it has been a failure and a bubble—even the war is to go on worse than ever—but I find a few shrewd persons whose theory is that it is not at all sure of its being a failure—they say that the President and Mr. Seward are willing to avoid at present the tempest of rage which would beat about their heads, if it were known among the Radicals that Peace, Amnesty, every thing, were given up to the Rebels on the single price of re-assuming their place in the Union—so the said shrewd ones say the thing is an open question yet. For my part I see no light or knowledge in any direction on the matter of the conference, or what it amounted to, or where it left off. I say nothing, and have no decided opinion about it—not even a guess (but rather leaning to the generally accepted statement above).

My dear friend, I haven't your last letter at hand to see whether there is anything that needs special answer—I hope to hear from you often. For the present Farewell.

Walt Whitman

Direct to me simply Washington, D. C., as I call for my letters daily at the post office. Should you have an opportunity to see Dr. Le Baron Russell,2 3 Mt. Vernon St., tell him I wished you to thank him for many favors and contributions to the men in times past, and that I am now back in Washington. If perfectly eligible, it might help me in the cause of the men, if you were to prepare a paragraph for Mr. Shillaber's paper,3 if he were willing to publish it, stating that I am now as a volunteer nurse among the Hospitals at Washington & in the field as formerly. Write soon as convenient.

W. W.


1. On February 3, 1865, Lincoln and his Secretary of State Wiliam H. Seward met with Vice-President of the Confederacy Alexander H. Stephens on the Union transport River Queen lying in Hampton Roads. All through 1864 Lincoln had insisted that he would consider any peace plan that included restoration of the Union and the emancipation of all slaves; he now also demanded a complete end to the war, refusing to consider a temporary cessation of hostilities. Lincoln's last requirement frustrated the Southerners' desire for an armistice, which would, they hoped, allow for a cooling of passions before the beginning of negotiations. The meeting ended with no agreement reached. [back]

2. See Whitman's letter from December 3, 1863 . [back]

3. Shillaber was the proprietor of the Boston Saturday Evening Gazette; see Whitman's letter from December 27, 1863 . According to Miller, the paragraph Whitman refers to has not been identified, although it evidently appeared; see Whitman's letter from March 3, 1865[back]


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