Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 12 May 1863

Date: May 12, 1863

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00413

Source: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Thomas Jefferson Whitman, Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), 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, Kathryn Kruger, and April Lambert

Brooklyn, N. Y.
May 12th 1863

Dear Bro. Walt,

Mr. Lane recd. your letter this morning1 and would have probably answered it to-day but has had to go out in the country (to Jamaica) to make some arrangements for a visit that the Common Council and Water Board intend to make over the works. In his behalf I return thanks for your kindness as regards Horace.2 Mr Lane however has heard from him  He was in the thickest of the fight but was not harmed although he had some pretty narrow escapes  He says that some of the rebs took pretty good aim at him

Dear Walt, your letter has given me a great deal of pleasure, so it has Mr Lane in regard to Hooker and his movements.3 I am so glad to understand that he is going in again. Tis sure that he could not have been badly whipped or he could not have done that, And Lee as you say must have been badly hurt or he would never let Hooker come across the river without molestation  I wish you could send me letters oftener. I like to get your ideas of matters and also hear what the people down in Wash'tn think. Twas rather blue here for a few days, almost every one thought it was another bad defeat.

We are all thriving as usual. Mother is about the same as ever, somewhat lame with the rheumatism but not much  the rest are all well. Andrew had a letter yesterday from Jim Cornwell,4 enclosing him $50 and telling him to come immediately to Suffolk,5 at the bottom was a transportation order from Frank Spinola.6 Cornwell said if he did not come to give the money to his (Cornwells) wife, but to come sure if possible. I think Andrew very foolish not to go, as Ruggles7 says he certainly will never get well of his throat here. Andrew was to come for me and we were going to see the Dr. to-day abt his going but he did not come and mother thinks that he has concluded not to go. I think it would be much better for him to go  I think it would be better for his health, dont you? They must intend to give him a pretty good show or they would not send "surely come" for him. We do not here from either Han or George do you? Hattie is the same as ever ever wanting to be out doors and wonders if Uncle Walt will never come and take her out on "Ft. Greene."8 She seems to remember you first rate and George too. What abt the pictures, shall I send them? The letter does not come out in the Eagle and probably will not but to make again sure I will call to-morrow and look over their file for some weeks back to see if I have possibly overlooked it. All send their love

Affectionately Jeff


1. Jeff refers to Walt's letter to Moses Lane from May 11, 1863. Lane (1823–1882) served as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works from 1862 to 1869. He later designed and constructed the Milwaukee Water Works and served there as city engineer. Like Jeff Whitman, he collected money from his employees and friends for Walt's hospital work. Lane sent Whitman $15.20 in his letter of January 26, 1863, and later various sums which Whitman acknowledged in letters from February 6, 1863, May 26, 1863, and September 9, 1863. In his letter of May 27, 1863, Lane pledged $5 each month. In an unpublished manuscript in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library, Whitman wrote, obviously for publication: "I have distributed quite a large sum of money, contributed for that purpose by noble persons in Brooklyn, New York, (chiefly through Moses Lane, Chief Engineer, Water Works there.)" Lane assisted Whitman in other ways as well (see Whitman's letters from December 29, 1862, and February 13, 1863). He was so solicitous of Whitman's personal welfare that on April 3, 1863, he sent through Jeff $5 "for your own especial benefit." [back]

2. Some casualties from the Twentieth Connecticut Volunteers were in Washington hospitals, and Walt had promised "to make immediate inquiry" to determine whether Horace Tarr, the nephew of Moses Lane, was among them (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:99). [back]

3. Walt had advised: "You there north must not be so disheartened about Hooker's return to this side of the Rappahannock and supposed failure. The blow struck at Lee & the rebel sway in Virginia, & generally at Richmond & Jeff Davis, …is in my judgment the heaviest and most staggering they have yet got from us, & has not only hit them nearer where they live than all Maclellan ever did, but all that has been levelled at Richmond during the war" (see Whitman's letter to Moses Lane from May 11, 1863). [back]

4. James H. Cornwell was a first lieutenant in the 158th New York Regiment of Infantry. He was the quartermaster in charge of building fortifications at New Bern, North Carolina (Jerome M. Loving, ed., Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman [Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1975], 96, n. 5). [back]

5. As Loving notes, "it remains somewhat of a mystery as to why Andrew was beckoned only as far as Suffolk." Perhaps Andrew was to travel to Suffolk by boat, at which point Cornwell could have met him and conducted him to New Bern, North Carolina, by land. Andrew never made the trip (166). [back]

6. See Jeff's letter to Walt from April 16, 1860. Frank Spinola, a newly appointed brigadier general, was the first commander of the 158th New York Regiment of Infantry. [back]

7. The Brooklyn physician Edward Ruggles (1817?–1867) befriended the Whitman family and became especially close to Jeff and Mattie. Late in life, Ruggles lost interest in his practice and devoted himself to painting cabinet pictures called "Ruggles Gems" (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:90, n. 85). [back]

8. See Jeff's letter to Walt from March 21, 1863[back]


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