Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 1 September 1863

Date: September 1, 1863

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00785

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 Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:139-141. 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, Tim Jackson, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Alyssa Olson

September 1 1863

Dear Mother,

I have been thinking to-day & all yesterday about the draft in Brooklyn, & whether Jeff would be drafted—you must some of you write me just as soon as you get this1—I want to know, I feel anxious enough I can tell you—& besides it seems a good while since I have rec'd any letters from home—Of course it is impossible for Jeff to go, in case it should turn out he was drafted—the way our family is all situated now, it would be madness—If the Common Council raise the money to exempt men with families dependent on them, I think Jeff ought to have no scruples in taking advantage of it, as I think he is in duty bound—but we will see what course to take, when we know the result &c. Write about it right away.

The Eagles came, this is the second time—I am always glad to get them—Jeff, wait till you get four or five, & then send them with a two cent stamp—I have not had any letter from George2—Mother, have you heard any thing? did the money come? Dear mother, how are you nowadays—I do hope you feel well & in good spirits—I think about you every day of my life out here—sometimes I see women in the hospitals, mothers come to see their sons, & occasionally one that makes me think of my dear mother—one did very much, a lady about 60, from Pennsylvania, come to see her son, a Captain, very badly wounded, & his wound gangrened, & they after a while removed him to a tent by himself—another son of hers, a young man, came with her to see his brother—she was pretty full-sized lady, with spectacles, she dressed in black, looked real Velsory. I got very well acquainted with her, she had a real Long-Island old fashioned way—but I had to avoid the poor Captain as it was that time that my hand was cut in the artery, & I was liable to gangrene myself—but she and the two sons have gone home now, but I doubt whether the wounded one is alive as he was very low—

Mother, I want to hear about Andrew too, whether he went to Rockland lake3—You have no idea how many soldiers there are who have lost their voices, & have to speak in whispers—there are a great many, I meet some almost every day—As far as that alone is concerned Andrew must not be discouraged, as the general health may be good as common irrespective of that—I do hope Andrew will get along better than he thinks for—it is bad enough for a poor man to be out of health even partially, but he must try to look on the bright side—

Mother, have you heard any thing from Han since, or from Mary's folks? I got a letter from Mrs Price4 last week, if you see Emma tell her I was pleased to get it, & shall answer it very soon—Mother, I have sent another letter to the N Y Times,5 it may appear, if not to-day, within a few days—I am feeling excellent well these days, it is so moderate & pleasant weather now, I was getting real exhausted with the heat. I thought of you too, how it must have exhausted you those hot days—I still occupy the same little 3d story room, 394 L st, & get my breakfast in my room in the morning myself, & dinner at a restaurant about 3 o'clock—I get along very well & very economical (which is a forced put, but just as well). But I must get another room or a boarding house soon, as the folks are all going to move this month—My good & real friends the O'Connors live in the same block, I am in there every day—

Dear Mother, tell Mat & Miss Mannahatta I send them my love—I want to see them both—O how I want to see Jeff & you, mother, I sometimes feel as if I should just get in the cars & come home—& the baby too, you must always write about her—dear mother, good bye for present—



1. Jeff was not drafted; see Whitman's letter from September 9, 1863[back]

2. There are no extant letters from George to the family between August 16 and September 7, 1863, when he again wrote from Kentucky. [back]

3. See notes to the letter from September 9, 1863[back]

4. Apparently, Whitman replied to Mrs. Price's letter before September 15, 1863, but the letter is lost. [back]

5. The letter appeared on October 4, 1863; see Whitman's letter from October 6, 1863[back]


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