Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 19 April 1864

Date: April 19, 1864

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00818

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), 1:210–211. 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, Janel Cayer, Sarah Synovec, and Alyssa Olson

Tuesday noon April 19 '64

Dearest Mother,

I havn't heard any news from home now in more than a week, I hope you are well, dear Mother, & all the rest too—there is nothing new or different with me—I can only write you the same old story about going to the hospitals &c &c.—I have not heard any thing since from George—have you heard any thing further?1 I have writ to him, to Annapolis—We are having it pretty warm here to-day, after a long spell of rain storms, but the last two or three days very fine—Mother, I suppose you got my letter of last Tuesday, 12th—

I went down to the Capitol the nights of the debate on the expulsion of Mr Long2 last week—they had night sessions, very late—I like to go to the House of Representatives at night, it is the most magnificent hall, so rich & large, & lighter at night than it is days, & still not a light visible, it comes through the glass roof—but the speaking & ability of the members is nearly always on a low scale, it is very curious & melancholy to see such a rate of talent there, such tremendous times as these—I should say about the same range of genius as our old friend Dr Swalm,3 just about—you may think I am joking, but I am not, Mother—I am speaking in perfect earnest—the Capitol grows upon one in time, especially as they have got the great figure on top of it now, & you can see it very well, it is a great bronze figure, the Genius of Liberty4 I suppose—it looks wonderful toward sundown, I love to go down & look at it, the sun when it is nearly down shines on the headpiece & it dazzles & glistens like a big star, it looks quite curious—

Well, Mother, we have commenced on another summer, & what it will bring forth who can tell?—the campaign of this summer is expected here to be more active & severe than any yet—As I told you in a former letter Grant is determined to bend every thing to take Richmond & break up the banditti of scoundrels that have stuck themselves up there as a "government"—he is in earnest about it, his whole soul & all his thoughts night & day are upon it—he is probably the most in earnest of any man in command or in the government either—that's something, ain't it, Mother—& they are bending every thing to fight for their last chance—calling in their forces from southwest &c—Dear Mother, give my love to dear brother Jeff & Mat & all—I write this in my room, 6th st—



1. George Whitman replied to Walt Whitman's letter from April 9, 1864 from Annapolis, Maryland, on April 16. [back]

2. After Alexander Long (1816–1866), Democratic Representative from Ohio, assailed the North's moral position in the Civil War, in April, Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the House of Representatives, moved for the expulsion of Long, but later approved a resolution of censure: "That the said Alexander Long be, and he hereby is, declared to be an unworthy member of this House." On April 15, the New York Herald observed sardonically: "One beneficial effect of this discussion has been to secure a full attendance of members." Long was defeated for re–election in the fall. [back]

3. The physician Samuel J. Swalm who lived at 129 Buffield Street, Brooklyn. [back]

4. The "Statue of Freedom" was formally unveiled on December 2, 1863. See Glenn Brown, History of the United States Capitol (Washington, Government Print Off: 1900–1903), 2:138, 177. [back]


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