Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 1 February 1865

Date: February 1, 1865

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00839

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), 1:251-252. 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, and Alyssa Olson

February 1 1865

Dear Mother,

I sent Jeff a letter three or four days ago, which I suppose he received. There is nothing very new with me—I see in the U. S. Senate yesterday they passed a resolution that it was the sense of the Senate that there ought to be an exchange of prisoners. I feel as if there was a fair chance of the box you sent getting to George—I wrote to Jeff how I was so much surer that a box from City Point, would go through, that I had sent a letter to Julius Mason1 asking him to have a box made up there, & sent, giving him the address, & I or Jeff would pay the bill—if he writes to me that he has done so, I asked him to write if he got mine, I will send him the money myself—

Well, mother, how are you getting along—we had a cold week, but the past three days has been much moderated—I am satisfied in the main with my room. I have such a good bed—& my stove does very well—it is a little bit out of the way in location—My work as clerk in the Indian office is quite easy—I am through by 4—I find plenty who know me—I received a week's pay on Monday, came very acceptable—My appetite is not very good, but I feel very well upon the whole—I wish you would ask Wm Fosdick2 in the corner house for the Times, & also sketch of 51st I lent him, & put them away—I am very glad I have employment (& pay)—I must try to keep it—I send you an envelope, so that you can write me a letter soon as convenient. I send $1 for Nancy, the other for you—I may not write again till about the 12th, or perhaps 10th—

Tell Hattie & sis Uncle Walt sent them his love. I see Gen. Butler3 says the fault of not exchanging the prisoners is not his but Grants.


My room is 468 M street, 2d door west of 12th—from 10 till 4, I am in the Indian Bureau, north-east corner Patent Office, basement.4


1. Probably Julius W. Mason, a lieutenant colonel in the Fifth Cavalry. On February 10, 1863, Jeff mentioned a J. W. Mason, who "used to be in my party on the Water Works." When George considered staying in the army after the war, Jeff conferred with Mason; see his letter of May 14, 1865. Mason remained in the army until his death in 1882. According to his letter to Jeff on January 30, 1865, Whitman wrote to "Captain" Mason the same day; on February 7, Jeff noted that Mason had complied with Whitman's request. Whitman apparently wrote again on February 13, and Mason replied from City Point on February 16 that a box had been sent to George on February 10, and that Whitman's letter would be forwarded by "1st Flag of Truce." [back]

2. Not listed in the 1865–1866 Directory. [back]

3. In a speech at Lowell, Massachusetts, on January 29, 1865, Butler blamed Grant for the collapse of the prisoner exchange. In an editorial on the following day, the New York Times termed Butler's address "exceedingly able, defiant and mischievous." [back]

4. When Horace Traubel read this letter on December 13, 1888, Whitman was unusually moved: "O God! that whole damned war business is about nine hundred and ninety parts diarrhoea to one part glory: the people who like the wars should be compelled to fight the wars . . . I say, God damn the wars—all wars" (With Walt Whitman in Camden [Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1906–96], 3:293). [back]


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