Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William E. Babcock to Walt Whitman, 21 January 1865

Date: January 21, 1865

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01069

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. 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, Joshua Ware, Vanessa Steinroetter, Eric Conrad, Heidi Bean, and Nicole Gray

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Camp 51st New York NY
Before Petersburg NY
January 21st, 1865

Friend Walt

Haveing this morning received a letter from Lieut William Caldwell of our regiment who was taken prisoner the same time that Your Brother George was1 I write you to let you know that Your Brother is still alive and well. I will give you the names of the Officers with him just as he gave them to me viz Major Wright, Capt Whitman, Lieuts Ackerson, Tooley, Sims, Waldron, Carberry, Hoyne, Groenemyer, Loughsen, Whitbeck, and Murden2 he did not say in his letter where the men were and I hardly think he knew, or he would a have mentioned it. He writes that they are short of provisions and requests me to send him a box, if nothing more than salt pork and hard tack. So of course they must be pretty hard up for grub or he would not run the risk of haveing it sent through the lines. I have sent to Walton to send to Lt. Caldwell a box of Stores. And I would say if you could send some to George the same time it would come verry exceptable to him no doubt. I wished I was where I could have a hand in fixing up something for my old comrade, but here we cannot get anything. So I am going to trust to our friends at home to look out for all hands.

Everything is quiet along our lines except just at this present time it is a raining verry hard, which makes it verry disagreeable for all that are on Picket. but I shall have to bring this to a close by Sending my best respects to Your Mother and Your Self hoping to hear from you soon

I remain
Yours &c
William E. Babcock3

1st St 51st NY NY

To Walt Whitman


Direct to your BrotherCapt Geo Whitman 51st NY N Prisoner of War Danville, V[irgini]a C[onfederate] S[tates]4


1. Lieutenant William Caldwell had been captured at the same time as George Whitman. According to jottings in a notebook dated May 23–24 (Barrett), Caldwell was born in Scotland and was 27 years old at the time; he had been "in the same fights as George." [back]

2. Lieutenant Colonel John G. Wright was commanding officer of the Fifty-First Regiment; Samuel M. Pooley, in his notes on the Fifty-First Regiment, Walt Whitman wrote that he was "born in Cornwall, Eng. 1836—struck out & came to America when 14—has lived mostly in Buffalo [,] learnt ship joining—left Buffalo in the military service U.S. June, 1861—came out as private—was made 2d Lieut at South Mountain. Made Captain Aug. 1864—got a family in Buffalo" (Manuscripts of Walt Whitman in the Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University); Palin H. Sims; Lieutenant William T. Ackerson, born near Manalapan, New Jersey in 1838, enlisted in the 2nd Regiment, Ohio Volunteers in April, 1861, enlisted with the 51st Regiment, New York State Volunteers in September, 1861 were he enrolled as first sergeant of Company F (though by the time of his imprisonment he had been promoted to captain); Frederick E. Waldron; James H. Carberry; Herman Groenemeyer; Schuyler Murden; the rest of these soldiers remain unidentified. [back]

3. William E. Babcock was a lieutenant in the Fifty-first Regiment, George's regiment. [back]

4. This letter includes a note by Whitman in the left margin on the first page that reads, "and answer this as soon as received WEB." [back]


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