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George Washington Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 22 January 1863

Dear Mother.

I have just written to Walt, and although it is pretty late, I must write you a few lines while my hand is in, to let you know that I am well and hearty. We have had a very heavy storm here for the last 48 hours, raining and blowing like great guns, but it appears to be about played out now. There has been a movement on foot here for the last Three days but I dont think it will amount to anything as I am afraid the storm has interfeered with the movement and spoiled Burnsides plans.1 The Army commenced to move from here early on Tuesday morning last, going somewhere up the river, but I dont know how far. I believe our Army Corps are the only troops left here, (but you musent say anything about it Mother or the rebs might hear of it and come over here and eat us all up)  my oppinion is, that it was intended to throw a heavy force accross the river, somewhere above here, and let them come down and attack Fredericksburg in the rear or on the flank while we occupied their attention in front, with our Batteries on this side of the river, but whatever the plan was, I believe it had to be given up, on account of the storm, or it would have been commenced before now.

I forget whether I have written home, since I got the letter from Jeff, with the money, or not,  anyhow the money came all right. I got a letter from Walt. to night with a lot of postage stamps and envelopes allready directed some to you Mammy, and some to Jeff. Walt says he has a prospect of getting a pretty good berth in Washington.2 Heyde wrote me a letter a few days ago saying that Hannah was quite sick, and I immediately wrote to Walt to either go on there and bring her home, or make some arangement to have her come on at once.  and in his letter to night Walt says he is confident she is either home or on her way there. I hope she is not as sick as Heyde makes it apear, but we would all feel a great deal better satisfied if she was home. Mother tell her to write to me as soon as she gets home.

Well Mother how are you all getting along,  Mattie and Sis I hope are well, somehow or another I cant help thinking of Sis as she was when I came away  I cant seem to make out how big she must be by this time, and I think if you would write me, how many pancakes she can eat I could tell about how much she has grown since I came away.

Well Mother it is getting chilly sitting here in my tent as the fire has gone out, so I must bid you,

good night dear Mother G. W. Whitman


  • 1. Ambrose Everett Burnside (1824-1881) organized the First Rhode Island Infantry at the outbreak of the war. He was then in command of the Expedition Against the Coast of North Carolina. Burnside intended to make a second attempt to capture the city of Fredericksburg. [back]
  • 2. Through Charles W. Eldridge, whose Boston publishing house of Thayer and Eldridge had published the third edition of Leaves of Grass (1860) before the firm went to the wall and who was then Assistant to the Army Paymaster, Whitman secured an appointment as a copyist in the Paymaster's Office. The position occupied him for only a few hours a day, but paid him enough to meet living expenses and allowed him time to visit the wounded and sick soldiers in the Washington hospitals (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman [New York: New York University Press, 1955], 286). [back]
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