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George Washington Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 8 February 1863

Dear Mother,

I have, to night, received a letter from Walt, encloseing two from Jeff (one dated Feb 3d and the other Feb 4th) and the one from Hannah, that Jeff sent him. Dear Mother how sorry I am to hear that you, and Mattie, and Sis, are not well, but as Jeff says in his last letter that you are all much better than you were the day before,  I do hope you have entirely recovered by this time. Mother I think you ought to be a great deal more careful of yourself, you know how much you have suffered from colds, and rheumatism and how long any thing of that kind hangs on to you, and Mammy you must remember that you cant expect to work and do as you used to, so I think you ought to let up, a little on yourself.

Poor Han, I was so in hopes that she was home by this time. I am sure she must have seen a great deal harder times than ever I did, and I have more reason to feel anxious about her than she has about me. Still I hope she will soon be with you and then I feel satisfied she will soon be well,  She tries to make us think that she gets along pretty well, but I can see by her letter that she is not as comfortable as she would make us believe. Mother I know you will all do everything you can for her, but dont you think it would be well for Walt to go on there and see her, even if she did not feel well enough to come on home with him. But Mother I leave it altogather with you, at home, for I know, that you know what to do, better than I can tell you, and all I can say is do whatever you think best.

We have been under marching orders for the last 48 hours, and I have it from pretty good authority that our Army Corps are ordered to report to General Dix,1 at Fortress Monroe. What we are to do there I dont know But I have an opinion that Burnside is going to have a sepperate command2 and that Fortress Monroe is to be the place of rendezvous, and if my opinion is correct we will probaly stay there some time. There was an order issued, from Head Quarters; a few days since, allowing two Officers (at one time) from each Regt. a leave of absence of 10 days. Capts Sims3 and Wright4 (from this Regt) are home now, and when they get back I believe it is my turn, so if this movement of ours dont knock the thing in the head (and I dont know how it will be) you may expect to see me home for a short time, before many days. I wrote Walt a few days ago, to write to you and have you send him by express $20 and for him to bring it down here to me. If we go to Fortress Monroe it will be almost as handy for him to come and see me as it is here, and if I can get a chance to come home I shall want the money to pay my way. I had my log house almost finished, when the orders came for us to get ready to move, and was going to have a nice warm house. but I am bound to have some good out of it and so I am useing it for fire wood.

Good night Dear Mother, much love to all,

G. W. W.


  • 1. John Adams Dix (1798–1879). [back]
  • 2. On January 25, 1863, Lincoln had removed Burnside and put General Joseph Hooker (1814–1879) in command of the Army of the Potomac. For Burnside, see George Washington Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman from February 9, 1862. [back]
  • 3. Samuel H. Sims, a captain in George Whitman's Fifty-first New York Volunteer Regiment, had been the subject in part of Walt Whitman's article, "Our Brooklyn Boys in the War," which appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, on January 5, 1863. Sims died on July 30, 1864, of wounds received near Petersburg, Virginia (see George Washington Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman from August 9, 1864). Walt Whitman may have lived in Sims's tent during part of his stay at Falmouth, Virginia, opposite Fredericksburg—a trip that Walt took in search of George after reading his brother's name in the New York Herald listed among the wounded in the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. As it turned out, George only suffered a minor injury; George wrote in a letter to his mother on December 16, 1862: "I have come out safe and sound, although I had the side of my jaw slightly scraped with a peice of shell which burst at my feet." [back]
  • 4. Lieutenant Colonel John G. Wright was the commanding officer of George Whitman's Fifty-first New York Volunteer Regiment. [back]
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