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George Washington Whitman to Thomas Jefferson Whitman, 22 September 1863

Brother Jeff,

Your letter of Sept 5th came all right, money and all. I felt quite anxious about Andrew, who you know was quite bad when you wrote, but since then I have had a letter from Walt, saying, he was much better, and I hope by takeing first rate care of himself he will soon be entirely well. Mother too was not well when you wrote, but Walt, says when he last heard from her (Sept 12th) she was first rate. Jess he said was not well, but I hope it is nothing serious, and by this time I hope they are all comeing around right again.

Jeff you see by the heading of this we have changed our camp since I last wrote,  we are now about 8 miles from Nicholasville, near the Kentucky River, and are haveing tip top times here, we have a splendid camp, plenty to eat, not much to do, first rate quarters, get the Cincinnati papers every day, and I am getting fat and lazy, so you see what terrible hard times we poor Sogers have.  When we first came here our Brigade was split up and sent to different parts of the State, and as our regt. was pretty well used up at that time, we were left here to do guard duty. This is a Milatary Post and is splendidly fortified (both naturally and otherwise) and I think 5000 men could easily hold it against six times their number. We have quite large Hospital and Convalesent Camps here, and we have to guard about 200 prisoners, (most of them waiting Court Martial for Desertion, but some are citazens charged with various offences) and it looks at present, as if we might be kept here some time, but of course there's no telling, and if we are ordered to pull up stakes and move on, why I shant grumble.

About 2000 of the prisoners that Burnside took at Cumberland Gap, passed here the other day, on their way to Louisville  (Jeff that was rather a slick thing, old Burny did, up there  wasent it,  he fooled the rebs that time nicely)2  they were rather a good looking set of men but very dirty, and badly uniformed,  some of them seemed to talk pretty spunky, but the most of them seemed to think theyed had about pie enough,

We have rather bad news from Rosecrans this morning, but I hope that it is nothing very serious, for I expected that Rosey was going to strike them a mighty blow down there, and if he has met with any very serious reverse it will sett things back a long while.

It seems to me that he should have remained at Chattanooga untill he had been sufficently reinforced to have gone right down through Georgia and drove everything before him.

Gillmore3 too seems to have a pretty hard time, down at Charleston, but still I dont know but he is getting along about as well as could be expected, considering what he has to contend with and if he only makes a sure thing of it in the end, a few days, or weeks, time wont make much differance. Jeff Capt. Sims4 of our regt is now in Brooklyn, after conscripts,  have you seen him, If you would like to see him, I think you would be likely to hear from him at Tom Deans Billiard Saloon, at Montague Hall, as Dean was a member of Sims old Co B 13th Regt.

Mother I wrote you a letter about 2 weeks ago, and at the same time I sent you some money by Express, (did you get it)5 and have been expecting every day, for the last 4 or 5 days, to hear from you. Mother I hope you are takeing things easy, for there is no kind of use in your working and fretting when you can just as well hire some one to do the work for you (and the fretting to for that matter)  When you write to Walt, Mother, tell him if we stay here this winter I shall certainly expect him to come down here and stay a month or two, and whenever you hear from Hannah dont fail to write and let me know how she is getting along, and remember Mother, whenever you want anything (Clothing or anything else) dont be backward about spending our money.

Well Mattie, how are you getting along and how are the babies, (I supose it wont do to call Hattie a baby much longer)  I often think of you all and wonder how you are getting along  Have you got lots of nice eatables (preserved pine apples and sich) stowed away for this winter  If I can get a chance to come home this winter wont I make the good things fly, and Mattie how about that bottle of wine, is it all safe yet. write to me  all of you.

Direct to the regt. at this place and letters will come all right even if we have moved from here.

Good Night all, G. W. Whitman


  • 1. By this time General Burnside had directed most of the Ninth Army Corps into East Tennessee in order to hold his own position at Knoxville and to assist Rosecran's army, which had retreated from Chickamauga to Chattanooga after defeat by the combined forces of Longstreet and Bragg, September 19–20, 1863. Only 6,000 soldiers in the Ninth Army were fit for duty, however, and the Fifty-First Regiment of New York Volunteers was one of the military units left behind. [back]
  • 2. A few days after his arrival at Knoxville, Burnside marched sixty miles in two days to Cumberland Gap, where he compelled the Confederate commander, General Frazer, to surrender. Twenty-five hundred prisoners were taken. [back]
  • 3. General Quincy Adams Gillmore (1828–1888) was at the time engaged in series of unsuccessful siege operations against Charleston, South Carolina. [back]
  • 4. Samuel H. Sims, a captain in George Washington 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]
  • 5. See George Washington Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman from September 7, 1863. [back]
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