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George Washington Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 2 October 1864

Dear Mother,

Here I am perfectly well and unhurt, but a prisoner. I was captured day before yesterday with Major Wright,2 Lieuts Pooley,3 Cauldwell,4 Ackerson,5 Sims,6 and nearly the entire Regt. that was not killed or wounded  Lieut Butler7 was badly wounded  I am in tip top health and Spirits, and am as tough as a mule and shall get along first rate,  Mother please dont worry and all will be right in time if you will not worry  I wish Walt, or Jeff would write to Lieut. Babcock8 of our Regt (who is with the Regt) and tell him to send my things home by express, as I should be very sorry to lose them.9

G. W. Whitman

Lieut Pooley is here and unhurt.


  • 1. George Whitman was captured on September 30, 1864, at Poplar Grove Church, Virginia. Almost the entire Fifty-First New York Regiment was lost: killed (2), wounded (10), and captured or missing (332). Also suffering severe losses in captured or missing was the Forty-Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment (see George Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman from August 9, 1864). Both regiments, along with the Thirty-Fifth and Fifty-Eighth Massachusetts regiments, suffered heavy reduction in ranks when, as the first line of defense in the battle near Pegram house, they were cut off from the other half of their outfit—the First Brigade of the Second Division in the Ninth Army—commanded by Colonel John I. Curtin. [back]
  • 2. John Gibson Wright rose from captain to colonel in the Fifty-first New York Volunteer Regiment; he was appointed to the latter position on May 18, 1865. He was taken prisoner with George Washington Whitman in 1864. [back]
  • 3. Samuel M. Pooley of the Fifty-First Regiment, New York State Volunteers. In his notes on the Fifty-First Regiment, Walt Whitman wrote that Pooley 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). [back]
  • 4. William C. Caldwell; see Jerome M. Loving's Introduction and Civil War Diary. [back]
  • 5. Lieutenant William T. Ackerson was born near Manalapan, New Jersey, in 1838. He enlisted in the Second Regiment, Ohio Volunteers in April 1861. In September of that same year he then enlisted with the Fifty-First Regiment, New York State Volunteers where he enrolled as first sergeant of Company F (and was eventually promoted to captain. See George's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman from September 21, 1862. [back]
  • 6. Palin H. Sims was a member of George Washington Whitman's Fifty-First Regiment, New York State Volunteers. [back]
  • 7. Frank Butler was killed in action, September 30, 1864. [back]
  • 8. William E. Babcock was a lieutenant in George Washington Whitman's Fifty-first Regiment, New York Volunteers. [back]
  • 9. In his diary for December 26, 1864, Walt Whitman noted that George's trunk had arrived in Brooklyn that day (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; reprinted in Roy P. Basler, ed., Walt Whitman's Memoranda During the War; Death of Abraham Lincoln [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962]. See Jerome M. Loving's Introduction and Civil War Diary. [back]
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