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George Washington Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 19? December 1862

Dear Mother.1

You can't imagine how sorry I was to hear how worried you have been about me, and all the while I was as well as ever, so you see how foolish it is to frett,  the most trouble that I have, is thinking that you are worrying about me,  so you see Mother if you would do as I say, and not frett we would both have less trouble. Mother why dont you write to a fellow  I have not had a letter from you in a long time. I hope you have everything comfortable there at home. I should be mad as blazes if I knew you did not use the money I sent on, for anything you need, whenever you want clothing or anything else  dont be afraid to use the money for there is plenty more where that came from, so go in lemons, and remember your galliant Son is a Capting,2 and expects you to keep up the dignity of the family, and darn the expense.

Mother I wish you would send me $10 by mail as soon as conveinent,  I have over two months pay due me, but we shall probaly not get paid in some time yet. dont fail to write to me as soon as you get this, and dont forget the good advice in the good book about fretting.

Good Night Dear Mother

Geo. W. Whitman


  • 1. This letter lacks both a date and a return address but was probably written about December 19, 1862—the date of Walt Whitman's arrival at Fredericksburg in search of his soldier-brother. In the letter George attempts to allay his mother's fears for his safety. After finding George only slightly wounded, Walt no doubt told him of their family's frantic concern. Fears of equal intensity apparently made the usually arduous journey from Brooklyn to Fredericksburg even more difficult for the poet. Hastening through Philadelphia, Whitman lost all of his money to a pickpocket. And in Washington he spent two days in vain searching the hospitals for George. Finally, the thought occurred to him that George might still be with his regiment near Falmouth (across the river from Fredericksburg) and he went there by government transportation. Before actually finding George, however, Whitman encountered at Falmouth a pile of amputated arms and legs in front of an army hospital. Such a sight would have been shocking at any time but especially when he was uncertain about his brother's safety (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman [New York: Macmillan, 1955; rev. ed., New York University Press, 1967], 283). [back]
  • 2. George received his promotion to captain on December 12, 1862—with the date of rank retroactive to November 1, 1862 (Frederick Phisterer, comp., New York in the War of the Rebellion, 1861–1865 [1912], 5 vols. and index, 2414). [back]
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