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Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [13–17? August 1863]

 duk.00569.001.jpg dear Walt1

i will write to you to morrow all the particulars2 i was doubly glad to get this letter3 dont send it to han4 at present

your mother5  duk.00343.009.jpg


  • 1.

    This letter dates to August 13–16, 1863. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman received George Washington Whitman's July 23, 1863 letter from Milldale, Mississippi, and she forwarded it to Walt Whitman with this brief note. Edwin Haviland Miller dated Louisa's letter "after" July 23?, 1863 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:373), but this brief note from Louisa must date to mid-August 1863. In his August 18, 1863 letter to Louisa, Walt acknowledged "George's letter." Miller associated that letter loosely with George's August 16, 1863 letter from Kentucky—at least insofar as it indicates George's location—but the forwarded letter from George that Walt received in mid-August is almost certainly this one. Walt's August 18 letter cannot acknowledge George's August 16, 1863 letter because Louisa postponed forwarding that letter for several days while she awaited an express packet (see her August 22 or 23?, 1863 letter to Walt).

    George's July 23 letter had been long delayed by his extended expedition from Kentucky to Mississippi with Ambrose Burnside's Ninth Corps (see Jerome M. Loving, ed., Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman [Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975], 97). According to Thomas Jefferson Whitman's August 4, 1863 letter to Walt, "we do not hear from George." Walt had not received word from George a week later: "I feel so anxious to hear from George, one cannot help feeling uneasy" (see his August 11, 1863 letter to Louisa). George's August 16, 1863 letter confirms that his July 23, 1863 letter to his mother was the most recent he had sent.

    Since Walt acknowledged George's forwarded letter and another letter (not extant) that Louisa promised to send the following day (see Walt's August 18, 1863 letter to Louisa), this letter dates to August 13–16, 1863.

  • 2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's August 14–17, 1863 letter to Walt Whitman is not extant. She shared news of Andrew Jackson Whitman's continuing struggle with a throat condition (he had lost his voice) and an abusive letter from son-in-law Charles L. Heyde. She presumably also inquired whether Walt had written his sister Hannah Heyde, Charles's wife, about George Washington Whitman's letter and informed Walt that she had shared his Washington address with Emma Price, the daughter of Abby Price (see Walt's August 18, 1863 letter to Louisa). [back]
  • 3. See George Washington Whitman's July 23, 1863 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, from Milldale, Mississippi. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and remained on active duty until the end of the Civil War. He was wounded in the First Battle of Fredericksburg (December 1862) and was taken prisoner during the Battle of Poplar Grove (September 1864). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with a partner named Smith and later a mason named French. George eventually took up a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]
  • 4. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908) was the youngest daughter of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. She lived in Burlington, Vermont with her husband Charles L. Heyde (1822–1892), a landscape painter. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his often offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. [back]
  • 5. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt Whitman was the second. For more information on Louisa and her letters, see Wesley Raabe, "'walter dear': The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt" and Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)." [back]
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