Skip to main content

Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [4 March 1865]

 duk.00573.001.jpg walter1

i should have sent you this letter from George but thought of course you knew all about his arrival at Anapolis2 i saw his name in the times with 500 others arrived)3 my not hearing from you we thought you had gone there to see him the letter was missent to boston so it was some days before i got it i expects him home every hour4 i am very sorry in deed you did not know he was exchanged) Jeffy5 has gone to Wheeling he was so delayed in getting there matty6 had A letter from him yesterday saying he would not be able  duk.00573.002.jpg to come to Washington till after he came back but will surely come you dint write Walt how you are whether you are well or any thing about your affairs write all about things we are all pretty well except sis7 she has A very bad could and is not well no more

L Whitman8


  • 1. This brief letter appears on the verso of George Washington Whitman's February 24, 1865 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. This letter is probably the one that Edwin Haviland Miller dated to February 24?, 1865 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:376). Miller's date cannot be correct because Louisa's letter apologizes for not sending George's letter earlier. The letter from George was originally sent to Boston, and Walt remained unaware that his brother had been exchanged at least through February 27, 1865. Louisa did not forward the letter earlier because she assumed Walt already knew of George's release. According to Louisa's March 5, 1865 letter to Walt, she forwarded George's letter (this one) "yesterday." Therefore, this letter dates to March 4, 1865. [back]
  • 2. Walt Whitman remained unaware that his brother George Washington Whitman had been exchanged, at least as of his February 27, 1865 letter to Captain William Cook, in which he inquired why George had not "come up with the main body, for exchange." The delay between George's sending the letter and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's forwarding it to Walt was related to two matters: that George's letter was "missent to boston" and that George's name appeared in the list of released officers in the New York Times. [back]
  • 3. George Washington Whitman's name appeared in the list of returned officers. He is listed as "Capt G W Whiteman, 51st New York." The list of names took up almost two full columns of type. To save space, the standard newspaper column was split into two columns divided by a line. In the fifth full column from the edge of the page (the left-most column of names in the article), George's name appears 14 names up from the bottom of the page ("Our Returned Prisoners," New York Times, February 28, 1865, 1). [back]
  • 4. George Washington Whitman arrived the next morning. For a detailed description of George's deteriorated physical condition upon arrival, see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 5, 1865 letter to Walt Whitman. [back]
  • 5. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was the son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and Walt Whitman's favorite brother. In early adulthood he worked as a surveyor and topographical engineer. In the 1850s he began working for the Brooklyn Water Works, at which he remained employed through the Civil War. In 1867 Jeff became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and became a nationally recognized name in civil engineering. For more on Jeff, see "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)." [back]
  • 6. Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873), known as "Mattie," was the wife of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother. She and Jeff had two daughters, Manahatta and Jessie Louisa. In 1868, Mattie and her daughters moved to St. Louis to join Jeff, who had moved there in 1867 to assume the position of Superintendent of Water Works. Mattie suffered a throat ailment that would lead to her death in 1873. For more on Mattie, see Randall H. Waldron, "Whitman, Martha ("Mattie") Mitchell (1836–1873)," ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). See also Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman (New York: New York University Press, 1977), 1–26. [back]
  • 7. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's "Sis" is Manahatta "Hattie" Whitman (1860–1886), the older daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Martha Mitchell Whitman. The nickname "Sis" would eventually pass from Hattie to her younger sister Jessie Louisa, the latter born in June 1863. Hattie, who lived most of the first seven years of her life in the same home with Louisa Whitman, was especially close to her grandmother. Hattie and Jessie Louisa were both favorites of their uncle Walt. [back]
  • 8. 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]
Back to top