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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 26 March 1867

Dearest mother,

Your letter, including Han's, arrived, & I was glad to hear that sis's penny had a safe journey—I was very glad to hear George had sold one of the houses—& also to hear from Han.1

Mother, all the news I have to write about my affairs, is the same old thing—we have had another long spell of stormy weather here, rain, & snow, & mud—In the office, every thing as usual—I spend a good deal of the time there, nights & Sundays—it is quiet & agreeable—It is likely Surratt's trial2 will come on before long—I have become acquainted with St Marie,3 the man who discovered Surratt in Rome—it was quite curious, & I will tell you when I come home. He goes here by a false name—he is very unhappy, & is in dread of assassination, from Surratt's friends—He came to me for advice, & wanted me to intercede for him with some members of Congress, as he says the government is treating him very coldly, as if they didn't consider he had done them any favor. I declined to mix up at all in the matter, in any way. He talked a good deal, & told me a good deal about Surratt. It is quite an interesting story, & I will tell you all about it when I come home.

It was so stormy, the walking so dreadful, (half-melted snow,) that I didn't go to the hospital last Sunday. I have rec'd another epistle from Heyde—one of his regular damned fool's letters—I never answer them, nor make any allusion to them—it was full of complaints —

To-day it is bright sunshiny weather—yesterday too—but rather cool—Congress is to adjourn this week—they have carried all their measures successfully over the President—I am writing this at my desk—the air is very clear, & I can see a great distance over the Potomac off into Virginia—the river is high & muddy to-day—I hope this will find you feeling well, & free from rheumatism. Love to George & Jeff & Mat.



  • 1. On March 20, 1867, Hannah Heyde wrote excitedly about her mother's lameness, begged her or one of the boys to visit her in the summer, and extolled Walt Whitman's kindness to her (The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). [back]
  • 2. John H. Surratt, who had been a secret dispatch bearer for the Confederacy and involved, with his mother Anna, in John Wilkes Booth's conspiracy, fled the country before the murder of Abraham Lincoln. He remained a fugitive until he was arrested in Egypt in 1866. Unlike his mother, who had been convicted by a military tribunal and ordered hanged on July 7, 1865, the son was tried in a civil court, between June 10 and August 10, 1867. Walt Whitman described the trial in his July 25, 1867 letter to Alfred Pratt. When the jury could not agree, a new trial was ordered, but because of inadequate evidence the government quietly released Surratt on June 22, 1868. His sister Anna sought clemency for her mother in 1865, but, presumably because of a conspiracy, her plea never reached the desk of President Andrew Johnson. See David Miller DeWitt, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1909). [back]
  • 3. Henry Ste. Marie reported the hiding place of John H. Surratt to the American consul in Montreal when Surratt fled there shortly before Lincoln's murder; see DeWitt, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1909), 187–188, 205–206. [back]
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