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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 23 April 186[7]

Dearest mother,

William O'Connor has returned, & has brought me news from you all, & about Jeff's offer to go to St. Louis.1 I don't know what to advise about it—but feel as if I was rather in favor of accepting the offer. Jeff must take it cool, & not get excited about it—& after he has decided which to do, must go ahead for good, & not doubt his decision, or fear he has done wrong, &c—I believe that's about all I wish to say on it, at present. Wm. O'Connor was much pleased with his visit, & speaks about you & all—he is a good fellow, & has been a good friend to me.

Mother, I send you the Harper's Weekly, with the picture of Abraham Lincoln & the Drummer Boy2—I think it is tip top—We are having warm weather here—I am feeling very well indeed—I was down at the hospital Sunday afternoon—the young man that had delirium tremens, that prayed so long, has got quite well3—his prayers seemed to be answered—at any rate, he is well & gone back to duty—while several others with the same complaint, are lying there not yet recovered—One soldier, 12th Infantry, was dying while I was there—he had pneumonia—it was a very sudden & dangerous attack, only taken two or three days before—he had been in the war, & had been wounded badly—but sickness took him off at last—I sat by him about half an hour—breathing was very oppressive indeed—It was a fine afternoon, & very still in the ward—& off a block or so there is a big Catholic church, St. Aloysius Church—they were ringing a chime of bells, three or four bells playing a sort of tune, sounded loud & joyful—I sat and listened for a long while—the poor dying man kept looking at me with such a look—

Dearest mother,

Since the other sheet was written & just as I was going to enclose, your letter of Saturday came. You must not be uneasy about a place—there will be some way provided—If not one way, it will be another, I hope—

So mother, keep a good heart—I guess I must try to come on to Brooklyn & set you all right—



  • 1. Jeff's offer was to cause excitement and confusion in the Whitman household. Martha bustled about; Louisa Van Velsor Whitman did not know where she was to live, and complained about Martha and the general turmoil. [back]
  • 2. The issue of April 27, 1867 contained Thomas Nast's (1840–1902) illustration "Abraham Lincoln and the Drummer-Boy." [back]
  • 3. Walt Whitman first wrote of this soldier in his April 16, 1867 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. [back]
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