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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 13 January 1863

Dear brother Walt,

Mr Lane1 handed me your note yesterday and I enclose the within $6, $5 from myself and $1 from Mother.2 I wish Walt that I could do more and will try to collect a little something. I have made one or two attempts already but failed, entirely. Have you written to any of your driver friends,3 if you could strike them I should think you might get something. Probasco4 sent you $5 yesterday and Mr Lane would have sent you some to-day but I told him that I thought that it would be better for all concerned if we put a little time between the letters. I am in hopes to raise a few dollars more in a week or two which I will send you. I wish you would take either Lane's or Probasco['s] money and keep an exact account of what it does and send them the particulars of just the good it does. I think it would assist them (and the rest of us) in collecting more  You can understand what an effect twould have, twould give us an opportunity to show what immense good a few shillings even will do when rightly applied  besides twould please the person sending the money hugely twould bring his good deeds under his nose

We have had some two or three letters from Heyde, directed to you. He talks like a d—m fool. He says that he saw that your feelings and sympathies were excited by the things that you saw and says that he would desire to call them a little nearer home, and then follows a lot of stuff ending with the request that you will come on and get Han and bring her home, as he cant paint. The miserable skunk. I would like to get a fair chance at his ugly mug.5 Mother has written to him that Mat will come on after Han, and we are now waiting a reply. The day after each letter came to you mother would get one from him, stating that he was under the influene of quinine and soda, and that he had boils, on his rump bone, and that his blood was bad (d—m his blood) and that he couldn't paint) and that charity, public charity, would have to relieve them, and a hell of a lot of other things all meaning that he wants to shake Han off. Undoubtedly we shall have her home before long. He says she is sick, but I think that if she was she would write home herself. It makes mother feel pretty bad. that combined with all her other troubles, I think, shows on her. She of course is with Mat and I most of the time and we try to make things as pleasant as possible  Ed and Jess are the same as usual

Mr Lane says that we ought to do something to help you to get a situation there  If we can do any thing in the way of letters let us know. Lane thinks that you might do something with Dana.6 Can you? Did you get the papers that I sent you, I sent 15 copies.7 Walt write me as often as possible as you cannot imagine how interesting they are to me. We all read them, Lane Probasco &c &c. They make us see things through new eyes

Mother is about as well as usual. Mattie ditto. Sis is growing more interesting than ever, and more mischiefous than the old dickens  she talks of you and Uncle George quite often  Mother and Mat send their love. Mat says she is much obliged for her letter and will answer it herself soon.8 What are you doing and how are you getting along? Things the same as usual with me. Write me soon and often  We had a long letter from George to-day  He says he thinks that he will try for a furlough and that if they wont let him have it that he may resign. I rather think Walt that he is more tired than he lets us know. I wish to God that he would come home, I think that it would add 10 years to Mothers life. Write him. With love from all dear brother  Good night


P.S. Botsford9 also got his note and will send you something before long. George wrote for $10. which I sent him to-day

T. J. Whitman


  • 1. Moses Lane (1823–1882) served as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works from 1862 to 1869. He later designed and constructed the Milwaukee Water Works and served there as city engineer. Like Jeff Whitman, he collected money from his employees and friends for Walt's hospital work. Lane sent Whitman $15.20 in his letter of January 26, 1863, and later various sums which Whitman acknowledged in letters from February 6, 1863, May 11, 1863, May 26, 1863, and September 9, 1863. In his letter of May 27, 1863, Lane pledged $5 each month. In an unpublished manuscript in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library, Whitman wrote, obviously for publication: "I have distributed quite a large sum of money, contributed for that purpose by noble persons in Brooklyn, New York, (chiefly through Moses Lane, Chief Engineer, Water Works there.)" Lane assisted Whitman in other ways as well (see Whitman's letters from December 29, 1862, and February 13, 1863). He was so solicitous of Whitman's personal welfare that on April 3, 1863, he sent through Jeff $5 "for your own especial benefit." [back]
  • 2. In a letter of January 16, 1863, Walt Whitman indicated that Jeff and his mother ought not to make personal contributions to the hospital fund since he himself was carrying the family's share of the national burden. Nonetheless, and despite his own shortage of funds, Jeff continued to contribute. See Jeff's letter of July 7, 1863. [back]
  • 3. Omnibus drivers in New York City and Brooklyn. One of the poet's favorite pastimes was to ride the omnibuses and sit beside the drivers whom he befriended. Occasionally, when a driver was sick, the poet would take his place without remuneration. [back]
  • 4. Samuel R. Probasco (1833–1910) was an assistant engineer at the Brooklyn Water Works from 1856 to 1868 and principal assistant engineer on the Brooklyn Water Board from 1871 to 1875. [back]
  • 5. Heyde's treatment of Hannah frequently provoked Jeff's anger. See Jeff's letter of April 3, 1863, and Jerome M. Loving, ed., Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975), 11–12. [back]
  • 6. Moses Lane wrote to Captain James J. Dana on December 16, 1862, asking him to assist Walt Whitman in his search for George (Feinberg). [back]
  • 7. These may have contained Walt Whitman's article, "Our Brooklyn Boys in the War," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 5, 1863. See Jeff's letter of February 10, 1863. [back]
  • 8. This letter is not extant. [back]
  • 9. Charles E. Botsford sent Walt Whitman one dollar on July 7, 1863. See Jeff's letter to Whitman of July 7, 1863. [back]
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