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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 12 February 1863

Dear brother Walt,

I mailed a letter to you either last Friday or Saturday, containing $11. 10 from Hill & Newman and $1. from Henry Carlow  On Tuesday I again wrote you, sending you $4…$2 from Theo. A. Drake and 2 from "Cash" through John D. Martin1  The enclosed $5 is from our friend Mr. E. Rae.2 He gave it to me last night   I left him a couple of letters to read and I want you to write him one of the same kind of letters asking him to show it to some of his friends and if they have anything to devote to the purpose for him to send it directly to you or through me. Walt, I know Rae is a liberal hearted man and through his friends he could do a great deal and I am confident that he could be more earnestly interested in the matter if you write him directly. Please acknowledge the receipt of this and the others (if received) so that I may be positive that the money is reaching you. Ive no doubt we shall keep dribbling along, a few dollars at a time, for some time yet.

We are all about the same at home as when I last wrote. Mother is of course quite worried about the moving of the 9th Army Corps and very much disappointed that George will not have an opportunity to come home and see us.3 We are all getting well of our colds, last night Mother had a very bad sore throat but I made her some "hot stuff" and she was much better this morning. Mat and Sis have nearly recovered and are all right I guess. In George's letter he speaks of wanting $20. We think of sending it to him by Capt. Simms,4 who is now here, and I think it will be the better and safer way.

I am really much disappointed that George should have to go in the thickest of the danger. I certainly feel that he is doing wrong if there is any possible way for him to avoid it. However I try to put as good a face on the matter as possible and sincerely hope for the best  Tis too bad that he should just have got his hut done and then have to go away and leave it.5

How goes matters with you Walt? Mr Lane6 will send you the letters I spoke of in a day or two. I wish you could make it so that you could visit George before they leave Fortress Monroe  Do if you possibly can. I am having a plan for a small 2 Story house (22 x 32) made and shall try to get Rae to build it for me. the only question that I am not clear on and am wanting advice is the position that I shall put on the lot, front or rear. I have almost made up my mind to set it so that a 65 or 70 x 20 foot lot can at any time be made in front, and the only objection to placing it in that position is the location of the privy in the next yard, which in this case would be right abreast of the center of the house thus7  I do not fear that it would amount to anything unless 'twould damage the cellar in some manner. Unless I am convinced that it will be some damage via the Jeff Whitman's sketch, reproduced here from a scan of the photocopy of the original. The sketch shows the layout for the plot of land on which he plans to build the house described in the letter. cellar I shall place it as above. Let me know what you think of it. (The above sketch is not at all in proportion, but may convey an idea to you what I mean)  The front lot will be quite ample, I think, (65 x 20) when you take in consideration that there will neither have to be a privy or cistern in the yard, and you will be able to have a gate in the ally which is quite an advantage. Mr Lane compliments me highly on my bargain and says I have done well. I hope I have but I am as ignorant about these matters as a baby. However I am bound to go through with it now, sink or tother thing.

Dear brother write me. If you see dear dear Brother George tell him how fondly we looked for his coming home and assure him that we were all much, very much disappointed. All send their love to you and you may be assured you are never absent from our minds.

Affectionately Jeff

The enclosed letter Mr Lane gave me to send you, wishing me to say that undoubtedly this Mr Webster8 could help you and if he did it would be with the idea that it would help him somehow at some future period, That you must use him (Webster) if you can. Mr Lane sends his respects to you

At Dinner time to-day Mother told me that Andrew had been discharged from the yard. Tis too bad but I presume it is on account of his not being there much of the time. I hardly know what Nancy9 is to do with her two children.



  • 1. This firm has not been identified. Henry P. Hill, James Hill, and Warren Hill were engineers; Simon Hill, Samuel Hill, and Thomas Newman were contractors. Henry Carlow, an engineer, is listed in the Brooklyn directory for 1859–60, but not in the subsequent years. Theodore A. Drake was a waterworks inspector and John D. Martin an engineer. [back]
  • 2. Edwin Haviland Miller reads this as "Rae" (Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:78, n46), but Jerome M. Loving reads this as "Rac" (Loving, ed., Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman [Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1975], 71, n7). We agree with Miller and believe Jeff refers to Edmund H. Rae, a notary and copyist who lived in Brooklyn but kept offices at 13 Wall Street, New York City. It is not clear why Jeff would consider having Rae build his house. [back]
  • 3. General Ambrose Burnside's men, including George, travelled from Falmouth to Newport News, Virginia, crossing the Rappahannock River in the infamous "mud march"—an unsuccessful attempt to capture Fredericksburg. George came home March 7. [back]
  • 4. Samuel H. Sims, a captain in George Washington Whitman's Fifty-first New York Volunteer Regiment, had been the subject in part of Walt Whitman's article, "Our Brooklyn Boys in the War," which appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, on January 5, 1863. Sims died on July 30, 1864, of wounds received near Petersburg, Virginia (see George Washington Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman from August 9, 1864). Walt Whitman may have lived in Sims's tent during part of his stay at Falmouth, Virginia, opposite Fredericksburg—a trip that Walt took in search of George after reading his brother's name in the New York Herald listed among the wounded in the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. As it turned out, George only suffered a minor injury; George wrote in a letter to his mother on December 16, 1862: "I have come out safe and sound, although I had the side of my jaw slightly scraped with a peice of shell which burst at my feet." [back]
  • 5. On February 1, 1863, Geroge wrote to Walt Whitman: "I have my log hut partly finished and should have had it completed long ago, but after I had cut the logs...orders came for us to be ready to move the next day so I used the logs for fire wood." [back]
  • 6. 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]
  • 7. Jeff's sketch occurs here. It is reproduced about twice the size of the original. [back]
  • 8. On February 12, 1863, Moses Lane wrote to E. D. Webster: "Mr. W. has been for a long time connected with the New York Press and is a writer of most decided ability. His patriotism and loyalty you can rely upon under all circumstances" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress). [back]
  • 9. Whitman scholars have assumed that Nancy was Andrew Whitman's common-law wife. However, on September 22, 1852, Hannah wrote to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman: "tell me who Andrew is reported to be married to" (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). It seems more likely that this remark would have been prompted by a legal marriage rather than by a common-law marriage. [back]
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