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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 2 April 1863

Dear brother Walt,

I intended to have written you yesterday but did not have an opportunity. Everything is going along all right with us except Andrew is real sick with his throat.1 He cannot talk at all and eats but with the greatest agony. He has had some doctor attending him that I think has treated him very badly. I am going to have him have an interview with Dr Ruggles2 this Eve, and hope he will be able to do something for him at once. Andrew, himself, seems to think that he is a gone case, but I cannot think as badly of him as that. I will write you again tomorrow what Ruggles says.

Mother received your last letter with the shin plasters all right, and in regard to your papers, Mss &c they are all carefully put up, everything, even the smallest scrap is packed up so you will certainly find everything that you left at home all right3

About George. We do not hear from him. He wrote mother that he would certainly write her again befor he left Newport News and as long as she did not hear from him she might be sure that he was there. I have an idea that the 51st were left behind, although it is hard to tell about it. I should write to George to-day if I knew that he was still down to Newport News.4 Walt I should like to have letters from you much oftener  I am real worry to hear that the trouble in your head has again made its appearence. I can tell how you must feel for I am having something of the same kind myself but in a much milder form than you are. Dr Ruggles has been quite sick with the same thing but has recovered. Indeed almost everyone that I know has had a bad time with cold &c in the head. I hope dear Walt that you will speedily recover. Mother is as well as usual  Mattie is also quite well. We have not heard from Han for some little time. I suppose that she is about the same and I fear that she will be a long time in getting well.5 Hattie is as well and interesting as usual. Yesterday she had an immensely bad fall on the back part of her head. She was sitting in the chair at the sewing machine and reached over to get a small piece of stuff to stitch, leaned too far and fell striking the back part of her head pretty hard against the frame of the Extension table leaves  We bathed her head for a long time with cold water and this morning although the swelling was not all gone she appeared abt as well as usual. I was much frightened though at first I can tell you.

Walt do you ever have a chance to get hold of any of the scientific reports that Uncle Sam prints. Would it be possible for you to obtain a copy of the Pacific R. R. Exploration &c Reports.6 I should like much to get hold of anything in that line, and would be much obliged to you if you could get them for me. I find them of great use in giving me ideas about my business and they are too cursed costly to buy  Look around you and if you catch anything send it along will you

I will write you again to-morrow

Yours Affectionately, Jeff


  • 1. For Andrew's illness, see Jeff's letter to Walt dated April 3, 1860. [back]
  • 2. The Brooklyn physician Edward Ruggles (1817?–1867) befriended the Whitman family and became especially close to Jeff and Mattie Whitman. Late in life, Ruggles lost interest in his practice and devoted himself to painting cabinet pictures called "Ruggles Gems" (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:90, n. 85). [back]
  • 3. On March 31, 1863, Walt wrote in a letter to his mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman: "Mother, when you or Jeff writes again, tell me if my papers & MSS are all right—I should be very sorry indeed if they got scattered, or used up or any thing—especially the copy of Leaves of Grass covered in blue paper, and the little MS book 'Drum Taps,' & the MS tied up in the square, spotted (stone-paper) loose covers—I want them all carefully kept." [back]
  • 4. As part of General Burnside's Ninth Army, George's regiment, the Fifty-first New York, left Newport News, Virginia, on March 26, 1863, and travelled to Paris, Kentucky, arriving on April 1, 1863 (Jerome M. Loving, ed., Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman [Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1975], 90). [back]
  • 5. Hannah, a hypochondriac, complained for decades of ill health, yet she outlived her entire immediate family. [back]
  • 6. Jeff uses the popular name for the series issued by the U.S. War Department and prepared under the supervision of the U.S. Engineer Department, Topographical Bureau, Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad From the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, 12 vols. (Washington, D.C.: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1855–60). Although an earlier edition of these reports was published in a four-volume octavo in 1854, Jeff's later references to this work indicate he means the twelve-volume quarto edition. See his letter to Walt from April 11, 1863. [back]
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