Skip to main content

Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 3 April 1863

Dear brother Walt,

I mailed a letter to you yesterday promising to write you again to-day. Ruggles1 came up and saw Andrew last eve. and had quite a lengthy interview  He said that the stuff that he was taking was abt as good for him as he could take and to continue but that the thing that would cure him would to be very careful of himself and to breathe nothing but the best and freshest air. Drink none, stay at home nights sleep in a well-ventilated room &c &c and be careful to work out-doors  I walked down with him (Ruggles) afterward and he told me that it was a pretty bad case, that he couldnt take anything that would help him particularly. That the trouble was very low down in his throat and that such cases often ended in consumption. He said that the best thing that he could do would be to get work away from the sea-coast if possible. I hope Andrew will take better care of himself in future. The Dr. will see him again in 6 or 8 days

The enclosed $5.0 Mr Lane2 sends you  He wished me to say that he would write you himself but could hardly get time. He told me to tell you that he intended the money for your own especial benefit  That you could not stay there wihtout its costing you something and that you could do this amt of good to the soldiers by telling them good, cheerful things and letting them look at you.3 The amt of it is I suppose he thinks that as you are giving all your time to the Hospitals that you must want a little money yourself. It is certainly characteristic of the man. I told him I would take it and send it to you and tell you what he said but that you would probably apply it as you had the rest. Anyway you must write him abt it. He told me that the man Crany4 would send you some more too, or had promised to. I wish you would write Mr Lane.5

Mother had a letter from Heyde to-day. He says that Han is not any different. The whole of his letter is taken up with abuse of George for not coming on when he had his furlough. And after a long rigarmarole he winds up with saying that he has no accomodations for anyone. Nice pup aint he. Oh I wish to God he had been in Hell before we ever saw him.6 Poor Han I hope she will get able to come home. Han had received your letter telling her that George had been home. Mother wrote Han that George was home and that he would come and see her but that his furlough was so short that twould be impossible and received a reply from Heyde that he would not give the letter to her for he was afraid it would excite her too much. We supposed of course, however that she knew that he had been home, but it seems that she did not know it till she received your letter. Mother has written her to-day and I send one of his little pictures.

I believe that Hattie has received no injury from her fall  she appears to-day abt the same as usual. She is growing finely and is as smart as a child of her age ought to be. All the rest the same as usual  I am going to try to get Mat to go to the Opera to-morrow to the P. M. performance  I want her to hear this company before they leave.7 I spoke yesterday abt Public doc. I of course mean scientific ones  those I should be glad to get.8

Write me as much and as often as you can  What do you think abt George, & where is he?

Yours affn, Jeff


  • 1. 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]
  • 2. 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. [back]
  • 3. Walt Whitman often prepared "from a couple to four or five hours" for a hospital visit in order to exude "the perfection of phsyical health" and to present "as cheerful an appearance as possible" (Floyd Stovall, ed., Walt Whitman: Prose Works 1892 [New York: New York University Press, 1963–64], 1:52). He wrote in a letter dated May 14, 1863, "my profoundest help to these sick & dying men is probably the soothing invigoration I steadily bear in mind, to infuse in them through affection, cheering love… It has saved more than one life." [back]
  • 4. Unidentified. [back]
  • 5. There is no record of Walt Whitman writing Lane at this time. [back]
  • 6. Walt Whitman referred to Charles Heyde with similar exasperation, calling him "the bed-buggiest man on the earth"—"almost the only man alive who can make me mad" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (November 1, 1888–January 20, 1889) [New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1961], 3:498). [back]
  • 7. Max Maretzek's new troupe gave a matinee performance of Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix at the New York Academy of Music on April 4, 1863. See also Jeff's letter to Walt from March 21, 1863. [back]
  • 8. See Jeff's letter to Walt dated April 2, 1863. [back]
Back to top