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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 27 May 1863

Dear Walt,

Mother recived your letter of last Tuesday, this morning1  We were glad to hear from you  indeed I began to think that the hospitals had got the better of you, as we had not heard in so long. I mailed you a letter from Mr Lane2 to-day containing some money. I suppose Mr Lane would have written you before but he met with quite a serious accident last Sunday  His little boy, abt 5 years old, fell from the balcony down in the area on the stone steps and hurt his head pretty bad. The Dr's hardly know how bad he is hurt, but think he will recover. Dr Ruggles3 who was called in says that it is hardly possible to say how it will go with him for abt 10 days  It is a great blow to Mr Lane as he was his favorite child. I am in hopes that it is not so serious as we at first supposed. With us every thing is the same as usual. Mother is quite well  Mattie is well yet but how long she will continue so is a question,4 she is getting along first rate. she has a young girl to help her do the house work and is in the best of spirits  Hattie is getting along finely growing well and has perfect health. She has grown wonderfully since you left. I think you would hardly know her. A few days since she had quite a bad fall, or rather it might have been one but she luckily escaped without doing herself much harm  She fell in the yard and hit her forehead on the little curb stones that are set on edge along the sides of the walks. She cut quite a gash in her forehead but it has entirely healed up and indeed hardly leaves any mark now

We had a letter from George written abt the time that yours was5  I answered it at once. When you write to George tell him that I write him quite often although he does not seem to get them. Andrew thinks he will go down to Newbern the last of this week. He will go down with Jim Cornwell.6 Andrew is going to take charge of the building of some fortifications I believe. Andrew's health is not good although I think he is better than he was and I think he would get well easy enough if he took better care of himself and did not drink so much. His family are all well. We or rather Mother had a letter from Heyde the other day reading thus  "Your letter received. Han is better to-day than she has been for months—Charlie"  That was all there was in it. Rather short and sweet wasn't it.

We are having what might be called first-class weather here to-day, athoug[h] we have had that same cold, damp North east wind that you spoke of  Everything in the country looks well and I guess that we shall have large crops unless something unlikely occurs. We are anxiously expecting to hear from Vicksburg and begin to fear that it is going to turn out like the Victories of the Army of the Potomac although Grant aint in the habit of doing such things either.7 I hope and pray that he may be successful  I cannot agree with you Walt in relation to the President. I think that he is not a man for the times, not big enough  He dont seem to have even force enough to stop bickerings between his own Cabinet and Generals nor force enough to do as he thinks best.8 We begin also to fear that Hooker did not win a very great victory either or he would hardly lie idle so long during the best part of the year.9 No, A. L.10 is not the man and I hardly know if we have one that is equal to the thing. Write me  you have almost forgotten me. All send their love,

Affectionately Jeff.


  • 1. Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence (New York: New York University Press, 1961–77), 1:102–104. [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. The Brooklyn physician Edward Ruggles (1817?–1867) befriended the Whitman family and became especially close to Jeff and Mattie. Late in life, Ruggles lost interest in his practice and devoted himself to painting cabinet pictures called "Ruggles Gems" (Correspondence 1:90, n. 85). [back]
  • 4. Martha Mitchell Whitman, also known as "Mattie," was Whitman's sister-in-law and wife of his brother Jeff. She was in the last month of her pregnancy at this time. [back]
  • 5. Jeff apparently refers to George's letter of May 15, 1863. [back]
  • 6. James H. Cornwell was a first lieutenant in the 158th New York Regiment of Infantry. He was the quartermaster in charge of building fortifications at New Bern, North Carolina (Loving, 96, n. 5). [back]
  • 7. The siege of Vicksburg had begun May 22, 1863, and Jeff was apparently afraid that, win or lose, it would be as costly and indecisive a battle as those during the previous nine months at Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. [back]
  • 8. Walt Whitman enclosed the preceding three sentences in parentheses. Perhaps in a lost letter Walt conveyed to Jeff ideas about President Lincoln similar to those he offered to his friends Nathaniel Bloom and John F. S. Gray in March: "I think well of the President. He has a face like a hoosier Michael Angelo, so awful ugly it becomes beautiful....Mr. Lincoln keeps a fountain of first-class practical telling wisdom. I do not dwell on the supposed failures of his government; he has shown I sometimes think, an almost supernatural tact in keeping the ship afloat at all" (Correspondence, 1:82–83). Despite this and similar remarks, the poet's faith in Lincoln did occasionally waver. See Correspondence, 1:174, n. 19. [back]
  • 9. For Jeff and Walt's struggle to understand the outcome of the Battle of Chancellorsville, see Jeff's letters to Walt of May 9, 1863 and May 12, 1863. [back]
  • 10. Abraham Lincoln. [back]
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