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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 13 June 1863

Dear brother Walt,

I received your letter yesterday morning.1 I am extremely glad to hear that your health continues so good. Walt I have thought considerable of the idea that you speak of, that of your giving lectures2  I fear that you would not meet with that success that you deserve. Mr Lane3 and I talked about the matter and both came to the conclusion that it would be much better if you could be appointed dispensing agent, or something of that kind, for some of the numerous aid societies,4 and he said that he would go and see Storrs5 and some other of the big guns of those societies in this city and see if it could not be done. What do you think about it. Do you think it could be accomplished.?

Everything is going along well with us at home. Mother is not troubled hardly any with her rheumatism and I am in hopes she will get the best of it entirely. Mattie is well and in first-rate spirits, she often speaks of you and says she would like very much to see you. Hattie is growing as nicely as it is possibly for a child to grow. You would love dearly to take a stroll with her now I know  Andrew has not yet gone to Newbern6 but thinks that they will get off the fore part of the coming week. Jess and Ed are just the same as ever. We were all much pleased with the idea that you would come home to make us a visit, I do so hope that you can carry it out.7 do try Walt, for me  all want to see you very much

I am glad you wrote Mother about the way in which you board for I have often and often thought how you was doing in that respect and I sometimes thought I ought to do something in the matter, precisely what or how I never could tell. I am real glad my dear Walt that you are among such good people. I hope it will be in the power of some of our family to return their Kindness some day. I'm sure twould be done with a heartfelt gratitude  Tis pleasant, too, to think that there are still people of that kind left.8 You, of course, still continue your hospital "practice" as you might call it. I wish we were able to send you more money than we do but almost everyone you meet is a contributor to some of the aid societies and that is the way in which they are (thinking) doing good

Well, Walt, you and I cannot agree in regard to "Uncle Abe"9  I cannot think that he is the man for the place or he would have surrounded himself with men that could do something. He lends himself to the speculators, in all the ways that it can be done. He says "yes" to the last man or "No" as that man wants him to. Everything he does reminds me of an old woman. I hope that the country will last long enough for this damned war to fall through   It seems nothing but an immense bubble, only of a desperate character

We have not heard from Han lately  I wrote you that we had had a letter from George. I fear for George now  I am afraid that they have sent the 51st to Vicksburgh.10 I do hope that George may escape but I fear not  It seems as if he had been so lucky that it could not continue till the end. If you can learn anything of the 51st write me will you  All send their love, good night dear brother

Yours affectionately Jeff.


  • 1. Walt Whitman's letter of about June 11, 1863, is not extant. [back]
  • 2. In a letter to his mother on June 9, 1863, Walt wrote: "I think something of commencing a series of lectures & readings &c. through different cities of the north, to supply myself with funds for my Hospital & Soldiers visits—as I do not like to be beholden to the medium of others." [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. On June 22, 1863, Whitman was still firmly committed to this lecturing project. As he wrote Jeff, he hoped it would enable him "to continue my Hospital ministrations, on a more free handed scale—As to the Sanitary Commissions & the like, I am sick of them all, & would not accept any of their berths—you ought to see the way the men as they lie helpless in bed turn away their faces from the sight of these Agents." Jeff also had questioned the value of the Sanitary Commission (see Jeff's letter to Walt from February 6, 1863). [back]
  • 5. The Reverend Dr. Richard S. Storrs was a member of Brooklyn's St. Nicholas Society. Walt saved a section of the Brooklyn Eagle, December 11, 1861, containing a short account of Storr's lecture to this society on "A Just War—Its Relations to a Nations [sic] Highest Development" (Charles E. Feinburg Collection, Library of Congress). [back]
  • 6. As Jerome M. Loving notes, "it remains somewhat of a mystery as to why Andrew was beckoned only as far as Suffolk." Perhaps Andrew was to travel to Suffolk, Virginia, by boat, at which point James H. Cornwell, first lieutenant in the 158th New York Regiment of Infantry and quartermaster in charge of building fortifications at New Bern, North Carolina, could have met him and conducted him to New Bern by land. Andrew never made the trip (Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman [Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1949], 166). [back]
  • 7. In his letter of June 9, 1863, Walt indicated that he would try to return home to get "some MSS & books, & the trunk, &c." He did not make the trip until November. [back]
  • 8. Because of the generosity of William Douglas O'Connor and his wife, Ellen, Walt had not paid for his meals in Washington (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:108). [back]
  • 9. See Jeff's letter to Walt from May 27, 1863. [back]
  • 10. On June 4, 1863, the Fifty-first New York Regiment, as part of the Ninth Corps, left Stanford, Kentucky, to support the Union forces near Vicksburg. They arrived about June 15, 1863 (Loving, 97). As late as June 30 Walt suspected that George was near Vicksburg, but he had no certain knowledge (Correspondence, 1:111). [back]
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