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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 6 February 1863

Dearest mother,

Jeff must have got a letter1 from me yesterday, containing George's last letter.2 The news of your sickness, and the strange silence of Han made me feel somewhat gloomy. I wrote to George yesterday, conveying the news—and to-day I have sent him another letter, with much more comfortable news, for I was so glad to hear from Han, (her letter, enclosed in Jeff's, received this morning) that I wrote him right away, and sent Han's letter.3

Mother, I am quite in hopes George will get a furlough—may-be my expectations are unfounded, but I almost count on it.4 I am so glad this morning to hear you are no worse, but changed for the better—and dear sister Mat too, and sissy, I am so glad to think they are recovering.5 Jeff's enclosure of $10 through Mr. Lane,6 from the young engineers, for the soldiers in hospitals, the most needy cases, came safe of course—I shall acknowledge it to Mr. Lane to-morrow. Mother, I have written so much about hospitals, that I will not write any in this letter.

We have had bad weather enough here lately to most make up for the delightful weather we had for five weeks after I came from home.

Mother, I do hope you will be careful, and not get any relapse—and hope you will go on improving. Do you then think of getting new apartments, after the 1st of May? I suppose Jeff has settled about the lot7—it seems to me first rate as an investment—the kind of house to build is quite a consideration, (if any house,) I should build a regular Irish shanty myself, two rooms, and an end shed—I think that's luxury enough, since I have been down in the army.

Well, mother, I believe I will not fill out the sheet this time, as I want to go down without delay to the P. O. and send George's letter, and this one.

Good bye, dear mother,



  • 1. Whitman's letter to Jeff is not extant. In a letter from February 6, 1863, Jeff mentioned that he had shown Whitman's "last letter" to Moses Lane, who thought it "was a clincher." Probably Lane borrowed the letter in order to aid his solicitation of funds for Whitman's hospital work. [back]
  • 2. From his camp near Falmouth, George had written to Whitman on January 13, 1863, and February 1, 1863, and to his mother on January 22, 1863. [back]
  • 3. These letters are not known. [back]
  • 4. On February 1, 1863, George vowed that if he did not receive a furlough, he would submit his resignation, "as it is hardly a fair shake for some to go home two or three times a year while others cant get away at all." On February 6, 1863, he was still discouraged about the prospects for a leave. [back]
  • 5. On the day Whitman wrote this letter, Jeff reported that the three were recovering, and that "I think they all have had the worst colds that I know of" (see Jeff's letter from February 6, 1863). [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, 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 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. On February 6, 1863, Jeff wrote: "I think I shall be able to carry through my little 'real estate' scheme without much trouble, and I think it is a good one, at least I must try, for I am 'in' and I suppose I shall not be a true Whitman if I dont get disheartened, however I do not feel at all so just now. On the 'contrary quite the revarse [sic].'" [back]
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