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Walt Whitman to Moses Lane, 11 May 1863

 loc.00769.001.jpg Dear friend,1

Your letters of the 6th & 7 have arrived, with timely contributions from D. L. Northrup,2 John H. Rhodes,3 Thos. Cotrel,4 Nicholas Wyckoff,5 & Thomas Sullivan,6 for my poor men here in hospital. With these, as with other funds, I aid all I can soldiers from all the states. Most heartily do I thank you, dear friend, for your kind exertions—& those gentlemen above named—it is a work of God's charity, never cases more deserving of aid, never more heart-rending cases, than these now coming up in one long bloody string from Chancellorsville and Fredericksburgh battles, six or seven hundred every day without intermission. We have already over 3000 arrived here in hospital from Hooker's late battles. I work somewhere among them every day or in the evening. It is not so exhausting as one might think—the endurance & spirit are supplied. My health, thank God, was never better—I feel strong & elastic—an obstinate cold & deafness some weeks, seems to be broken up at last. Yesterday I spent nearly all day at Armory Square Hospital. This forenoon I take an intermission, & go again at dusk.

You there north must not be so disheartened about Hooker's return to this side of the Rappahannock and supposed failure.7 The blow struck at Lee & the rebel sway in Virginia, & generally at Richmond & Jeff Davis, by this short but tremendous little campaign, of 2d, 3d, 4th & 5th inst's, is in my judgment the heaviest and most staggering they have yet got from us, & has not only hit them nearer where they live than all Maclellan ever did, but all that has been levelled at Richmond during the war. I mean this deliberately. We have I know paid for it  loc.00769.002.jpg loc.00769.003.jpgwith thousands of dear noble lives, America's choicest blood, yet the late battles are not without something decisive to show for them. Hooker will resume operations forthwith—may be has resumed them. Do not be discouraged. I am not even here—here amid all this huge mess of traitors, loafers, hospitals, axe-grinders, & incompetencies & officials that goes by the name of Washington. I myself yet believe in Hooker & the A[rmy] of P[otomac]—yet say he is a good man.

Jeff writes me about your boy Horace Tarr,8 20th Connecticut. I will endeavor to make immediate inquiry about him—there are some of the 20th Conn. here in hospital—will write you forthwith, if I get any information.

I have written to Nicholas Wyckoff,9 to your care, a hospital &c. letter.

Love & thanks to you, dear friend, & to those who are aiding my boys.10



  • 1. See Whitman's letter from January 16, 1863 . 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 Whitman, 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 February 6, 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]
  • 2. Daniel L. Northrup was a member of the Brooklyn Water Commission. [back]
  • 3. John H. Rhodes was a water purveyor in Brooklyn. [back]
  • 4. Thomas Cotrel or Cottrell (1808–1887) occupied various positions in the Brooklyn city government, including (in 1863) clerk of the water construction board. Cotrel later moved west, dying in Alameda, California, on January 14, 1887. Thanks to Walter Stahr for contributing this information about Cotrel, his ancestor. [back]
  • 5. Nicholas Wyckoff was the president of the First National Bank of Brooklyn. [back]
  • 6. Thomas Sullivan is unidentified. [back]
  • 7. On May 8, 1863, the New York Times reported that Hooker was rumored to have retired to the northern side of the Rappahannock River. It would seem as though Whitman were anticipating Jeff's letter of May 9, 1863: "Of course we all feel pretty well down-hearted at the news but then we try to look on it in the most favorable light. God only knows what will be the next. I had certainly made up my mind that we should meet with partial success certainly, but it seems otherwise." [back]
  • 8. Jeff wrote in his May 9, 1863, letter to Walt that Lane was concerned about the whereabouts of his nephew Horace G. Tarr, a lanquet-major. On July 8, 1863, Jeff informed his brother that "Lane is again very anxious about his boy." [back]
  • 9. But see the letter from May 14, 1863. As noted above, Wyckoff was the president of the First National Bank of Brooklyn. [back]
  • 10. Endorsed (by Walt Whitman): "letter to | Moses Lane | May 11th 1863." Draft letter. [back]
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