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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 11 August 1863

Dear mother,

I sent Jeff a letter on Sunday, I suppose he got at the office—I feel so anxious to hear from George, one cannot help feeling uneasy, although these days sometimes it cannot help being long intervals without one's hearing from friends in the army—O I do hope we shall hear soon, & that it is all right with him—it seems as if the 9th corps had returned to Vicksburgh, & some acc'ts say that part of the corps had started to come up the river again—toward Kentucky I suppose—I have sent George two letters within a week past,1 hoping they might have the luck to get to him, but hardly expect it either—

Mother, I feel very sorry to hear Andrew is so troubled in his throat yet, I know it must make you feel very unhappy—Jeff wrote me a good deal about it, & seems to feel very bad about Andrew's being unwell—but I hope it will go over, & that a little time will make him recover—I think about it every day2

Mother, it has been the hottest weather here that I ever experienced, & still continues so—yesterday & last night was the hottest—still I slept sound, have good ventilation through my room, little as it is, (I still hire the same room in L street)—I was quite wet with sweat this morning when I woke up, a thing I never remember to have happened to me before, for I was not disturbed in my sleep & did not wake up once all night—Mother, I believe I did not tell you that on the 1st of June (or a while before) the O'Connor's, the friends I took my meals with so long, moved to other apartments, far more room & pleasanter—not far off though, I am there every day almost, a little—so for nearly two months & a half I have been in the habit of getting my own breakfast in my room & my dinner at a restaurant—I have a little spirit lamp, & always have a capital cup of tea, & some bread, & perhaps some preserved fruit—for dinner I get a good plate of meat & plenty of potatoes, good & plenty, for 25 or 30 cents—I hardly ever take any thing more than these two meals, both of them are pretty hearty—eat dinner about 3—my appetite is plenty good enough, & I am about as fleshy as I was in Brooklyn—Mother, I feel better the last ten days, & at present, than I did the preceding six or eight weeks—there was nothing particular the matter with me, but I suppose a different climate & being so continually in the hospitals—but as I say I feel better, more strength & better in my head &c.—About the wound in my hand & the inflammation, &c.3 it has thoroughly healed, & I have not worn any thing on my hand, nor had any dressing for the last five days—Mother, I hope you get along with the heat, for I see it is as bad or worse in New York & Brooklyn—I am afraid you suffer from it, it must be distressing to you—dear mother, do let things go, & just sit still & fan yourself—I think about you these hot days—I fancy I see you down there in the basement—I suppose you have your coffee for breakfast—I have not had three cups of coffee in six months, tea altogether—(I must come home & have some coffee for breakfast with you)—

Mother, I wrote to you about Erastus Haskell,4 co K 141st N Y—his father, poor old man, come on here to see him, & found him dead three days, he had the body embalmed & took home—they are poor folks but very respectable—I was at the hospital yesterday as usual—I never miss a day—I go by my feelings—if I should feel that it would be better for me to lay by a while, I should do so, but not while I feel so well as I do the past week, for all the hot weather, & while the chance lasts I would improve it, for by & by the night cometh when no man can work, (ain't I getting pious?)

I got a letter from Probasco5 yesterday, he sent $4 for my sick & wounded—I wish Jeff to tell him that it came right, & give him the men's thanks & my love—

Mother, have you heard any thing from Han? And about Mary's Fanny6—I hope you will write me soon & tell me everything—tell me exactly as things are, but I know you will—I want to hear family affairs before any thing else—I am so glad to hear Mat is good & hearty—you must write me about Hat & little black head too—Mother, how is Eddy getting along—and Jess, is he about the same—I suppose Will Brown is home all right, tell him I spoke about him, & the Browns too7—dearest mother, I send you my love, & to Jeff too—must write when you can—



  • 1. George's lengthy letter to his mother on July 23, 1863, from Milldale, Mississippi, in which he described the regiment's recent activities, evidently had not reached the family when Walt Whitman wrote. Walt Whitman's letters to George and Jeff are not known. [back]
  • 2. On August 4, 1863, Jeff discussed Andrew's illness at length: "Andrew is not getting any better I fear. I think that he will hardly get well again, Walt. The doctors all say that he must go out from the seashore if he wants to get well. . . . He is badly off. He can hardly speak, nor eat anything, but worse than all I guess that his home comforts are not much. I dont think Nancy has the faculty of fixing things to eat for a sick man. Andrew still goes to the Navy Yard and thereby gets his pay, but I hardly think he does anything. Sometimes he is much better than others but as a general thing he is mighty badly off." [back]
  • 3. Evidently Whitman mentioned this inflammation in letters no longer extant. [back]
  • 4. Whitman refers to a letter written to his mother from July 28, 1863. For Erastus Haskell, see also Whitman's letters from July 27, 1863 , August 10, 1863 , and September 15, 1863 . [back]
  • 5. Louis Probasco was a young employee in the Brooklyn Water Works, probably the son of Samuel; he was listed as a cooper in the Brooklyn Directory of 1861–1862. [back]
  • 6. Fanny Van Nostrand was Mary's (Walt Whitman's sister) mother-in-law. See also the letters from August 18, 1863 , August 25, 1863 , and September 29, 1863 . [back]
  • 7. The Browns lived for five years with the Whitmans on Portland Avenue, Brooklyn. He was a tailor. Relations between the two families were sometimes strained; see Whitman's letter from March 22, 1864. On June 3, 1865 (Trent Collection), Mrs. Whitman informed her son that she was glad to move away from the Browns. [back]
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