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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 25 August 1863

Dear Mother,

The letter from George & your lines, & a few from Jeff came yesterday, & I was glad indeed to be certain that George had got back to Kentucky safe & well1—while so many fall that we know or, what is about as bad, get sick or hurt in the fight, & lay in hospital, it seems almost a miracle that George should have gone through so much, south & north & east and west, & been in so many hard-fought battles, & thousands of miles of weary & exhausting marches, & yet have stood it so, & be yet alive & in good health & spirits—O mother, what would we [have] done if it had been otherwise—if he had met the fate of so many we know—if he had been killed or badly hurt in some of those battles—I get thinking about it sometimes, & it works upon me so I have to stop & turn my mind on something else—

Mother, I feel bad enough about Andrew, & I know it must be so with you too—one don't know what do do—if we had money he would be welcome to it, if it would do any good—if George's money comes from Kentucky this last time & you think some of it would do Andrew any real good I advise you to take some & give him—I think it would be proper & George would approve of it2—I believe there is not much but trouble in this world, & if one hasn't any for himself he has it made up by having it brought close to him through others, & that is sometimes worse than to have it touch one'sself—Mother, you must not let Andrew's case & the poor condition of his household comforts &c. work upon you, for I fear you will, but, mother, it's no use to worry about such things—I have seen now so much horrors that befal men, (so bad & such suffering & mutilations, &c that the poor men can defy their fate to do any thing more or any harder misfortune or worse agony) that I sometimes think I have grown callous—but, no, I don't think it is that, but nothing of ordinary misfortune seems as it used to, & death itself has lost all its terrors—I have seen so many cases in which it was so welcome & such a relief—

Mother, you must just resign yourself to things that occur—but I hardly think it is necessary to give you any charge about it, for I think you have done so for many years, & stood it all with good courage—

We have a second attack of the hot weather—Sunday was the most burning day I ever yet saw—it is very dry & dusty here, but to-day we are having a middling good breeze—I feel pretty well, & whenever the weather for a day or so is passably cool I feel really first rate, so I anticipate the cooler season with pleasure—

Mother, I believe I wrote to you I had a letter in N Y Times, Sunday 16th3—I shall try to write others & more frequently—the three Eagles came safe, I was glad to get them—I sent them & another paper to George—Mother, you none of you ever mention whether you get my letters, but I suppose they come safe—it is not impossible I may miss some week, but I have not missed a single one for months past—I wish I could send you something worth while & I wish I could send something for Andrew—Mother, write me exactly how it is with him4—I see you still have letters from Heyde, I hope they dont never come just as you are setting down to the table, for they would take away your appetite I know—Mother, I have some idea Han is getting some better, it is only my idea somehow—I hope it is so from the bottom of my heart—did you hear from Mary's Fanny5 since?

And how are Mat's girls—so, Mannahatta, you tear Uncle George's letters, do you?6—you mustn't do so, little girl, nor Uncle Walt's either, but when you get to be a big girl, you must have them all nice, & read them, for grandmother will perhaps leave them to you in her will, if you behave like a lady—Matty, my dear sister, how are you getting along? I really want to see you, bad—& the baby too—well may be we shall all come together & have some good times yet—Jeff, I hope by next week this time we shall be in possession of Charleston—some papers say Burnside is moving for Knoxville, but it is doubtful—I think the 9th Corps might take a rest awhile anyhow—good bye, mother—



  • 1. George wrote to his mother from Covington, Kentucky, on August 16, 1863: "I have been perfectly healthy all through the Vicksburg campaign although there has been considerable sickness in our regt. especially during the last two weeks of our stay at Milldale" (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). [back]
  • 2. In a letter written between August 16–25, Whitman's mother spoke of using some of the $175 George promised to send her to aid Andrew: "If he could see Andrew i know he would say mother give him some and let him go on in the country if it will doo him good. I went down there the other day but O walt how poverty stricken every thing looked, it made me feel bad all night and so dirty every thing" (Trent Collection). [back]
  • 3. See Whitman's letter from August 18, 1863 . [back]
  • 4. The next sentence was deleted by the executors. See omissions of references to Heyde in the letters from May 19, 1863 and August 18, 1863 . [back]
  • 5. Fanny Van Nostrand. See the letters from August 11, 1863 and September 29, 1863 . [back]
  • 6. Mrs. Whitman was not amused in her terse postscript: "Miss hattie has torn this letter as usual" (Trent Collection). [back]
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