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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 15 March 1864

Dearest mother,

I got a letter from Jeff last Sunday—he says you have a very bad cold indeed—dear mother, I feel much concerned about it—I do hope it has passed over before this—Jeff wrote me about the house, I hope it will be so you can both remain in the same house,1 it would be much more satisfaction [line cut out] very sick of brain fever, I was with—the poor boy is dead,2 he was only 19, & a noble boy, so good, though out of his senses some eight days, though still having a kind of idea of things, no relative or friend was with him, it was very sad, I was with him considerable, only just sitting by him soothing him, he was wandering all the time, his talk was so affecting it kept the tears in my eyes much of the time, the last 24 hours he sunk very rapidly—he had been sick some months ago, & was put in the 6th invalid corps—they ought to have sent him home instead—the next morning after his death his brother came, a very fine man, postmaster at Lyme Ridge, Pa.—he was much affected, & well he might be.

Mother, I think it is worse than ever here in the hospitals, we are getting the dregs as it were of the sickness & awful hardships of the past three years—there is the most horrible cases of diarrhea you ever conceived of, & by the hundreds & thousands, I suppose from such diet as they have in the army—

Well, dear mother, I will not write any more on the sick—& yet I know you wish to hear about them—every one is so unfeeling, it has got to be an old story—there is no good nursing—O I wish you were—or rather women of such qualities as you & Mat—were here, in plenty, to be stationed as matrons among the poor sick & wounded men—just to be present would be enough—O what good it would do them—

Mother, I feel so sick when I see what kind of people there are among them, with charge over them, so cold & ceremonious, afraid to touch them—Well, Mother, I fear I have written you a flighty kind of a letter—I write in haste—


The papers came right, mother—[line cut out] love to Jeff, Mat & all—


  • 1. On March 11, 1864 (Charles E. Feinberg Collection), Jeff Whitman had reported that his mother had "the worst cold that I ever knew of," and that they were having troubles with the Browns (see Whitman's letter from April 1, 1860) about the rent. [back]
  • 2. Thomas B. Low died on March 7, 1864. His brother was George L. Low. See "Hospital Book 12" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection). [back]
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