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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 22 March 1864

Dearest Mother,

I feel quite bad to hear that you are not well, have a pain in your side, & a very bad cold—dear Mother, I hope it is better—I wish you would write to me, or Jeff would, right away, as I shall not feel easy until I hear—I rec'd George's letter, Jeff wrote with it, about your feeling pretty sick, & the pain—Mother, I also rec'd your letter a few days before—you say the Brown's acted very mean & I should think they did indeed, but as it is going to remain the same about the house, I should let it all pass1—I am very glad Mat & Jeff are going to remain, I should not have felt satisfied if they & you had been separated—I have written a letter to Han, with others enclosed, a good long letter, (took two postage stamps)—I have written to George too, directed it to Knoxville.2

Mother, every thing is the same with me, I am feeling very well indeed, the old trouble of my head stopt & my ears affected, has not troubled me any since I came back here from Brooklyn—I am writing this in Major Hapgood's old office, cor 15th & F st., where I have my old table & window—it is dusty & chilly to-day, any thing but agreeable—Gen Grant is expected every moment now in the Army of the Potomac, to take active command—I have just this moment heard from the front—there is nothing yet of a movement, but each side is continually on the alert, expecting something to happen—O mother, to think that we are to have here soon what I have seen so many times, the awful loads & trains & boat loads of poor bloody & pale & wounded young men again—for that is what we certainly will, & before very long—I see all the little signs, getting ready in the hospitals &c.—it is dreadful, when one thinks about it—I sometimes think over the sights I have myself seen, the arrival of the wounded after a battle, & the scenes on the field too, & I can hardly believe my own recollection—what an awful thing war is—Mother, it seems not men but a lot of devils & butchers butchering each other—

Dear Mother, I think twenty times a day about your sickness—O I hope it is not so bad as Jeff wrote, he said you was worse than you had ever been before—& he would write me again—well he must, even if only a few lines—what have you heard from Mary & her family, anything?

Well, dear Mother, I hope this will find you quite well of the pain, & of your cold—write about the little girls & Mat & all—



  • 1. About his mother Jeff Whitman wrote on March 19: "She has a very steady and severe pain, she thinks a gathering or enlargement, in the right side of her chest. For a day or two she was almost helpless. . . . I am really fearful that she has permanently hurt herself" (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). As this quotation indicates, Jeff rarely, if ever, understated; he always foresaw disaster, particularly in any situation in which his mother was involved. Again he complained that her parsimony kept her from hiring household help. The difficulties with the Browns had been settled, and both families were to remain on Portland Avenue for another year. [back]
  • 2. According to George Whitman's letter of April 3 to his mother (Trent Collection), Walt Whitman wrote on March 19. [back]
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