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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 31 March 1864

Dearest mother,

I have just this moment received your letter dated last Monday evening—dear mother, I have not seen any thing in any paper where the 51st is, nor heard any thing, but I do not feel any ways uneasy about them, I presume they are at Knoxville, Tennessee1—Mother, they are now paying off many of the regiments in this army—but about George I suppose there will be delays in sending money &c—dear mother, I wish I had some money to send you, but I am living very close by the wind—Mother, I will try somehow to send you something worth while, & I do hope you will not worry & feel unhappy about money matters—I know things are very high—Mother, I suppose you got my letter written Tuesday last, 29th March, did you not?

I have been going to write to Jeff for more than a month—I laid out to write a good long letter, but something has prevented me, one thing & another—but I will try to write to-morrow sure—

Mother, I have been in the midst of suffering & death for two months worse than ever—the only comfort is that I have been the cause of some beams of sunshine upon their suffering & gloomy souls & bodies too—many of the dying I have been with too—

Well, mother, you must not worry about the grocery bill &c, though I suppose you will say that is easier said than followed—(As to me I believe I worry about worldly things less than ever, if that is possible)—Tell Jeff & Mat I send them my love—Gen Grant has just come in town from front—the country here is all mud again—I am going to a spiritualist medium2 this evening, I expect it will be a humbug of course, I will tell you next letter—dear mother, keep a good heart—


How is Californy?—tell Hat her uncle Walt will come home one of these days, & take her to New York to walk in Broadway—poor little Jim,3 I should like to see him—there is a rich young friend of mine wants me to go to Idaho with him to make money4


  • 1. In his letter of April 3, 1864 from Annapolis, Maryland, to his mother, George traced the itinerary of the Fifty-first Regiment: "When I last wrote you [March 6] from Nashville Tenn. we were just about leaving that place for the front. Well we went to Knoxville by way of Chattanooga, stopped at Knoxville a day or two, and then were ordered to a place called Mossy Creek, about 40 miles beyond Knoxville. The next day after we arrived at the Creek we were ordered to bout face and travel over the same ground again back to this place. We arrived here yesterday having been nearly two weeks on the journey, our Regt. came nearly all the way by Rail Road." [back]
  • 2. The celebrated medium, Charles H. Foster. Whitman referred to the seance again in his letter from April 5, 1864. Foster's career is described by George C. Bartlett, The Salem Seer: Reminiscences of Charles H. Foster (New York: United States Book Company, 1891), and by Arthur Conan Doyle, The History of Spiritualism (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1926) 2:30–34. Note also Whitman's interest in Mrs. Hatch in his June 20, 1857 letter to Sarah Tyndale. See Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence (New York: New York University Press, 1961–77), 1:42–44). [back]
  • 3. Whitman is possibly referring to Captain John Mullan. See the letter from March 31, 1863 for more information. Apparently Mrs. Whitman's letter to which this is an answer is not extant. [back]
  • 4. Jim was a newphew to Whitman and the son of Andrew Jackson Whitman. [back]
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