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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 5 April 1864

Dearest Mother,

I got a letter from Jeff yesterday—he says you often work too hard, exposing yourself, I suppose scrubbing &c. and the worst of it is I am afraid it is true—Mother, I would take things easy, & let up on the scrubbing & such things, they may be needed perhaps, but they ain't half as much needed as that you should be as well as possible, & free from rheumatism & cold1—Jeff says that sis has had the chicken pox—has she got all over it—I want to hear—So Nance2 has had another child, poor little one, there don't seem to be much show for it, poor little young one, these times.

We are having awful rainy weather here—it is raining to-day, steady & spiteful enough—the soldiers in camp are having the benefit of it, & the sick, many of them—there is a great deal of rheumatism & also throat diseases, & they are affected by the weather—I have writ to George again, directed to Knoxville—Mother, I got a letter this morning from Lewis Brown,3 the young man that had his leg amputated two months or so ago—(the one that I slept in the hospital by several nights for fear of hemorrhage from the amputation)—he is home at Elkton, Maryland, on furlough, he wants me to come out there, but I believe I shall not go, he is doing very well—there are many very bad now in hospitals—so many of the soldiers are getting broke down after two years, or two & a half, exposure, & bad diet, pork, hard biscuit, bad water or none at all, &c &c—so we have them brought up here. O it is terrible, & getting worse, worse, worse—I thought it was bad to see the wounded, but to see these I sometimes think is more pitiful still—

Well, mother, I went to see the great spirit medium Foster, there were some little things some might call curious perhaps, but it is a shallow thing & a humbug—a gentleman who was with me was somewhat impressed, but I could not see any thing in it worth calling supernatural—I wouldnt turn on my heel to go again & see such things, or twice as much—we had table rappings & lots of nonsense—I will give you particulars when I come home one of these days—

Jeff, I believe there is a fate on your long letter, I thought I would write it to-day, but as it happens I will hardly get this in the mail I fear in time for to-day—O how I want to see you all, & sis & Hat—Well I have scratched out a great letter, just as fast as I could write—

Wednesday forenoon—Mother, I didn't get the letter in the mail yesterday—I have just had my breakfast, some good tea & good toast & butter—I write this in my room, 456 Sixth st.—the storm seems to be over—dear Mother, I hope you are well & in good spirits—Write to me often as you can & Jeff too—any news from Han?



  • 1. Jeff's letter to Walt Whitman is apparently lost, but he obviously repeated the complaint voiced in earlier letters (see note 1 in Whitman's letter from March 22, 1864) that Mrs. Whitman refused to engage domestic help. George, in his letter of April 14, 1864 reinforced the injunctions of his brothers: "I am quite sure, Mother, that you are not half carefull enough of yourself, and if you would only hire someone to come and work for you two or three days every week, and let them do all the scrubing and cleaning, I am sure you would not be trobled so much with colds and lameness. You needent say you cant afford it, Mammy, for I will guarentee to send you money enough to keep the Institution running (without your working the way you always have) and, Mammy, dont you be backward in useing it." [back]
  • 2. Nancy Whitman, also known as "Nance," Whitman's sister–in–law and wife of his brother Andrew. [back]
  • 3. See the letter from January 29, 1864. [back]
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