Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 28 April 1864

Dearest mother

I thought I would write you just a line, though I have nothing of importance—only the talk of the street here seems more & more to assert that Burnside's army is to remain near here to protect Washington & act as a reserve, so that Grant can move the Army of the Potomac upon Richmond, without being compelled to turn & be anxious about the Capital—also that Burnside can attend to Lee if the latter should send any force up west of here, (what they call the valley of the Shenandoah)—or invade Pennsylvania again—I thought you would like to hear this—it looks plausible, but there are lots of rumors of all kinds—I cannot hear where Burnside's army is as they dont allow the papers to print army movements—but I fancy they are very near Washington, the other side of Arlington heights, this moment1

Mother, I wrote yesterday to Han, & sent one of George's last letters from Annapolis—Mother, I suppose you got my letter of Tuesday 26th—I have not heard any thing from you in quite a little while—I am still well—the weather is fine, quite hot yesterday—Mother, I am now going down to see a poor soldier who is very low with a long diarrhea—he cannot recover—when I was with him last night, he asked me before I went away to ask God's blessing on him, he says, I am no scholar & you are—poor dying man, I told him I hoped from the bottom of my heart God would bless him, & bring him up yet—I soothed him as well as I could, it was affecting, I can tell you—Jeff, I wrote to Mr Kirkwood2 yesterday to 44 Pierrepont st., he sent me some money last Monday—is Probasco3 still in the store in N Y?—dear sister Mat, I quite want to see you & California, not forgetting my little Hattie too—

Dearest mother,

Just as I am going to mail this, I receive authentic information. Burnside's army is now about 16 or 18 miles south of here, at a place called Fairfax court house—They had last night no orders to move at present, & I rather think they will remain there, or near there—What I have written before, as a rumor, about their being to be held as a reserve, to act wherever occasion may need them, is now quite decided on—You may hear a rumor in New York that they have been shipped in transports from Alexandria—there is no truth in it at all—Grant's Army of the Potomac is probably to do the heavy work—his army is strong & full of fight. Mother, I think it is today the noblest army of soldiers that ever marched—nobody can know the men so well as I do, I sometimes think—

Mother, I am writing this in Willard's hotel,4 on my way down to hospital after I leave this at post office—I shall come out to dinner at 4 o'clock & then go back to hospital again in evening—

Good bye, dear Mother, & all—



  • 1. George wrote Walt Whitman on the following day from Bristoe Station, Virginia in a letter dated April 29, 1864 : "We arrived here last night about dark, and are going to fall in, in a few minutes, to move on towards Warrenton, I believe." [back]
  • 2. The draft (from April 27, 1864), however, was addressed "44 Union Square." [back]
  • 3. See Whitman's letter from January 16, 1863. [back]
  • 4. Willard's Hotel was located on Pennsylvania Avenue between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Streets. [back]
Back to top