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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 13 May 1864

Dearest Mother

I wrote you a hurried letter late yesterday afternoon, but left it myself at the P O in time for the mail—you ought to have got it this forenoon, or afternoon at furthest—I sent you two letters yesterday—I hope the carrier brings you your letters the same day—I wrote to the Brooklyn postmaster about it—

I have heard from George up to Tuesday morning last, 10th, till which time he was safe—the battle of Friday 6th was very severe—George's co. K lost one acting Lt Sturgis killed, 2 men killed, 4 wounded—as I wrote yesterday I have seen here Corp Fred Sanders of Co K who was wounded in side, nothing serious, in Friday's fight, & came up here—I also talked with Sgt Brown,1 co F, 51st—rather badly wounded in right shoulder—Sanders said when he left Tuesday morning, he heard (or saw them there, I forget which) the 51st & its whole division were on guard duty toward the rear—the 9th Corps however has had hard fighting since, but whether the division, or brigade the 51st is in, was in the fights of Tuesday, 10th (a pretty severe one,) or Wednesday I cannot yet tell, & it is useless to make calculations—& the only way is to wait & hope for the best—as I wrote yesterday there were some 20 of 51st reg't killed & 50 wounded in Friday's battle, 6th inst—

I have seen Col LeGendre, he is here in Washington, not far from where I am—485 12th st is his address—poor man, I felt sorry indeed for him, he is badly wounded & disfigured, he is shot through the bridge of the nose, & left eye probably lost—I spent a little time with him this forenoon—he is suffering very much—spoke of George very kindly, said "your brother is well"—his orderly told me he saw him (George) Sunday night last well—Fred McReady is wounded in hip, I believe bone fractured, bad enough, but not deeply serious—I cannot hear of his arrival here, if he comes I shall find him immediately & take care of him myself—he is probably yet at Fredericksburgh, but will come up I think2

Yesterday & to-day the badly wounded are coming in—the long lists of previous arrivals, (I suppose they are all reprinted at great length in N Y papers)3 are of men ¾ths of them quite slightly wounded, & the rest hurt pretty bad—I was thinking, mother, if one could see the men who arrived in the first squads, of two or three hundred at a time, one wouldn't be alarmed at those terrible long lists—Still there is a sufficient sprinkling of deeply distressing cases—I find my hands full all the time, with new & old cases—poor suffering young men, I think of them, & do try, Mother, to do what I can for them, (& not think of the vexatious skedaddlers & merely scratched ones, of whom there are too many lately come here)—

Dearest Mother, I hope you & all are well—you must keep a good heart—still the fighting is very mixed, but it seems steadily turning into real successes for Grant—the news to-day here is very good—you will see it in N Y papers—I steadily believe Grant is going to succeed, & that we shall have Richmond—but O what a price to pay for it—We have had a good rain here & it is pleasanter & cooler—I shall write very soon again—



  • 1. In the "Hospital Book 12" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection), Sgt. James C. Brown was listed as a patient in Finley Hospital. [back]
  • 2. George Washington Whitman essentially corroborated Walt Whitman's report in his letter to his mother of May 16, 1864: "We had a pretty hard battle on the 6th. . . . Our Regt. suffered severely loseing 70 in killed and wounded. I lost nearly half of my Co. but we won the fight . . . We came here [Spotsylvania] on the 8th and there has been fighting going on every day since we came here. . . . We had a severe fight here on the 12th and the loss was heavy on both sides, our Regt lost 20 killed and wounded" (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). [back]
  • 3. The New York Times printed a lengthy casualty list on May 12, 1864. [back]
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