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Mary A. Babbitt (for Caleb H. Babbitt) to Walt Whitman, 18 August 1863

Dear Sir,

My brother wishes me to inform you of the state of his health, also of his journey home he arrived home last week Wednesday very much exhausted & he was obliged to take to his bed from which he has not yet got up. he has put off writing every day thinking the next day he would be able to write himself. He often speaks of you telling of your kindness during his sickness there, and wishes he could see you and tried to gratify himself by looking at your portraits which he has out 5 or 6 times during the day. the sister whom you have heard him speak of as being sick so long was carried to the Insane Hospital the day before his arrival. he is very anxious to hear from you & wants you should write him a good long letter to cheer him up for he has had the blues once since he came home.1

Hoping to hear from you soon I am Yours respectfully, Mary Babbitt [sister] for Caleb Babbitt


  • 1. As Whitman informed Mrs. Curtis in a October 28, 1863, Caleb Babbitt suffered a sun stroke in July and was admitted to Armory Square Hospital. According to the "Hospital Note Book" (Henry E. Huntington Library), Babbitt had been in Mobile, Alabama, earlier. About August 1, 1863, he left Washington on furlough. In this letter, Caleb's sister, Mary A. Babbitt informed Whitman of Caleb's arrival in Barre, Massachusetts; because of his exhaustion he was unable to write. Mary acknowledged Whitman's letter on September 6, 1863, and wrote that Caleb was "not quite as well as when I wrote you before…he wishes me to tell you to keep writing…for your letters do him more good than a great deal of medicine." On September 18, 1863, at the expiration of his forty-day furlough, Caleb was strong enough to write: "Walt—In your letters you wish me to imagine you talking with me when I read them, well I do, and it does very well to think about, but it is nothing compared with the original." On October 18, 1863, Babbitt was depressed—"dark clouds seem to be lying in my pathway and I can not remove them nor hide them from my mind"—until he mentioned his beloved, Nellie F. Clark, who "has saved me." On October 26, 1863, S. H. Childs wrote for Caleb from the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston: "He Is unable to set up & suffers considerable pain In his head." See also Whitman's letters from December 27, 1863, and February 8, 1864. [back]
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