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Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O'Connor, 11 September 1864

My dear friend2

Well I am still home & no event of importance to write you about. My illness has passed over, & I go around the same as formerly, only a lingering suspicion of weakness now & then—I go out fishing & have been out riding frequently—

There is a hospital3 here, containing a couple of hundred soldiers, it is only a quarter of a mile from our house, & I go there a good deal—am going this afternoon to spend the afternoon & evening—Strange as it may seem days & days elapse without their having any visitors—So you see I am still in business—Some of the cases are very interesting—

My mother is very well, & the rest the same—We have heard from my brother up to the beginning of this month, he is well4—We felt pretty gloomy some little time since, as two young men of the 51st N Y, friends of my brother George & of our family (officers of 51st), were killed in battle within ten days of each other & their bodies brought on for burial here5—Mother was at the funeral of each of them, & I also—the regiment is on the Weldon road & in a position of danger—

I have seen Mrs Price, she speaks of you & hopes to know you, she is only tolerably well—I have not seen Charles Howells6 for some time—I shall write to William to-day—I rec'd a letter from Charles Eldridge yesterday, he was to pass through New York yesterday on his way to Boston for two or three weeks—"Drum Taps" is not yet begun to be printed—Nelly, I was much obliged for the photograph—it reminds me of you & is good—how is dear little Jennie?—& you, my dear dear friend, how are you in health & spirits, & have you had a good time—O how I should like to see you all again—


I think it quite probable I shall be in Washington again this winter—(but not certain)—Give Dr & Mrs Channing7 my friendly remembrance —Who have you met & what seen or heard that I would like to hear of, for you must tell me—


  • 1. The letter is endorsed, "Ans'd."  This letter is addressed: Ellen M O'Connor | Little Compton | Rhode Island. It is postmarked: Brooklyn N. Y. | Sep | 11 | 18(?). [back]
  • 2. Ellen O'Connor was hurt when Whitman did not reply to her letters of July 5, 1864, July 18, 1864, July 24, 1864, and August 18, 1864. In the August 18 letter she said: "You will not think me foolish if I tell you that it hurt me a little, will you? You know what a foolish, absurd person I am, where I love any one as I do you, and knowing this, and now I having confessed, you will pardon." [back]
  • 3. Whitman most likely is referring to Brooklyn City Hospital, which Whitman visited in August and September. [back]
  • 4. Throughout August George's regiment was engaged in especially heavy fighting near Petersburg, Virginia, in which he repeatedly distinguished himself. John Gibson Wright, captain of the Fifty-first Regiment, reported on August 8, 1864 that, when he had to relinquish command of the regiment, George "discharged the duties of the responsible position to my entire satisfaction, and it affords me great pleasure to speak of the gallant manner in which he has Sustained himself during the entire campaign" (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). (Wright rose from captain to colonel in the Fifty-first Regiment; he was appointed to the latter position on May 18, 1865. He was taken prisoner with George in 1864.) [back]
  • 5. Captain Samuel H. Sims (see the letter from May 26, 1863) was killed on July 30, 1864, at Petersburg, Virginia, according to George's letter of August 9, 1864. The other officer has not been identified. [back]
  • 6. See the letter from November 15, 1863 . [back]
  • 7. William F. Channing (1820–1901), son of William Ellery Channing, and also Ellen O'Connor's brother-in-law, was by training a doctor, but devoted most of his life to scientific experiments. With Moses G. Farmer, he perfected the first fire-alarm system. He was the author of Notes on the Medical Applications of Electricity (Boston: Daniel Davis, Jr., and Joseph M. Wightman, 1849). Ellen O'Connor visited him frequently in Providence, Rhode Island, and Whitman stayed at his home in October 1868. [back]
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