Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 26 February 1867

Dearest mother,

I rec'd your letter day before yesterday—We have had some stormy weather here too, but nothing so bad as you must have had—I wrote to Hannah last Saturday—I was down to the Hospital last Sunday, & also yesterday—there is a soldier there very bad with bleeding at the lungs—it is doubtful if he recovers—he is from Harper's Ferry, W. Va.—He is not willing to have me write to his folks, nor will he write himself—his mother is feeble, & he says it would hurt her—he is an only son—he is in the 44th Reg. Infantry—He likes to have me come & sit a while with him—so I go—I do not allow him to talk much, as it is best for him to keep very quiet. He is quite a southerner, although in our army—& takes great interest in politics—his name is Andrew J. Kephart1—Mother, I tell you all the particulars, as I know you will be interested tho' a perfect stranger. There are all kinds of soldiers in the hospitals, some good & some the other thing. But there are always some that appreciate deeply any kindness & friendship—& it helps them along too, more than one would think.

Mother, I suppose you got your almanacks—both are calculated for this region, not New York, & one is a sort of Catholic almanac—I saw it had all the Saints' days.

O'Connor, & the wife too, were both very much taken with Jeff, & speak about him often.

Surratt is here in jail—his sister Anna goes to see him most every day—poor girl.2

It is pleasant here this forenoon—as I look out of my window, the river looks fine—there is a slight haze in the air but the warm sun is shining—O'Connor has just been in to see me a few moments—they have invited me up there to dinner, but I believe I don't care to go to-day.3

I was up at the Capitol last night, to see the House in session, & walk around—there was nothing very interesting—they were debating some appropriation Bill.

Mother dear, I hope this will find you all right, & free from rheumatism—Love to George & Mat & all—



  • 1. Walt Whitman also wrote about Kephart's recovery in his March 5, March 12, and March 19, 1867 letters to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, noting that by the time of his April 2, 1867 letter, Kephart had "quite recovered." [back]
  • 2. John H. Surratt, who had been a secret dispatch bearer for the Confederacy and involved, with his mother Anna, in John Wilkes Booth's conspiracy, fled the country before the murder of Abraham Lincoln. He remained a fugitive until he was arrested in Egypt in 1866. Unlike his mother, who had been convicted by a military tribunal and ordered hanged on July 7, 1865, the son was tried in a civil court, between June 10 and August 10, 1867. Walt Whitman described the trial in his July 25, 1867 letter to Alfred Pratt. When the jury could not agree, a new trial was ordered, but because of inadequate evidence the government quietly released Surratt on June 22, 1868. His sister Anna sought clemency for her mother in 1865, but, presumably because of a conspiracy, her plea never reached the desk of President Andrew Johnson. See David Miller DeWitt, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Macmillan, 1909). [back]
  • 3. Walt Whitman ultimately declined the invitation in his February 26, 1867 letter to Ellen M. O'Connor. [back]
Back to top