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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 5 March 1867

Dearest mother,

I rec'd the letter you wrote last Wednesday1—It has been rainy weather again here, & plenty of mud—Sunday afternoon I was at the Hospital—that young man that was so low with bleeding at the lungs, Kephart,2 was easier—he was very bad just after I wrote last week—but Sunday it seemed as though he might recover yet if he had good luck—he has written to his folks at Harper's Ferry, West Va.

I went up to the Capitol Sunday night—Congress was in full blast in both houses—they paid no more attention to its being Sunday, than if it was any other day—which I thought a very good sign—the Radicals have passed their principal measures over the President's vetos—as you will see in the papers. There is much talk about impeachment—but I think it is very doubtful if there is any impeachment3

O mother, I must not forget to tell the great news among Clerks (far more important than Reconstruction, or impeaching Andy)—that is, we are going to have 20 percent addition to our pay, for the present year—that is, I shall get quite a handsome little sum, back pay, & about $25 additional, a month, till 1st of July next—if I stay here. We havnt got the money yet, but I suppose it is sure—

I like my boarding house very well, take it altogether—we have a tip-top table—& the folks are kind & accommodating.4

The Old Congress went out yesterday, & the new one (the 40th) organized right away—the Republicans have a strong majority5

It is dark & rainy this forenoon here—snow & drizzle—

Mother, you must not imagine any thing about me—I am having good times enough—"eat well & sleep well," as Dr. Ruggles6 says—& have a pocket full of money—which you can call upon when you want any—as I look out of the window while I write, I see we are having a little snow for a change—So good bye for this time, mother dear—Love to George & Jeff & all,7



  • 1. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's letter of February 27, 1867 was filled with complaints about her health ("i feel my age more this winter then i ever did before"), about Jeff's children, and about George's business difficulties. [back]
  • 2.

    Walt Whitman first wrote of Andrew J. Kephart in his February 26, 1867 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. Kephart was a soldier from Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, admitted from the 44th Regiment Infantry for bleeding at the lungs.

    Walt Whitman also wrote about Kephart's recovery in his March 12 and March 19, 1867 letters to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, and by Whitman's letter of April 2, 1867, Kephart had "quite recovered."

  • 3. Congress did vote twice to impeach President Andrew Johnson. On December 5, 1867, an impeachment vote failed 57–108; all three votes of the more famous May 1868 impeachment motion failed 35–19, one vote shy of the two-thirds majority needed for an impeachment conviction. [back]
  • 4. Walt Whitman had written in his February 12, 1867 letter to his mother that he had moved back into Juliet Grayson's boarding house, though his original room was now occupied by Newton Benedict. [back]
  • 5. The new Congress, according to the New York Herald, had 128 Republicans and 35 Democrats in the House and 40 Republicans and 12 Democrats in the Senate. [back]
  • 6. The Brooklyn physician Edward Ruggles (1817?–1867) befriended the Whitman family and became especially close to Whitman's brother Jeff and sister-in-law Mattie. Late in life, Ruggles lost interest in his practice and devoted himself to painting cabinet pictures called "Ruggles Gems." [back]
  • 7. According to Walt Whitman's March 12, 1867 letter to his mother, this letter also included money and envelopes. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman confirmed receipt of the money and the envelopes in her March 15, 1867 letter to Walt Whitman. [back]
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