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Walt Whitman to Thomas Jefferson Whitman, 18 March 1863

I suppose George must be about leaving you to-day,1 to return to his regiment—and I can realize how gloomy you will all be for two or three days, especially Mother. Dear mother, you must keep up your spirits, and not get downhearted. I hope you are all well—I think about you all every day—is Mary home?2—you must write me all about every thing—I suppose the bundle of George's shirts, drawers, &c came safe by Adams express. I sent it last Saturday, and it ought to have been delivered Monday in Brooklyn. I did not pay the freight. Last Monday 16th I wrote to Mother, and sent her some shinplasters. Saturday previous I sent a note home, enclosing the express receipt.3

Jeff, I wrote a letter to the Eagle,4 and sent it yesterday—if it appears, it will probably be to-day or to-morrow (or next day.) I wish you would look out for it, and buy me 20 of the papers, (the afternoon it appears,) and send them, the same as you did the other letter, direct care of Major Hapgood, the same—put the engravings (20 of the large head) in the same package—the postage will be at the rate of ½ cent per oz. You leave one end partially unsealed. Send them as soon as convenient, after the letter appears, but no such dreadful hurry.

I suppose you have been in quite a state of pleasure and excitement home, with the visit of dear brother George. I was much pleased to hear by mother's letter that he was so sought for, and treated with so much attention—He deserves it all—you must tell me all the particulars of his visit.

The Hospitals still engross a large part of my time and feelings—only I don't remain so long and make such exhausting-like visits, the last week—as I have had a bad humming feeling and deafness, stupor-like at times, in my head, which unfits me for continued exertion. It comes from a bad cold, gathering I think in my head. If it were not that some of the soldiers really depend on me to come, and the doctors tell me it is really necessary, I should suspend my visits for two or three days, at least. Poor boys, you have no idea how they cling to one, and how strong the tie that forms between us. Things here are just the same with me, neither better nor worse—(I feel so engrossed with my soldiers, I do not devote that attention to my office-hunting, which is needed for success.)

Jeff, you must give my best respects to Mr. and Mrs. Lane, they have enabled me to do a world of good, and I can never forget them. I see you had a great Union meeting in the Academy of Music5—it is impossible to tell what the government designs to do the coming season, but I suppose they will push on the war. The south is failing fast in many respects—D'Almeida,6 the Frenchman I wrote about, told me that he was besieged every where down south to tell (for confederate money) any and every thing he had, his clothes, his boots, his haversack, &c &c. Then their niggers will gradually melt, certain. So the fates fight for us, even if our generals do not. Jeff, to see what I see so much of, puts one entirely out of conceit of war—still for all that I am not sure but I go in for fighting on—the choice is hard on either part, but to cave in the worst—good bye, dearest brother.



  • 1. According to Jeff's letter of March 9, 1863, George arrived in Brooklyn on March 7 on a ten-day furlough: "He is well and looking first rate." [back]
  • 2. Mary Van Nostrand was Whitman's sister. [back]
  • 3. Neither letter is extant. [back]
  • 4. "The Great Washington Hospital" appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on March 19, 1863, and was subtitled "Life Among Fifty Thousand Soldiers" in The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman (New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1902) 7:91–100. [back]
  • 5. The New York Herald of March 17, 1863, described the meeting on the preceding day in glowing prose: "One of the largest and most truly enthusiastic meetings ever held in the new Brooklyn Academy of Music… The heart of every loyal man could not but throb with joy at seeing such a mass of beauty and intelligence coming forward with united voice to sustain the Government of the land." [back]
  • 6. Joseph-Charles d'Almeida (1822–1880), a professor and author of Problèmes de physique (1862), came to the United States in 1862. In the Charles E. Feinberg Collection, there are three interesting letters from d'Almeida to William Douglas O'Connor, a close friend and associate of Whitman's. From Memphis, Tennessee, on January 28, 1863, d'Almeida explained that because of the kindness of a Miss Rebecca Harding he had been introduced to la société rebelle. On March 2, he asked O'Connor to visit him in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington D.C. The Washington National Republican of this date listed d'Almeida among refugees who were committed to Old Capitol Prison for examination. From New York, on March 27(?), d'Almeida wrote his farewell letter after he had been to Boston, where he had been entertained by James Fields, and had met Longfellow, Emerson, and Agassiz: "I carry with me a little American library in which the Leaves of Grass are included." [back]
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