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Letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, October 6, 1863

Whitman, Walt. "Letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, October 6, 1863." Walt Whitman: The Correspondence. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. New York: New York University Press, 1961. 156-158.
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Whitman writes to his mother from Washington on October 6, 1863. He desires to come home, even if only for a week, to see the family. His brother Andrew is sick, and Whitman thinks about him every day. He notes that he likes Washington, but that he sees things in the hospitals that make his heart ache with sympathy and anguish.

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83. To Louisa Van Velsor Whitman
Washington | October 6 1863
Dearest mother
Your letter & George's came safe-dear brother George, one dont
more than get a letter from him before you want to hear again, especially
as things are looking pretty stormy down that way-but, mother, I rather
lean to the opinion that the 51st is still in Kentucky at or near where
George last wrote,- but of course that is only my guess-I send George
papers often & occasionally letters-mother, I sent him enclosed your
letter before the last, though you said in it not to tell him how much
money he had home, as you wanted to surprise him, but I sent it-
Mother, I think Rosecrans & Burnside will be too much for the rebels
down there yet-I myself make a great acc't of Burnside being in the
midst of friends, & such friends too-they will fight & fight up to the
handle & kill somebody-(it seems as if it was coming to that pass where
we will either have to destroy or be destroyed) -
Mother, I wish you would write soon after you get this, or Jeff or Mat
must, & tell me about Andrew, if there is any thing different with him-
I think about him every day & night. I believe I must come home even
if it is only for a week-I want to see you all very much-Mother, I
know you must have a good deal to harrass & trouble you, I dont mean
about Andrew personally, for I know you would feel to give your life to
save his, & do any thing to nourish him, but about the children & Nancy-
but, mother, you must not let any thing chafe you, & you must not be
squeamish about saying firmly at times not to have little Georgy too much
to trouble you (poor little fellow, I have no doubt he will be a pleasanter
child when he grows older) & while you are pleasant with Nancy, you
must be sufficiently plain with her-only, mother, I know you will & Jeff &
Mat will too be invariably good to Andrew, & not mind his being irritable
at times, it is his disease, & then his temper is naturally fretful, but it is
such a misfortune to have such sickness, & always do any thing for him
that you can in reason--Mat, my dear sister, I know you will, for I know
your nature is to come out a first class girl in times of trouble & sickness,
& do any thing-
Mother, you dont know how pleased I was to read what you wrote
about little sis, I want to see her so bad I dont know what to do, I know
she must be just the best young one on Long Island-but I hope I will
not be understood as meaning any slight or disrespect to Miss Hat, nor
to put her nose out of joint, because Uncle Walt I hope has heart &
gizzard big enough for both his little neices, & as many more as the
Lord may send-
Mother, I am writing this in Major Hapgood's office as usual-I am
all alone to-day-Major is still absent, unwell, & the clerk is away some-
where-O how pleasant it is here, the weather I mean, & other things too
for that matter-I still occupy my little room 394 L st., get my own
breakfast there, had good tea this morning, & some nice biscuit, (yesterday morning &

day before had peaches cut up)-My friends the
O'Connors that I wrote about recommenced cooking the 1st of this
month, (they have been as usual in summer taking their meals at a
family hotel near by.) Saturday they sent for me to breakfast & Sunday
I eat dinner with them, very good dinner, roast beef, lima beans, good
potatoes&c. They are truly friends to me-I still get my dinner at a restaurant

usually. I have a very good plain dinner, which is the only meal
of any acc't I make during the day, but it is just as well, for I would be
in danger of getting fat on the least encouragement, & I have no ambi-
tion that way.
Mother, it is lucky I like Washington in many respects, & that things
are upon the whole pleasant personally, for every day of my life I see
enough to make one's heart ache with sympathy & anguish here in the
hospitals, & I do not know as I could stand it, if it was not counter-
balanced outside-it is curious-when I am present at the most appaling
things, deaths, operations, sickening wounds (perhaps full of maggots),
I do not fail, although my sympathies are very much excited, but keep
singularly cool-but often, hours afterward, perhaps when I am home, or
out walking alone, I feel sick & actually tremble, when I recal the thing &
have it in my mind again before me-
Mother, did you see my letter in the N Y Times of Sunday Oct 4?
That was the long delayed letter-Mother, I am very sorry Jeff did not
send me the Union with my letter in-I wish very much he would do
so yet, & always when I have a letter in a paper I would like to have one
sent-if you take the Union, send me some once in a while-Mother, was
it Will Brown sent me those? tell him if so I was much obliged, & if he
or Mr & Mrs Brown take any interest in hearing my scribblings, mother,
you let `em rend the letters of course-O I must not close without telling
you the highly important intelligence that I have Cut my hair & beard-
Since the event, Rosecrans, Charleston, &C &C have among my acquaintanceS been hardly

mentioned, being insignificant themes in comparison-
Jeff, my dearest brother, I have been going to write you a good gossipy
letter for two or three weeks past, will try [to] do it yet, so it will reach
you for Sunday reading--so good bye, brother Jeff, & good by for present,
Mother dear, & all, & tell Andrew he must not be discouraged yet-


People who Created this Work

Whitman, Walt author

People Mentioned in this Work

Burroughs, John [pages:157]

Burroughs' praise for this letter is mentioned in note 67, at the bottom of the page.