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Letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, April 15, 1863

Whitman, Walt. "Letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, April 15, 1863." Walt Whitman: The Correspondence. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. New York: New York University Press, 1961. 87-90.
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Whitman writes a long letter to his mother, in which he discusses the war, sickness and the body, childhood, his own physical appearance, and his daily visits to Armory Hospital.

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To Lousia Van Velsor Whitman
Washington, Wednesday | forenoon, April 15, ’63.
Dearest Mother,
Jeff’s letter of the 11th, acknowledging the books, also the one about five days previous, containing the $10 from Van Anden, came safe. Jeff’s letters are always first rate and welcome—the good long one with so much about home, and containing Han’s & Geroge’s, was especially so. It is a great pleasure, though sometimes a melancholy one, to hear from Han, under her own hand. I have writ to George—I wrote last Friday—I directed the letter to 'Lexington or elsewhere, Kentucky”—as I saw in a letter in a Cincinnati paper that Gen Ferrero was appointed provost marshal at Lexington—the 51st is down there somewhere, and I guess it is about as well off there as anywhere—there is much said about their closing up the regimental companies—that is, where there are ten companies of 40 the government purposes something of this kind—it will throw a good many captains & lieutenants out—I suppose you know that LeGendre is now Col. of the 51st—it’s a pity if we havn’t American’s enough to put over our old war regiments—(I think less and less of foreigners, in this war—what I see, especially in the hospitals, convinces me that there is no other stock, for emergencies, but native American—no other name by which we can be saved.)
Mother, I feel quite bad about Andrew—I am so in hope to hear that he has recovered—I think about him every day—he must not get fretting and disheartened—that is really the worst feature of any sickness—diseases of the throat and bronchia are the result always of bad state of the stomach, blood, &c. (they never come from the throat itself) –the throat and bronchia are lined like the stomach and other interior organs with a fine lining like silk or crape, and when all this gets ulcerated or inflamed or what now, (it is Dr. Sammis’s mucous membrane, you know,) it is bad, and most distressing—medicine is really of no great account, except just to pacify a person—this lining I speak of is full of little blood vessels, and the way to make a real cure is by gentle and steady means to recuperate the whole system—this will tell upon the blood, upon the blood vessels, and so finally & effectually upon all this coating I speak of that lines the throat &c. But as long as it is time before this vital lining membrane (very important) is injured, so it is a long time before it can be made all healthy & right again—but Andrew is young & strong enough and good constitution for basis—& of course by regular diet, care, (& nary whiskey under any circumstances) I am sure he would not only get over that trouble, but be as well & strong as he ever was in his life. Mother, you tell him I sent him my love, and Nancy the same, and the dear little boys the same. The next time you or Mat goes down there you take this & show him.
Mat, I am quite glad to hear that you are not hurried & fretted with work from New York this spring—I am sure I think sis & housekeeping &c would be enough to attend to. I was real amused with sis’s remarks, and all that was in the letter about her. You must none of you notice her smartness, nor criticisms, before her, nor encourage her to spread herself nor be critical, a sit is not good to encourage a child to be too sharp—and I hope sissy is going to be a splendid specimen of good animal health—for the few years to come I should think more of that than any thing—that is the foundation of all, (righteousness included)—as to her mental vivacity & growth, they are plenty enough of themselves, and will get along quite fast enough of themselves, plenty fast enough—don’t stimulate them at all—dear little creature, how I should like to see her this minute—Jeff must not make his lemons to her in music any ways strong or frequent on any account—two lessons a week, of ten minutes each, is enough—But then I dare say Jeff will think of all these things, just the same as I am saying.
Jeff writes he wonders if I am well and hearty, and I suppose he means as much of a beauty as ever—whether I look the same—well, not only as much, but more so—I believe I weigh about 200 and as to my face, (so scarlet,) and my beard and neck, they are terrible to behold—I fancy the reason I am able to do some good in the hospitals, among the poor languishing & wounded boys, is that I am so large and well—indeed like a great wild buffalo, with much hair—many of the soldiers are from the west, and far north—and they take to a man that has not the bleached shiny & shaved cut of the cities and the east. I spent three to four hours yesterday in Armory Hospital—One of my particular boys there was dying, pneumonia—he wanted me to stop with him awhile—he could not articulate—but the look of his eyes, and the holding on of his hand, was deeply affecting. His case is a relapse—eight days ago, he had recovered, was up, was perhaps a little careless—at any rate took cold, was taken down again and has sunk rapidly. He has no friends or relatives here—Yesterday he labored & panted so for breath, it was terrible—he is a young man from New England, from the country—I expect to see his cot vacated this afternoon or evening, as I shall go down then. Mother, if you or Mat was here a couple of days, you would cry your eyes out. I find I have to restrain myself and keep my composure—I succeed pretty well. Good bye, dearest mother.
Jeff, Capt. Mullen remains here yet for some time. He is bringing out his Report. I shall try to send you a copy. Give my best respects to Dr. Ruggles.
Mother, my last letter home was a week ago to-day—We are having a dark rainy day here—it is now ½ past 3—I have been in my room all day, so far—shall have dinner in ½ an hour, and then down to Armory.

People who Created this Work

Whitman, Walt author

People Mentioned in this Work

Ruggles, Edward [pages:90]

Whitman asks his mother to give his best to Dr. Ruggles.