Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 11, 1863: Walt Whitman to his mother

Whitman continued his nursing of wounded soldiers through a sweltering Washington, D.C. summer.
Washington, Aug. 11, 1863. Dear Mother—I sent Jeff a letter on Sunday—I suppose he got it at the office. I feel so anxious to hear from George; one cannot help feeling uneasy, although these days sometimes it cannot help being long intervals without one’s hearing from friends in the army. O I do hope we shall hear soon, and that it is all right with him. It seems as if the 9th Corps had returned to Vicksburg, and some acc’ts say that part of the Corps had started to come up the river again—toward Kentucky, I suppose. I have sent George two letters within a week past, hoping they might have the luck to get to him, but hardly expect it either.

Mother, I feel very sorry to hear Andrew is so troubled in his throat yet. I know it must make you feel very unhappy. Jeff wrote me a good deal about it, and seems to feel very bad about Andrew’s being unwell; but I hope it will go over, and that a little time will make him recover—I think about it every day.

Mother, it has been the hottest weather here that I ever experienced, and still continues so. Yesterday and last night was the hottest. Still, I slept sound, have good ventilation through my room, little as it is (I still hire the same room in L street). I was quite wet with sweat this morning when I woke up, a thing I never remember to have happened to me before, for I was not disturbed in my sleep and did not wake up once all night. Mother, I believe I did not tell you that on the 1st of June (or a while before) the O’Connors, the friends I took my meals with so long, moved to other apartments for more room and pleasanter—not far off though, I am there every day almost, a little—so for nearly two months and a half I have been in the habit of getting my own breakfast in my room and my dinner at a restaurant. I have a little spirit lamp, and always have a capital cup of tea, and some bread, and perhaps some preserved fruit; for dinner I get a good plate of meat and plenty of potatoes, good and plenty for 25 or 30 cents. I hardly ever take any thing more than these two meals, both of them are pretty hearty—eat dinner about 3—my appetite is plenty good enough, and I am about as fleshy as I was in Brooklyn. Mother, I feel better the last ten days, and at present, than I did the preceding six or eight weeks. There was nothing particular the matter with me, but I suppose a different climate and being so continually in the hospitals—but as I say, I feel better, more strength, and better in my head, etc. About the wound in my hand and the inflammation, etc., it has thoroughly healed, and I have not worn anything on my hand, nor had any dressing for the last five days. Mother, I hope you get along with the heat, for I see it is as bad or worse in New York and Brooklyn—I am afraid you suffer from it; it must be distressing to you. Dear mother, do let things go, and just sit still and fan yourself. I think about you these hot days. I fancy I see you down there in the basement. I suppose you have your coffee for breakfast; I have not had three cups of coffee in six months—tea altogether (I must come home and have some coffee for breakfast with you).

Mother, I wrote to you about Erastus Haskell, Co. K, 141st, N. Y.—his father, poor old man, come on here to see him and found him dead three days. He had the body embalmed and took home. They are poor folks but very respectable. I was at the hospital yesterday as usual—I never miss a day. I go by my feelings—if I should feel that it would be better for me to lay by for a while, I should do so, but not while I feel so well as I do the past week, for all the hot weather; and while the chance lasts I would improve it, for by and by the night cometh when no man can work (ain’t I getting pious!). I got a letter from Probasco yesterday; he sent $4 for my sick and wounded—I wish Jeff to tell him that it came right, and give him the men’s thanks and my love.

Mother, have you heard anything from Han? And about Mary’s Fanny—I hope you will write me soon and tell me everything, tell me exactly as things are, but I know you will—I want to hear family affairs before anything else. I am so glad to hear Mat is good and hearty—you must write me about Hat and little Black Head too. Mother, how is Eddy getting along? and Jess, is he about the same? I suppose Will Brown is home all right; tell him I spoke about him, and the Browns too. Dearest Mother, I send you my love, and to Jeff too—must write when you can.


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