Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 6 February 1863

Date: February 6, 1863

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Thomas Jefferson Whitman, Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), 24-26. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00397

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, and April Lambert

Brooklyn, N. Y.
Feb. 6th 1863

Dear Brother Walt,

Mr Lane1 handed me the enclosed $11 to be sent to you for the soldiers

$10. Contributed by Hill & Newman2

$1.        "      "  Henry Carlow3

Mr Lane thinks your last letter to me was a clincher.4 Newman, of the above firm was in the office and upon finding out what we were doing promised to give $10. Mr Lane, thinking perhaps that by sending the money immediately might save a life or at least help to do it, advanced the money and wished me to write you to-day.

Mother and Mat are getting along with their colds but Sis is not so well to day. She seems to have more colds and her head is almost stopped up

Poor little toad  I often wish that I could take it for her, however she gets along with it quite well and is not more cross than the law allows for a little one that has such a cold. If mother could be persuaded to let the scrubbing of the lower entry alone for a few days she would recover, but I believe that she is too much afraid of Mrs Brown,5 for this morning, and it was one of those cold rainy ones, she went to work and scrubbed as usual. I think they all have had the worst colds that I know of. How do [you] get along about your appointment, does it come and will it. Do you hear from George. What do you think about Han?, the lot, and matters in general.6 I think Walt, that mother has showed her age more within the last three or four weeks than I ever knew her to before

Everything is just the same with me. I am getting along quite well, and if Mr Lane holds his position I shall eventually be all right. I think I shall be able to carry through my little "real estate" scheme without much trouble, and I think it is a good one.7 at least I must try, for I am "in" and I suppose I shall not be a true Whitman if I dont get dis-heartened, however I do not feel at all so just now. On the "contrary quite the revarse"  You must write oftener, home, particulay Mr Lane. He likes much to hear from [you], every letter is productive of good, of course I mean those speaking of the manner of your visits to the Hospitals. Walt, you must be doing more real good than the whole sanitary Commission put to-gether8  Mr Lane, in conversation with a gentleman in the office, said yesterday that we ought [to] raise money enough to keep a 100 Walt Whitmans, support them and pay them, (if they could be found.) and by that means take the rough edge off the War. Tis indeed true. I am thankfull that you are there. Somehow I feel that as if George, God bless him, was a little safer while you are so near him and while you are doing so much good. Oh how I wish that he could come home now, without running any more risk, and for myself, I think that he ought to. If they go to consolidating the regiments I sincerely hope that by some accident, he may be left out.9 I really feel worried on mothers account. I know that if anything should happen [to] him that she could not stand it. However I suppose we must get along the best we can.

With the exception of the colds, we are all in jolly good health  Mother has taken breakfasts dinner and supper I guess, with Mat and I ever since you went away. We call her up in the morning and if it is very cold I go down and make her fire while she works and eats breakfast with us. Then Ed comes along just as I leave and Jess is generally getting up when I go home to dinner. so we live. all send love to you

Affectionately your brother Jeff


1. Moses Lane (1823–1882) served as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works from 1862 to 1869. He later designed and constructed the Milwaukee Water Works and served there as city engineer. Like Jeff Whitman, he collected money from his employees and friends for Walt's hospital work. Lane sent Whitman $15.20 in his letter of January 26, 1863, and later various sums which Whitman acknowledged in letters from February 6, 1863, May 11, 1863, May 26, 1863, and September 9, 1863. In his letter of May 27, 1863, Lane pledged $5 each month. In an unpublished manuscript in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library, Whitman wrote, obviously for publication: "I have distributed quite a large sum of money, contributed for that purpose by noble persons in Brooklyn, New York, (chiefly through Moses Lane, Chief Engineer, Water Works there.)" Lane assisted Whitman in other ways as well (see Whitman's letters from December 29, 1862, and February 13, 1863). He was so solicitous of Whitman's personal welfare that on April 3, 1863, he sent through Jeff $5 "for your own especial benefit." [back]

2. This firm has not been identified. Henry P. Hill, James Hill, and Warren Hill were engineers; Simon Hill, Samuel Hill, and Thomas Newman were contractors. [back]

3. Henry Carlow, an engineer, is listed in the Brooklyn directory for 1859–60, but not in the subsequent years. [back]

4. This letter is not extant. [back]

5. Jeff refers to John Brown and his wife, the neighbors downstairs. [back]

6. In his reply to Jeff on February 13, 1863, Walt Whitman did not address these questions directly but rather discussed his attempts to secure a better-paying government position. [back]

7. Apparently, Jeff hoped to build his own house in Brooklyn, a plan he never carried out. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, February 10, 1863[back]

8. Walt Whitman found members of the United States Sanitary Commission "incompetent and disagreeable" if not indeed "a set of foxes and wolves." He had a higher opinion of a civilian organization called the Christian Commission. See Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (New York: Macmillan, 1955; rev. ed., New York University Press, 1967), 289. [back]

9. On January 8, 1863, George had written to Jeff: "I think they will have to do something with our Regt soon as we can only turn out about 160 men." Eventually the War Department issued an order to consolidate the companies in all regiments of less than 500 men. However, as George wrote on April 22, 1863, "I hear to night that Burnside has issued an order countermanding the consolidation order." [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.