Monday, March 14, 2016

Walt Whitman: The Hospital Years

Walt Whitman has often been quoted on the Civil War, but few realize the extent to which he worked with the soldiers to get their message out to loved ones, so that they wouldn't be lost or forgotten.  Yet another letter has turned up, which Whitman ghostwrote for a soldier after the war to let his loved ones know he was still alive.

It all started with his younger brother, who was felled in the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862.  Whitman would spend the next three years tended to the fallen soldiers.  Given that many of these soldiers were illiterate or simply didn't have paper and pen to write a letter, Whitman was a godsend for these men, as he would visit the hospitals in Washington, DC, everyday and connect with them anyway he could.

His thoughts and letters were captured in Drum Taps and Memoranda During the War, but there was much more.  Angel Price offers a nice essay on the time Whitman spent at Washington's Civil War Hospitals.  Little wonder Whitman still remains are foremost American poet.

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