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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Walt Whitman: Civil War Missionary

From: warfarehistorynetwork.com, 4-11-14


After his brother was wounded in battle, Whitman volunteered many hours helping wounded soldiers in Washington D.C.

In late December 1862, national poet Walt Whitman arrived in Washington D.C., intending to stay for just a few days. He ended up staying for the next ten years; for the first three, he was a regular visitor at the various military hospitals in and around the nation’s capital.

In “The Soldiers’ Missionary,” Roy Morris Jr.’s in-depth feature in the Spring 2014 issue of Civil War Quarterly Magazine, you’ll get to read all about Whitman’s interactions with the wounded soldiers.

Whitman’s time in Washington actually began with the wounding of his brother George at the Battle of Fredericksburg in late December 1862. At home in Brooklyn with his mother, they received unexpected news that his brother was on a list of regimental casualties published by the New York Tribune. Fearing the worst, Whitman and his mother threw together some belongings and hurried south to Washington.

While visiting his brother, Whitman was immediately struck by how many soldiers were hospitalized. “The mass of our men in our army are young,” he wrote in an article published in the New York Times. “It is an impressive sight to me to see the countless numbers of youths and boys, many of them already with the experiences of the oldest veterans.”

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