I now take this opertunity to write to you after so long A time. you must excuse me for not writing sooner for I cold not get anny paper. I have received three letters from you since I wrote to you we have had pretty hard times this fall but we are having it easyer now we are doing provo duty in Culpeper now but I dont now how long it will last there is some talk of braking up 4 Companies of the 2 Cav & I dont no but my Company will be one of them if it is we will go on recruiting servis that will be A good jok but I dont now as that will be the Case yet still I hope so
I am well & harty & in good spirits I have not heard from home in A long time I gess that they have for got that they have A son in the army
it is about 2 O Clock at night now I am on gard sitting by A big fire you must excuse my writing with A pencil for I cannot get pen & ink to write with no more at present good by Directions the same
The text presented here is derived from Charley Shively, ed., Drum Beats: Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1989). For a detailed description of discrepancies between this electronic edition and the print source, see our statement of editorial policy.
The manuscript of this letter, dated December 16, 1863, is held in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
1. Bethuel Smith, Company F, Second U.S. Cavalry, was wounded in 1863. He wrote to Whitman on September 17, 1863, from the U.S. General Hospital at Carlisle, Pennsylanvia, "I left the armory hospital in somewhat of A hurry." He expected, he explained on September 28, 1863, to rejoin his regiment shortly, and was stationed near Washington when he wrote on October 13, 1863. He wrote on February 28, 1864, that he was in a camp near Mitchell Station, Virginia, where "the duty is verry hard." He was wounded again on June 11 (so his parents reported to Whitman on August 29, 1864), was transported to Washington, and went home on furlough on July 1. He returned on August 14 to Finley Hospital, where, on August 30, 1864, he wrote to Whitman: "I would like to see you verry much, I have drempt of you often & thought of you oftener still." He expected to leave the next day for Carlisle Barracks to be mustered out, and on October 22, 1864, he wrote to Whitman from Queensbury, New York. When his parents communicated with Walt Whitman on January 26, 1865, Bethuel was well enough to perform tasks on the farm. Smith was one of the soldiers to whom Whitman wrote ten years later; see Whitman's letter to Bethuel Smith, December 1874 (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., Walt Whitman: The Correspondence, 6 vols. [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:318–319). (Back)