Mr Walt Whitman,
kind Sir we have received your kind letters and perused them with much pleasure we will assure you that your letters will always be very acceptible with us your Comrad Bethuel Smith2 has gone about forty miles from her with his team to work by the Day he gets twenty shillings per Day he went this week his health is not very good yet i dont now how he will stand it if his helth is good enough to work he may stay sevral weeks his health was very poor when he come home and that is the news why he Did not come and see you he wanted to get home and be doctered for he thinks it a very poor place to doctor down there we have one son younger with us he is Choping in the lumber woods and the two girls are with us so you se we have but four in a family at presant the rest of our family are as well as usual thu[e] will rite when he gets home we have got your papers you sent and thank you for them as we dont take any papers at presant those come very welcome the republicans have elected there oficers at last now we shall see what they will do we think the war will last four long years more at least it ought to be the most earnest prayer to almighty god that the war might come to a close that those suffering soldiers might return to their homes and we have peace and more throughout our land there will a draft in this town within a few days we have three sones here that will be liable to the draft and two in Pennsylvania you have a Mother with you I would like to now of her welfare i think she has one great blessing to comfort her in her age and that is having a kind hearted Son well i cant rite much more at presant i will say we got your letter and like you sent last fall and think a great deal of it
Bethuels wounds are all sound and well and he is not lame in the least but has not got well of the diaraee we have got most everything we could think and hear of and it dont cure him he has had it ever since he was wounded in last June sometimes he gets better but not well if you now of any you think would cure him i should like to have you write what it is
We will rite some more there is a small village a few miles north of us called rider which letters sometimes goes when you put on Quens-bury we dont get them when they go there very often perhaps i have rote enough at presant we live in hopes we may see each other yet if our lives are spared this from Bethuels father and Mother
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 January 26, 1865, is held in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
1. Christopher and Maria Smith were the parents of Bethuel Smith, Company F, Second U. S. Cavalry, who was wounded in 1863. (Back)
2. Bethuel Smith had written to Whitman on September 17, 1863, from the U. S. General Hospital at Carlisle, Pennsylvania: "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 December 16, 1863, from Culpepper, Virginia, that he was doing provost duty, and on February 28, 1864, he was in a camp near Mitchell Station, Virgnia, where "the duty is verry hard." He was wounded again on June 11, as 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. Smith was one of the soldiers to whom Whitman wrote ten years later; see Whitman's letter to Bethuel Smith from December 1874 (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., Walt Whitman: The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:318–319). (Back)