My dear Friend
Your kind letter came to hand yesterday. I was very much supprised to hear that you wer in Brooklin I was also very sory to hear of your illness & to think that it was brought on by your unselfish kindness to the Soldiers There is a many a soldier now that never thinks of you but with emotions of the greatest gratitude & I know that the soldiers that you have bin so kind to have a great big warm place in their heart for you. I never think of you but it makes my heart glad to think that I have bin permited to know one so good.
I hope you will soon be enjoying good health again for it is one of God's greatest blessings I should like very much to see you back here but I suppose you must stay whear it suits your health best but I will still write to you for I can never forget your great kindness to me.
I have got my leg but I think that I will never be able to walk much on it as my stump is so short but if I cant I can go on my crutches for they appear to be a part of myself for I have bin on them so long I have not seen Jo Harris2 or Bartlett3 for over a weak but I believe they are both well they went to Baltimore on a spree on the 4 of July had had what they call a regular gay time, they wer prety hard looking after they got back,
Now a word for myself. I have not succeeded in getting a position in any of the Depts yet thoug my M.C. tried quite hard Gov Hicks tried also but there is so many aplicants for such positions that there is not much chance but I will still try for I do not like to give up after so much trouble.
I suppose you herd that J. A. Tabor4 was killed. he was killed in the wilderness the second days battle. I seen some men out of his company & they say that he fell dead when he was shot. The Hospitals are not so full now as they have bin transferring the men north as fast as they get able all the men in the Hospitals that are fit for duty are sent off to their regiments
The 4 of July pased of[f] here as usual there was a national salute fired from the surrounding forts & there was any amount of sky rockets. they comenced celebrating the 4th on Sunday evening after dark & they kept it up until morning I could not sleep a partical all night there being so much noise
Dear Walt I expect that I will tire you by writing so much but I must write & tell you about the rebs while they wer here if you get tired you must rest & begin again They first maid their appearence on Sunday night some few miles from the City. On Monday there was great excitement in the City, the citizens armed them selves & went out to hold the rebs, in check, the soldiers that wer in the Hospitals wer formed into companys, & marched out to the fortifications & put in the Rifle pits, & there was some little skirmishing within about 1000 yards of fort Stephens, & some in front of fo[r]t Slocum. On Monday night the part of the 6th Army Corps came up and went out & part of the 19th Army corps came also; on Tuesday morning the excitement was intence the citizents in the Q.M. Dept & some in the War Dept wer armed and hurried out to the front 3 miles from the City limits. On Tuesday morning soon as I got my breakfast, George McArthur & I went & took the 1st cars & went out as far as they went then we walked out to fort Stephens (& it was a long walk for me on my crutches but I was eagre to see the fight if there was to be any) the guard let us through so we went up to the advance line of battle & seen the picquets firing the Rebs balls whistling over our heads (there was a motly set there for there was citizens women & Niggers all mixed up in a bunch) at last there was one of the rebel bullets struck a man in the head by my side & killed him that started some of the Citiznes to the rear with the women but I staid there untill there was another one of our men killed the ball striking him in the abdomen he expired in a few minuts at the same time the Colonel of the 98th Pa. (Blair) was brought in off of the skirmish line wounded in the head & thy[gh] & arm (I think that he was wounded in all three places) I then left the fort & went back in the woods in the shade. but prety soon the military ordered all non-combatants to the rear. some of the citizens took a gun & said that they wer determined to stay & see it out. So then I took my passage in a returnd ammunition train & came back to the Hospt on the same day the balance of the 6th & 19th Corps came & the Johnies got up & disstd for the rear they are now going back to rebeldon with their plunder with our arm[y] is following them.
After I came back I took sick the hot sun was to much for me & I have bin sick ever since but am able to be up—
No more at preasant but hoping very soon to hear from you, very affectionately yours,
The text presented here is derived from Charley Shively, ed., Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working-Class Camerados (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1987). 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 July 18, 1864, is held in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature at the New York Public Library.
1. Lewis Kirke Brown (1843–1926) was wounded in the left leg near Rappahannock Station on August 19, 1862, and lay where he fell for four days. Eventually he was transferred to Armory Square Hospital, where Whitman met him, probably in February 1863. In a diary in the Library of Congress, Whitman described Brown on February 19, 1863, as "a most affectionate fellow, very fond of having me come and sit by him." Because the wound did not heal, the leg was amputated on January 5, 1864. Whitman was present and described the operation in a diary (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #103). Brown was mustered out in August 1864, and was employed in the Provost General's office in September; see Whitman's letter from September 11, 1864. The following September he became a clerk in the Treasury Department, and was appointed Chief of the Paymaster's Division in 1880, a post which he held until his retirement in 1915. (This material draws upon a memorandum which was prepared by Brown's family and is now held in the Library of Congress.) (Back)
2. Joseph Harris was a patient at Armory Square Hospital. He was friends with some of Whitman's other Armory Square Hospital comrades, such as Lewis Brown and Adrian Bartlett. See Harris's letter to Whitman from September 5, 1864. (Back)
3. Adrian Bartlett was a friend of Joseph Harris and Lewis Brown; all three met Whitman while they were being treated at Armory Square Hospital. In this letter, Brown reported that he had not seen Bartlett and Harris since they returned from a spree to Baltimore on July 4, 1864. According to Brown's letter of September 5, 1864, the three young men were living in a Washington boardinghouse; Harris was not in good health, and Bartlett worked in the Treasury Department. (Back)