Title: Benton H. Wilson to Walt Whitman, 9 December 1866
Date: December 9, 1866
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Drum Beats: Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers, ed. Charley Shively (San Francisco, California: Gay Sunshine Press, 1989), 214. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.00612
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, Kathryn Kruger, and Nick Krauter
Walt Whitman, Dear old Friend,
I1 wrote to you a long time ago and received one letter from you but when I wrote again I received no answer and supposed you had not received my letter and I thought I would write you a few lines again and see if you had not forgotten me. I would try to make myself one of your correspondents for I would really like to hear from you very much for I formed an attachment for you during my short stay in washington (and at the hospital) that I would like to perpetuate it.
I do not know your present address but shall address this the same as I did the last one I wrote to you.
My Friend Hamilton started for Leavenworth Kansas last week to see his Brother, who has been jammed up on the Rail Road, and had his leg amputated.
I will not weary you with a very long letter this time but will wait till I get an answer to this and then I will try to do better.
I am as every your sincere friend
1. The friendship of Whitman with this former soldier can be reconstructed from Wilson's letters in the Feinberg Collection. On July 18, 1869, Wilson recalled his confinement in Armory Square Hospital (see Whitman's November 8-9, 1863), "when your kind face & pleasant words cheered the soldier Boys & won their hearts. I never shall forget the first time you came in after David & I got there. We Loved you from the first time we spoke to you." In Wilson's first letter, written on November 11, 1865, he began: "I suppose you will think that I have forgotten you long before this time but I have not, your kindness to me while in the hospital will never be forgotten by me." After a lapse in the correspondence, he wrote on December 16, 1866: "I wish if aggreable to yourself to keep up a regular correspondence between us . . . I think it will be of benefit to me morally and perhaps will not be of any detriment to you." In this letter he admitted that he had just discovered that Whitman was a poet. On January 27, 1867, he informed Whitman that he had been reading Leaves of Grass, but complained: "I wrote to you a year and more ago that I was married but did not receive any reply, so I did not know but you was displeased with it"; he concluded the letter: "I remain as ever your | Boy Friend | with Love | Benton H. Wilson." Whitman replied (lost), and sent William D. O'Connor's The Good Gray Poet, which Wilson acknowledged on February 3. On April 7, 1867, after he informed Whitman that his wife had gone to the hospital for her first confinement (the child was to be named Walt Whitman), he complained: "I am poor and am proud of it but I hope to rise by honesty and industry. I am a married man but I am not happy for my disposition is not right. I have got a good Woman and I love her dearly but I seem to lack patience or something. I think I had ought to live alone, but I had not ought to feel so." On April 21, Wilson acknowledged Whitman's reply of April 12: "I do not want you to misunderstand my motives in writing to you of my Situation & feelings as I did in my last letter or else I shall have to be more guarded in my letters to you. I wrote so because you wanted me to write how I was situated, and give you my mind without reserve, and all that I want is your advice and Love, and I do not consider it cold lecture or dry advice. I wish you to write to me just as you feel & express yourself and advise as freely as you wish and will be satisfied." On September 15, Wilson wondered why Whitman had not replied. See also Whitman's letter to Benton H. Wilson from April 15, 1870 (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–69], 1:182–184). [back]