Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Thomas P. Sawyer to Walt Whitman, 26 April 1863

Date: April 26, 1863

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working-Class Camerados, ed. Charley Shively (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1987), 74–75. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature at the New York Public Library

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00138

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Nick Krauter





Dear Brother,

As you have given me permission I1 have taken the liberty to address you as above, and I assure you I fully reciprocate your friendship as expressed in your letter and it will afford me great pleasure to meet you after the war will have terminated or sooner if circumstances will permit.

I am much pleased that Lewy2 is so cheerful and happy, and I trust he will be successful in his hopes and desires and be prosperous and happy and enjoy life to a good old age. I am sorry very sorry that Hiram has not improved.3 I was in hopes that ere this he would be sufficiently recovered to go Home and I sincerly hope that it will not be long until he can do so. It is [my] sincere wish that Johny Makey4 will survive the operation and ultimately recover. I hope you will be more fortunate and procure a good berth, and be ever prosperous. We in the Army feel our reserves at Charleston and Vicksburg very deeply as yet we have not had a chance to strike a blow in our vicinity but as you say that time is near at hand and I hope we will be successful at any rate we will do out utmost and endeavor to give the Rebels the biggest thrashing they have yet received. Let the Government Officials in Washington mind their own biz. let Hooker5 alone and the Army of the Potomac will be triuimphant but as long as they will continue to interfere with our Gen[era]ls arrangements, dictate to him when he shall move, and when he shall halt, just so long will the Army of the Potomac be of little avail. It is composed of good material, and all ready for a forward movement. then let Hooker have the reins, and he will soon drive the Rebs to Richmond and far beyond it.

Yes my dear Brother, You have my friendship as fully as you can desire, and I hope we will meet again.

Having nothing more of importance to communicate, I will conclude with my best wishes for your health and happiness and believe me to be
Yours sincerly,
Thos P. Sawyer


Notes:

1. Thomas P. Sawyer was a friend of Lewis Kirke Brown's, and a sergeant in the Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers. The 11th Massachusetts, under Lieutenant Colonel Porter D. Tripp, suffered heavy losses on July 2, 1863, in defense of the Emmitsburg Road at the Battle of Gettysburg. [back]

2. 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]

3. Hiram Sholes lay next to Lewis K. Brown in Armory Square Hospital, according to Sholes's letter to Walt Whitman on May 24, 1867 (Charles E. Feinberg Collection); see also "Letter from Walt Whitman to Hiram Sholes, May 30, 1867" (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:331–332). Charles I. Glicksberg, ed., (Walt Whitman and the Civil War [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1933], 155) records: "Hiram Scholis—bed 3—Ward E.—26th N. York—wants some pickles—a bottle of pickles." [back]

4. John Mahay, private in Company A of the 101st New York, was wounded in the bladder at second Bull Run, August 29, 1862, and held on for fifteen months at Armory Square Hospital before dying in 1864. "Poor Mahay," Whitman writes in Specimen Days, "a mere boy in age, but old in misfortune" (Richard Maurice Bucke, ed., The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman, 10 vols. (New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1902). Whitman notes that Mahay, despite his pain, "was of good heart" and "was delighted with a stick of horehound candy I gave him" (4:46). Mahay is referred to as in poor health in letters from Whitman to Lewis K. Brown from August 1, 1863 and August 15, 1863 . See also Charles I. Glicksberg, ed., Walt Whitman and the Civil War (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1933), 149. [back]

5. General Joseph Hooker (1814–1879) assumed command of the Army of the Potomac on January 25, 1863, after President Lincoln had removed General Burnside from command. Hooker's name was most (in)famously associated with the Battle of Chancellorsville (Virginia), where a Union army of 130,000 men was defeated by General Robert E. Lee's 60,000 Confederates. [back]


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