Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Lucia Jane Russell Briggs, 26 April 1864

Date: April 26, 1864

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Ted Genoways (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004), 7:22–23. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Private collection

Whitman Archive ID: prc.00007

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, Janel Cayer, and Sarah Synovec




Washington /
April 26 1864

Dear Madam1

Your generous remittance of $75 for the wounded & sick was duly received by letter of 21st & is most acceptable. So much good may be done with it. A little I find may go a great ways. It is perhaps like having a store of medicines—the difficulty is not so much in getting the medicines, it is not so important about having a great store, as it is important to apply them by rare perception, honest personal investigation, true love, & if possible the inspiration & tact we in other fields call genius.

The hospitals here are again full, as nearly all last week trains were arriving off & on from front with sick. Very many of these however will be transferred north as soon as practicable.

Unfortunately large numbers are irreparably injured in these jolting railroad & ambulance journeys, numbers dying on the road.—Of these come in lately, diarrhea, rheumatism & the old camp fevers are most prevalent. The wrecks in these forms of so many hundreds of dear young American men come in lately, are terrible, & make one's heart ache.

Numerically the sick are the last four or five weeks becoming alarmingly greater, & in quality the cases grow more intense. I have noticed a steady deepening of this intensity of the cases of sickness, the year & a half I have been with the soldiers. Hospital accommodations here are being extensively added to. Large tents are being put up, & others got ready.

My friend, you must accept the men's thanks, through me. I shall remain here among the soldiers in hospital through the summer, with short excursions down in field, & what help you can send me for the wounded & sick I need hardly say how gladly I shall receive it & apply it personally to them.


Walt Whitman

address) Care Major Hapgood / paymaster U S Army / Washington D C


Notes:

1. Lucia Jane Russell Briggs, the wife of the pastor of the First Parish Church in Salem, Massachusetts, heard of Whitman's work in the Washington hospitals through her brother, Dr. LeBaron Russell. (For information on Russell, see footnote 2 to Whitman's letter to him from December 3, 1863.) In her letter of April 21, 1864 Mrs Briggs wrote: "I inclose seventy-five dollars, which I have collected among a few friends in Salem, and which I hope may be of some little service to our brave boys, who surely should not suffer while we have the power to help them. You have our warmest sympathy in your generous work, and though sad to witness so much suffering, it is indeed a privilege to be able to do something to alleviate it" (Hanley; Donaldson, 151–52; Dedmond, 546). [back]


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