Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Anson Ryder, Jr., 15–16 August 1865

Date: August 15–16, 1865

Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Robert H. Taylor Collection, Princeton University

Whitman Archive ID: pri.00023

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang and Vanessa Steinroetter

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Aug. 15, 1865

Dear Anson,

As there is a sort of lull and quiet for a short time in my work, I will improve the opportunity to write to you, dear friend.1 In this office, I am in the part where the Pardons are attended to. There is a perfect stream of Rebels coming in here all the time to get pardoned. All the Southerners that are worth more than $20,000 in property, have to get special pardons, & all who have been officers of the rank of Brig. Gen'l, or upwards, the same. Many old men come in here, and middle-aged & young ones too. I often talk with them. There are some real characters among them—(& you know I have a fancy for any thing a little out of the usual style)—

Quite a good many women come up to Washington, & come to this office, about their pardons—some old, some young—all are drest in deep black. Then there are bushels of applications arriving every week by mail. When they are recommended by the Provisional Governors, or some well known Union person, they get their papers—Many have got their papers—but nearly all are waiting for the President's signature—I should think 3 or 4 000. He is n't in any hurry to sign them.

I was down at Armory Square Sunday. Dr. Smith said he had rec'd a letter from you, & was just going to answer it.2 I went awhile in Ward I, among the rebels—they are in a wretched condition, & nobody goes among them. I shall go in & see Hiram in a day or so. I am in good health, & generally have easy times—As half the force of clerks here are off on leave, I some days have a pressure—& that is the case lately. But I shall be careful to make it up. We have pleasanter weather here the last ten days—quite cool mornings & nights.

My dear friend; I am sorry you could not have been with me for a day or two before you left Washington, as it may be we shall not meet again. But you must not forget me, for I shall not you. Write to me from time to time, Anson, & I will you too. The picture you shall have—As I am writing this at the office, otherwise I would enclose one of the card photographs in it—they are up at my room—I will send one in my next.3 Write how your leg is—Give my best remembrances to Wood—he is a good man & I hope he will prosper through life—When you write, direct to me, Attorney General's Office, Washington, D. C.

Blue coats here are getting quite scarce. Your letter of 9th came safe, & was welcome. I envy you the pure fresh country air & healthy influences, & I doubt not, fine scenery & quiet. When you write tell me

Walt Whitman

Wednesday morning, 16th Aug.

Anson, as I neglected to send this yesterday, I have brought down a couple of little pictures & enclose them, after all. But you shall have a larger & better one, dear son,—I will have it prepared & fix some way to send it to you. They have commenced breaking up Armory Square. The picture in shirt sleeves was taken in 1854—You would not know it was me now, but it was taken from life & was first-rate then. Anson, when you write tell me all particulars of yourself, folk's place & about Wood, &c.

Your true friend,
Walt Whitman


1. Apparently Anson Ryder, Jr., left Armory Square Hospital and, accompanied by another injured soldier named Wood (probably Calvin B. Wood; see Edward F. Grier, ed., Notes and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts [New York: New York University Press, 1961–84], 6:673), returned to his family at Cedar Lake, New York.  [back]

2. On August 25, 1865, Ryder acknowledged receipt of a letter from Dr. Smith, who may be Thomas C. Smith, a Washington physician. [back]

3. On August 9, 1865, Ryder had written to Whitman to apologize for leaving Washington hastily and to remind him of a "promised" photograph, which is the famous frontispiece to the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855. See also Ryder's letter of October 22, 1865, and Whitman's letters to Ryder of May 16 and December 14, 1866. [back]


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