Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Justus F. Boyd to Walt Whitman, 10 March 1863

Date: March 10, 1863

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Drum Beats: Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers, ed. Charley Shively (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1989), 111. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Walt Whitman Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Whitman Archive ID: tex.00121

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




Cohoctah, Michigan,
March 10, 1863 Mr. Whitman

Dear Sir

I1 am seated in an easy chair pen in hand trying to scribble a few lines to you. I expect it will take me all day to write this for I cant sit up but a few moments at a time. I was taken down with chills & fever when I got to Pittsburg. I stayed there from Saturday night until Monday morning before any train left I dont think I ever was so sick in my life as I was in Pittsburg I about gave up there that I never should get home alive, but there was a Dr there he gave me some medison he said that would take me home & it did.

We was behind time at most every place we changed cars so we had to wait I expected to have got home in three days at the outside but instead of three I was six.

It dont look much like winter here there is not a parrticle of snow on the ground & its about such weather as it was in Washington although its not quite so muddy There hasnt been any sleighing here this winter & there wont be now its to late in the season

They are making maple sugar in this part of the world now when I get well I will eat some for you but I suppose you think that wont do you much good.

I tell you I am glad I am out of that Hospital & when I get into another to stay I will let you know it.

Oh how are you getting along with your office I am in hopes you have recd it before this time I begun to think that your office & my discharge had gone to the same place now I have got my papers I think you had ought to receive yours

I cant write any more this time my hand trembles so I can hardly write but I will try & do better next time give my best respects to Mr & Mrs O Connor.2 Yours &c.

PS Write soon


Notes:

1. Justus F. Boyd was a soldier in the 6th Michigan Cavalry. Whitman wrote the following entry on Boyd in a notebook that he kept shortly after his appointment to the Christian Commission, January 20, 1863 ("Walt Whitman Soldier's," Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #99, sheets 1098–1133): "Corp. Justus F. Boyd bed 22 co. D 6th Michigan cavalry been in five months, four sick, affection of kidneys and pleurisy—wants some paper and envelope and something to read gave him 12 sheets paper, & 12 envelopes & three of them franked by Sumner." [back]

2. For a time Whitman lived with William D. and Ellen M. O'Connor, who, with Charles W. Eldridge and later John Burroughs, were to be his close associates during the early Washington years. William D. O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of Harrington, an abolition novel published by Thayer & Eldridge in 1860. He had been an assistant editor of the Saturday Evening Post before he went to Washington. O'Connor was an intelligent man who deserved something better than the various governmental clerical posts he was to hold until his death. The humdrum of clerkship, however, was relieved by the presence of Whitman whom he was to love and venerate—and defend with a single-minded fanaticism and an outpouring of vituperation and eulogy that have seldom been equaled, most notably in his pamphlet, "The Good Gray Poet." He was the first, and in many ways the most important, of the adulators who divided people arbitrarily into two categories: those who were for and those who were against Walt Whitman. The poet praised O'Connor in the preface to a posthumous collection of his tales: "He was a born sample here in the 19th century of the flower and symbol of olden time first-class knighthood. Thrice blessed be his memory!" (Complete Prose Works [New York, D. Appleton, 1910] pp. 513). For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors see O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889]. Of the O'Connors, Thomas Jefferson Whitman wrote on June 13, 1863: "I am real glad, my dear Walt, that you are among such good people. I hope it will be in the power of some of our family to return their kindness some day. I'm sure twould be done with a heartfelt gratitude. Tis pleasant, too, to think, that there are still people of that kind left." [back]


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