Title: Le Baron Russell to Walt Whitman, 4 October 1863
Date: October 4, 1863
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: Walt Whitman Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin
Whitman Archive ID: tex.00167
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang and Ted Genoways
Oct 4th 1863.
My dear sir,
I1 was very glad to hear of the receipt of the check I sent you & to know that it had already begun to do some good. I like very much your plan of aiding chiefly those frequent cases of suffering among the poor & unfriended young men of whom I have myself seen so many in the hospitals—I am sure you must be doing infinite good to the bodies & souls of these poor youths so far away from all other sympathies & friendships, & who now just seek a friend & comforter as few are to them. The hospitals are too cold—too regardless of human feeling,—treating our brave volunteers too much like more professional fighters not mere like thinking & suffering men.
It is bad policy, as well as inhumanity, to treat them so. The effects of the iron will of our hospitals is discouraging to the hearts of our men, & I fear it does more to prevent volunteer enlistments than all other causes—The difficulty of getting discharges & furloughs, even in cases clearly demanding such indulgence, is very great & seems to increase rather than to diminish—I wish some more humane rules could be established. I have tried to prevail upon those in authority to ameliorate the system, but without effect—
I have received twenty dollars here to be forwarded to you, ($10 cash from my friends Henry Lewis of Boston, & Benj. H Silsbee2 of Salem,) but I retain it for a few days hoping to add more to it—Meanwhile I have sent your letter to our friend Miss Hannah E. Stevenson3, (whom you may remember as an ardent worker in one of the Georgetown Hospitals,) who will read it to some of her friends. She informs me that her sister Mrs. Chs P. Curtis has written to you & sent aid for the boys. She was much interested in your account of them.
It will give me great pleasure to hear from you again—
I am very truly yours
L B Russell.
Mr Walt Whitman Washington D.C.
1. Dr. Le Baron Russell was a Boston physician, who was well acquainted with Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Redpath. Along with other philanthropically minded citizens, Russell sent Whitman money to be used in easing the suffering of the Civil War wounded languishing in the Washington, D.C., area. [back]
2. Benjamin H. Silsbee was the president of the Merchant's Bank in Salem and an influential member of the East India Marine Society. [back]
3. Hannah E. Stevenson was the sister of Margaret S. Curtis, wife of Boston counselor Charles Curtis. Both women sent sums of money to Whitman for his work in the army hospitals. [back]