Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to the Commissioner of Pensions, 5 October 1884

Date: October 5, 1884

Whitman Archive ID: hsw.00001

Source: Historical Society of Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Ted Genoways (Iowa City: Iowa University Press, 2004), 7:75–76. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

328 Mickle street
Camden New Jersey1
October 5 18842

I knew Reuben Farwell as a first-class soldier (it was in 1863 or '64)3 of a Michigan Regiment—he was in Ward A, Armory Square Hospital, Dr Bliss Superintendent4—I was with him off & on some months & remember the case perfectly well. He had a very bad foot wound, & I should judge it something that would deteriorate his health & more or less incapacitate him through life afterward—till his death—& even toward that event—which as I understand occurred about a year ago.

I strongly recommend the granting a pension to his widow Ann E. Farwell.

Very respectfully,
Walt Whitman

As yet we have no information about this correspondent.


1. The envelope is addressed: To the | Commissioner of Pensions | Washington DC. [back]

2. Written at the request of Reuben Farwell's widow, Ann, in support of her application for survivor benefits. [back]

3. Reuben Farwell (?–1883) was "admitted to Armory Square Hospital on October 12, 1863, and given Bed Number 33, in Ward A. He remained in the hospital until January 28, 1864, when he was furloughed home for a month, returning again on February 27" (Murray, 161). [back]

4. D. Willard Bliss (1825–1889) was a surgeon with the Third Michigan Infantry, and afterward was in charge of Armory Square Hospital. See John Homer Bliss, Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America, from about the year 1550 to 1880 (Boston: John Homer Bliss, 1881), 545. He practiced medicine in Washington after the war; see the letter from Whitman to Hiram Sholes of May 30, 1867. When a pension for Whitman was proposed in the House of Representatives in 1887, Dr. Bliss was quoted: "I am of opinion that no one person who assisted in the hospitals during the war accomplished so much good to the soldiers and for the Government as Mr. Whitman" (Thomas Donaldson, Walt Whitman the Man [New York: F. P. Harper, 1896], 169). [back]


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