Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Bethuel Smith to Walt Whitman, 12 March 1875

Date: March 12, 1875

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01931

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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.

Editorial notes: The annotations, "Bethuel Smith March 12 '75 (sent papers & a few lines April 21. '75)," and "Bethuel Smith," are in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, John Schwaninger, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Caterina Bernardini, Marie Ernster, Noelle Bates, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

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March 12th/1875

Dear friend

I received your letter last weak1 & was glad to hear from you I receivd some papers about three weaks ago last summer I was in brooklyn & I hunted for you but could not find you I mad up my mind that I would not hear from you again but I have I received your picture & I thought it looked natural it is night now & I was agoing to the villiage tomorrow So I thought I would write A few lines to you my halth is good & so is my family I have got three boys & one girl

the way that I came to be in brooklyn I was A Canalin it last summer & we went to new york new jersey brooklyn port morris newark new jersey & several places but did not see any thing of walt in anny of the places I talk some of canaling this summer but dont now for sertain yet I wat you to tell me where Camden is whether it is in the upper or lower part jersey or off towards newark so that if I do Come down there I can find you I would like to see you verry much last fall I bought A small farm & paid fifty dollas down & fifty this spring it makes pretty hard time with me this spring I ame owing some debts that I dont no whether I can pay them or not this spring one of my horses is so lame that I cant work him & I have every thing to buy I have got one cow & the two sheep that is all of my stock youre letters was directed rite the two firts years of my mairage my wife was sick the most of the time so it used up what money that I had then but her health has ben verry well sence then

ther was so much son this winter that it has ben bad gitting aroung in this part of the cuntry the snow is about 4 feat deap now in the woods but not so deep in the fealds I like your peaces in the paper verry much I am to pay four hundred dollars for 39 3/4 acres of land A small house & barn on it I dont now as I can think of anny more to write at present So good buy for this time

this is from
Bethuel Smith your friend

This pictur was taken about nine years ago2

Bethuel Smith (1841–1893), a New York native, was the son of Christopher Smith (1801–1871), a farmer, and Maria Smith (1811–1887). Bethuel Smith served in the Union Army—Company F, Second U.S. Cavalry—during the Civil War. Smith was wounded in 1863 and taken to Armory Square Hospital in Washington, D. C., where he met Whitman. Smith wrote to Whitman on September 17, 1863, from the U.S. General Hospital at Carlisle, Pennsylanvia, "I left the armory hospital in somewhat of A hurry." He expected, he explained on September 28, 1863, to rejoin his regiment shortly, and was stationed near Washington when he wrote on October 13, 1863. He wrote on December 16, 1863, from Culpeper, Virginia, that he was doing provost duty, and on February 28, 1864, he was in a camp near Mitchell Station, Virginia, where "the duty is verry hard." He was wounded again on June 11 (so his parents reported to Whitman on August 29, 1864), was transported to Washington, and went home on furlough on July 1. He returned on August 14 to Finley Hospital, where, on August 30, 1864, he wrote to Whitman: "I would like to see you verry much, I have drempt of you often & thought of you oftener still." He expected to leave the next day for Carlisle Barracks to be mustered out, and on October 22, 1864, he wrote to Whitman from Queensbury, New York. When his parents communicated with Whitman on January 26, 1865, Bethuel was well enough to perform tasks on the farm. Smith recovered from his injuries and went on to marry Lois E. Chadwick Smith (1845–1911). The couple had six children. Smith was one of the soldiers to whom Whitman wrote in the 1870s; see Whitman's letter to Bethuel Smith, December 1874.


1. This letter has not been located. [back]

2. This enclosure has not been located. [back]


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