Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Maria Smith to Walt Whitman, 14 March 1875

Date: March 14, 1875

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01932

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, "From Bethuel's Mother," and "Mrs Smith (Bethuel's Mother)," are in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke.

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

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March, the 14h 75

Dear friend

ireceived your kind letter some time ago iwas truly glad to hear from you iwas sick and am not well now itook aheavy cold had the Doctor Called once ihave some Cough yet but go around the house and sit up the most of the time an inhopes of going out in afew days we got Bethuels 1 papers and your picture and sent all the things overto him we all see the picture and was very much pleased to see it Mary said that is the man that saved our brother's life to one of our neighbours Mary and David2 has gone to her brother, Halsey Smiths3 avisiting now they will go to their boat the last of the month he says he will try and find you when he goes to philidelphia perhaps you will see them both this summer Bethuels youngest little boy has ben scalded with tea on his stomach they sent for the Doctor that is the last we have heard that is akind hearted little boy and agood child ilove him you mail your letters right we live in the south west part of the town if you should mail your letter Queensbury it would go to the north part avillage bythe name of the rider we dont go there once ayear i thank you for all your preasants you sent me i read with intrest and thought of our kind friend although far away perhaps we all may see eachother yet our Children are anxious to see you the picture you sent Bethuel looks some like my grandfather Deen4 that is my fathers father if Harvy Allen and Sally5 should go to philadelphia they will find you ishould like to have your picture Bethuel has got the one you sent to his father and me iwas to Halsey Smith when irote the other letter to you istayed there sevral days they live about two miles from glensfalls iwent to meeting one Sunday evening and enjoyed my meting firstrate there was 1 baptised and sevral more received in ful felowship with the Church there has ben areformation to glens falls this winter irejoiced to see it the evening iwas there they sung old fashioned hymns and old tunes it seemed like old times when iwas young idont now as you can read my riting but we feel anxious to hear from you and how you get along

god bless you with my best respects and love to you
from Maria Smith

to Mr Walt Whitman
yours truly

Maria Smith (1811–1887) was the mother of Whitman's friend and former civil war Soldier Bethuel Smith (1841–1893). Her husband and Bethuel's father, Christopher Smith (1801–1871), was a farmer, and the Smith family lived in New York. Christopher and Maria were the parents of several children, and Bethuel Smith had at least four older brothers, a younger brother, and two younger sisters. Maria Smith wrote about her family on December 10, 1874. Whitman's draft response was written on the verso of her letter. In reply to Whitman's letter and later ones, she wrote again on February 1, 1875, and March 14, 1875. In the latter she said: "it always seemed to me that god sent you to save the life of our son that he might Come home and see his parents once more."


1. 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[back]

2. David H. Dean (1849–1924), a carpenter, married Mary Smith (1852–1904). Dean was the son-in-law of Maria (1811–1887) and Christopher Smith (1801–1871) and the brother-in-law of Bethuel Smith (1841–1893). [back]

3. Little is known about Halsey Smith, who seems to be one of Maria Smith's sons and a brother of Bethuel Smith (1841–1893). [back]

4. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

5. Maria Smith is referring to her daughter, Sally Ann Smith Allen (b. 1849), and her daughter's husband (Maria's son-in-law), Harvey Allen (b. 1848), who was a boatman. [back]


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