Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas P. Sawyer to Walt Whitman, 21 January 1864

Date: January 21, 1864

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00158

Source: Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature at the New York Public Library. The transcription presented here is derived from Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working-Class Camerados, ed. Charley Shively (San Francisco, California: Gay Sunshine Press, ), 82-83. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Bev Rilett, Eric Conrad, Kathryn Kruger, and Nick Krauter

Dear Brother Walter,

As I1 have just written to Lewis I thought I would try and pen you a few lines hooping that they will [find] you in the best of health and enjoying your self—and I wish I was there with you.2

Dear brother I hardly know what to say to you in this letter for it is my first one to you but it will not be my last I should have written to you before but I am not a great hand at written and I have ben very buisy fixing my tent for this winter and I hope you will forgive me and in the future I will do better and I hope we may meet again in this world and now as it is getting very late you must ecuse this short letter this time—and I hope to here from [you] soon. I send you my love and best wishes. Good by from

Your Brother,
Sergt Thomas P Sawyer

P.S.  if I knew your addrss I should not send it this Way. Good by Brother.


1. Thomas ("Tom") P. Sawyer was a friend of Lewis Kirke Brown's, and a sergeant in the Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers. The 11th Massachusetts, under Lieutenant Colonel Porter D. Tripp, suffered heavy losses on July 2, 1863, in defense of the Emmitsburg Road at the Battle of Gettysburg. [back]

2. Lewis Kirke Brown (1843–1926) was wounded in the left leg near Rappahannock Station on August 19, 1862, and lay where he fell for four days. Eventually he was transferred to Armory Square Hospital, where Whitman met him, probably in February 1863. In a diary in the Library of Congress, Whitman described Brown on February 19, 1863, as "a most affectionate fellow, very fond of having me come and sit by him." Because the wound did not heal, the leg was amputated on January 5, 1864. Whitman was present and described the operation in a diary (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #103). Brown was mustered out in August 1864, and was employed in the Provost General's office in September; see Whitman's letter from September 11, 1864 . The following September he became a clerk in the Treasury Department, and was appointed Chief of the Paymaster's Division in 1880, a post which he held until his retirement in 1915. (This material draws upon a memorandum which was prepared by Brown's family and is now held in the Library of Congress.) [back]


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