Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Thomas P. Sawyer, 26 April 1863

Date: April 26, 1863

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00181

Source: Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:93–94. 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, Kathryn Kruger, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Alyssa Olson

Dear comrade,1

I have not heard from you for some time, Lewy Brown has received two letters from you, & Walter2 in Ward E has received one three weeks ago. I wrote you a letter about a week ago, which I hope you have received. I was sorry you did not come up to my room to get the shirt & other things you promised to accept from me and take when you went away. I got them all ready, a good strong blue shirt, a pair of drawers & socks, and it would have been a satisfaction to me if you had accepted them. I should have often thought now Tom may be wearing around his body something from me, & that it might contribute to your comfort, down there in camp on picket, or sleeping in your tent.

Lewy Brown and Hiram are about the same. I saw Lewy & sat with him last evening. I go to see him almost every evening. He sets up a little in the chair, during the middle of the day—his foot is doing pretty well. There is quite a time at Armory about Dr. Bliss3—some say he is under arrest for defrauding the government. There is a new surgeon in charge—I have not seen him. In Ward K there is a new surgeon, Dr. Rose.4 There is quite a change, with men & doctors, going and coming.

Well, Tom, how did you stand the gay old rain storm of Thursday & Friday last?5 It rained here enough to wet hell itself, and swamp the fires. But yesterday & to-day here have been fine. The talk here previously was all about Hooker's advance—we expected a big fight, on the jump—but of course the storm has laid an injunction on that for some days.

Yet I suppose Hooker must move soon, & that there will be fighting and lots of marches and skirmishes, &c before the summer is through. O my dear comrade & brother, I hope it will prove your good luck to come safe through all the engagements & marches of this war, & that we shall meet again, not to part. I hope this letter will find you in good health & spirits.

Tom, I will not write a long yarn at present. I guess I have not made out much of a letter, anyhow at present, but I will let it go, whatever it is, hoping it may please you, coming from old wooly-neck, who loves you. You must let that make up for all deficiencies now and to come. Not a day passes, nor a night but I think of you. Now, my dearest comrade, I will bid you so long, & hope God will put it in your heart to bear toward me a little at least of the feeling I have about you. If it is only a quarter as much I shall be satisfied.

Your faithful friend & brother,


Tom, it is now about 9 o'clock, a fine moonlight night. I am going to close this up, and then scud out for a walk to the post office. Good by again, & God bless you, dear brother.


1. Endorsed (in unknown hand): "26 April 1863."

Draft letter. [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 Feinberg Collection, 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 (Library of Congress #103). Brown was mustered out in August 1864, and he was then employed in the Provost General's office in September. 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 is drawn from a memorandum prepared by Brown's family, now in the Library of Congress.) To Brown, on April 12, 1863, Sawyer wrote that he had "received a short letter from Walter yesterday" (Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library). Miller writes in his annotations, "I have not identified Walter; perhaps he was an orderly in Armory Square Hospital" (93). [back]

3. Whitman noted—in a letter from May 27, 1863—that Bliss was later confined to Old Capitol Prison. The only reference Miller was able to find with regard to Bliss's imprisonment appears in court testimony quoted by Lafayette C. Baker, History of the United States Secret Service (Philadelphia: L. C. Baker, 1867), 624. [back]

4. This perhaps references George S. Rose, assistant surgeon, though he was reported to have entered military service on September 24, 1863. Whitman deleted the following comment: "He is a sharp little fellow." [back]

5. Whitman excised the next sentence: "I thought about you many times." [back]


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