Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Lewis K. Brown to Walt Whitman, 13–14 November 1863

Date: November 13–14, 1863

Whitman Archive ID: tex.00136

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. The transcription presented here is derived from Drum Beats: Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers, ed. Charley Shively (San Francisco, California: Gay Sunshine Press, 1989), 123-126. 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, Tim Jackson, Vanessa Steinroetter, Kathryn Kruger, and Nick Krauter

Dear Friend Walt,

I1 received your large and kind letter in due time & was glad to hear that you wer well & enjoying your self. I was out on pass the day your letter come and when I came in & they gave it me I thought that it was a furlow, or a discharge or something better yet, a commission as a Colonel or Brigadear General, to command Armory Square Hosp—but as it was it pleased me more than any, for I care more for a letter from you than I would for a Com.

Now I suppose that you would like to know how I enjoy my self: Well I go out most every day but I do not get them big dinners that I ues to. & I feel quite lost without you hear, but I must be contented to let you remain at home on furlow for a short time, for when you get back I want you to attend Congress with me, as I am a going up to hear the speaking whenever I can get out—(which is prety often now) I have not bin up to the N. York dining rooms but once since you left so I do not know how things is getting along thear.

Things in the Hospital has maid quite a chaing. it has bin filled up with wounded since you left. in this ward we had three Colonels and one Major & one Adjudant General and several other commissioned officers amongst whome wer two Rebble Lieutenents—and three reb privates! but to day the rebs wer all sent off that wer able to go, so we have no rebs in this ward, but thear is some in some of the other wards!—Two of the Colonels and all of the rest of the commissioned officers that were able to be transfered: were transfered to the Hospital at Georgetown, so we aint got so many shoulder strapes hear, but we have got enough yet for my use. I think that this last battle has bin a verry hard battle, but it has bin a decided victory although it has cost a many a life for thear was a great many of our men killed & wounded

The rebs that was in this ward were verry saucy. they wer as confident of gaining their indapendance as we as of whipping them. they say that they have got plenty to eat and wear, (but I thought by the look of them that they had not enough to ware for they wer verry ragged) or maybe they but on thear old clothes to fight in. (I forgot to ask em that)

Saturday morning 14th

I will commence writing again. My leg is rather worse this morning & the Doctor sayes that I must stay in bed to day, so I suppose that I must spend the day in bed the best way I can so I will write you another sheat full Well this is saturday & they are a scrubbing the floor. so it will be wet hear all forenoon, so I think that I will be as well in bead as any place else, so I must lay and content myself—Now I suppose that you would like to hear something about the boys that wer home on furlow. Sargent Denison2 has got back—H. Benton3 has not got back yet although his furlow was out the 10th, several others of the boys has got back that went home to vote—I received a letter from Bush since he went home. he is well and enjoying him self, he sayes, he sent a great deal of love to you & said that he was a going to write to you, so I expect that thear is a letter hear for you now from him (Your letter I did not do quite with it as you told me. that is I did not take it to each one, but I took it to the lady nurse of each ward & told her to read it her self (which she did in public) and then to pass it to each one of the men that wer mentioned in it, for them to read, and than to let each one read it that wanted to so when that was don I would carry it to the next ward and do the saim with it thear and so on all through the Hosp. It was in every ward and they all read it that wanted to amongst the rest Dr. Draper4 read it—they were all verry much pleased with it)— All of the old patients are a getting along well—but thear is a good many deaths amongst those that wer brought in last. they are all verry badly wounded. and the most of them are wounded in the body or head. thear are verry few wounded in the legs (but some are) That man in ward A that had the Consumption that layed just above the middle door—is still living, he looks better than he did that night when I seen you up thear that man with the bad arm & that man with the bad leges are mending—in fact thay are all doing so well as they can—They have just began to build the Chapple & Library that thear has bin so much talk about, this morning but if they are as long about getting it finished as they were a getting the floor in this ward it will take them three years or during the war.—then it will not be of much use; will it Well Dear friend I hardly know what else to write to interest you but I will put in something—We still have Miss Lowell5 hear to run this ward & she is worse than ever since we have got these shoulder straps she does not alow me to walk over the floor nor to speak nor nothing else. she eaven has a guard to set at each door to keep out the visitors that comes. when a visitor comes he has to send in his card to let Miss Lowell see who it is then sometimes he is admited sometimes he is sent away. So you had better set a pack of cards struck off to use when you come back, or maybe Miss Lowell will not be for letting you in. Well I think my letter is getting full long as I must begin to think about closing. I do not expect that you can read one half of it for it is so carelessly wrote and spelt, but what you cannot read you must guess at—that is if you are a yankey for they are good at guessing—but I must not call you a yankey you are to honest for to be one The weather is splendid hear verry different from what it was this time last year it is verry warm we have had but one or two cold disagreeable days.— I expect that they will have the Godress of Liberty summounted on the Capitol as they have maid great progress with it lately. they have got the scaffold all up—I have not bin up to the Capitol for some time, but probily I will go up on Monday if my leg is better.

Well as I have wrote short enough this time I will close hoping verry soon to hear from you—all the boys join me in sending thear love to you & your Mother. so good by and may God bless you, from your friend and Compainion, Lewis K. Brown.

Write soon & oblige LKB. I understood yesterday that Elija Fox has not gon home yet, but I did not see him


1. 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 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]

2. Sargent Denison is unidentified. [back]

3. H. Benton is unidentified. [back]

4. Joseph Rutter Draper was appointed a medical cadet in 1862 and assigned to be assistant to Dr. David Willard Bliss at Armory Square Hospital. Less than a month after the writing of this letter, Draper was commissioned as assistant surgeon of the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (later the 11th U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery) and left for Texas. [back]

5. Anna Lowell, a nurse in Armory Square Hospital, was the niece of poet and editor James Russell Lowell. [back]


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