Selected Criticism

Brown, Lewis Kirk (1843–1926)
Kantrowitz, Arnie
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Lewis (aka Lew or Lewy) K. Brown left his family's farm near Elkton, Maryland, to join the Union army. Walt Whitman met him in February 1863 in the Armory Square Hospital in Washington, D.C., where Brown was recovering from a wound in the left leg, which he had received in a battle near Rappahannock Station in August 1862.

His affectionate nature made him receptive to Whitman's nurturing ministrations, and it was through Brown that Whitman formed close attachments to several other wounded soldiers. Whitman reported in letters to Brown's friend Sergeant Thomas P. Sawyer that Brown gave him a kiss "half a minute long" (Whitman 91) and that he hoped to live with both Sawyer and Brown after the war was over, suggesting that his interest in the two young soldiers (among others) may have been more than paternal. Although his feelings for Sawyer may have been even stronger than those he felt for Brown, Whitman's letters to Brown say the sight of Brown's face was "welcomer than all," and he refers to Brown as "my darling" (Whitman 119).

On 5 January 1864 Brown's leg was amputated five inches below the knee, and Whitman spent two nights on a cot near his bed to see him through the painful experience. Brown left the army in August 1864, and a year later he was employed as a clerk in the Treasury Department. As late as 1867, Whitman wrote to Hiram Sholes that Brown was well and that he saw him often. In 1880 Brown became Chief of the Paymaster's Division and remained in that position until his retirement in 1915.


Allen, Gay Wilson. The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman. 1955. Rev. ed. 1967. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985.

Shively, Charley, ed. Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working Class Camerados. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine, 1987.

Whitman, Walt. The Correspondence. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. Vol. 1. New York: New York UP, 1961.


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