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Walt Whitman to William Stansberry, 20 May 1874

Dear Wm. Stansberry,2

I will just write you a few lines off-hand. Your letter of May 143 has come to hand to-day, reminding me of your being in Armory Square Hospital & of my visits there, & meeting you, in '65. Your writing, or something it has started, strangely, deeply touches me. It takes me back to the scenes of ten years ago, in the war, the hospitals of Washington, the many wounded bro't up after the battles, and the never-to-be told sights of suffering & death. To think that the little gift & word of kindness, should be remembered by you so long—& that the kiss I gave you amid those scenes, should be treasured up, & as it were sent back to me after many years! Dear Comrade—you do me good,4 by your loving wishes & feelings to me in your letters.

I send you my love, & to your dear children & wife the same. As I write, you seem very dear to me too, like some young brother, who has been lost, but now found. Whether we shall ever meet each other is doubtful—probably we never will—but I feel that we should both be happy, if we could be together—(I find there are some that it is just comfort enough to be together, almost without any thing else)—

I remain about the same in my sickness. I sleep & eat pretty well—go about same, look stout & red, (though looking now very old & gray, but that is nothing new)—weigh 185 now—am badly lamed in my left leg, & have bad spells, occasionally days, of feebleness, distress in head, &c. I think I shall get well yet, but may not. Have been laid up here a year doing nothing, except a little writing. As far as room, food, care, &c. are concerned, I am well situated here—but very lonesome—have no near friends, (in the deepest sense) here at hand—my mother died here a year ago—a sorrow from which I have never entirely recovered, & likely never shall—she was an unusually noble, cheerful woman—very proud-spirited & generous—am poor, (yet with a little income, & means, just enough to pay my way, with strict economy, to be independent of want)—


  • 1. Draft letter. [back]
  • 2. "After the lapse of over 8. years," William Stansberry, a former soldier whom Walt Whitman had met in Armory Square Hospital, wrote on December 9, 1873, from Howard Lake, Minnesota, and recalled "the Blackbery [Jam?] you gave me & all the kindness which you shown." After Walt Whitman replied on April 27, 1874 (lost), Stansberry wrote again on May 12, 1874, about the hospital visits. On June 28, 1874, he thanked Whitman for his letter and "22 News Pappers." On July 15, 1874, his wife informed Walt Whitman of her husband's failing health and poverty and inquired about the possibility of a pension. Evidently in reply to another lost letter from Whitman, Stansberry asked on July 21, 1875, for "the Lone of 65$" in order to return to West Virginia, where he expected to find witnesses to support his application for a pension. This was evidently the last letter in the correspondence. These letters are in the The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. [back]
  • 3. Stansberry's letter was written on May 12, 1874 (The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). [back]
  • 4. Originally Whitman wrote: "Dear, dear comrade—for so I must call you—you have done me good, much good." [back]
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