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Walt Whitman to Bethuel Smith, 16 September 1863

Dear Comrade,1

I thought I would write you a few lines & see if they would reach you—I was very much disappointed when I went to Armory that evening to find my dear comrade was gone so sudden & unexpected.2

Thuey, did you take the envelope you had with my address?—if you did why have you not written to me, comrade?

What kind of accommodations have you at Carlisle, Thu, & how is the foot? I want to hear all about it—If you get this you must write to me, Thu, you need not mind ceremony—there is no need of ceremony between dear friends for that I hope we are, my loving boy, for all the difference in our ages.

There is nothing new with me here—I am very well in health & spirits, & only need some employment, clerkship or something, at fair wages to make things go agreeable with me—no, there is one thing more I need & that is Thuey, for I believe I am quite a fool, I miss you so.3

Well, Thu, it seems as though they were moving again in front—Pleasonton4 has been advancing & fighting—he had all the cavalry moving, had quite a fight last Sunday, driving Stuart5—a good many wounded were brought here very late Monday night 12 o'clock—some 70 to Armory Hospital—all cavalry. In Ward A things go on the same—I dont go as often there as I did—Pyne & I went on quite a spree Monday, went to the mystic Varieties & elsewhere, (saw the ghost as they call it)6—had an oyster supper, ale, &c. quite a time—

Well I will not write any more this time—so good bye for present, Thuey, & I pray God bless you, my dear loving comrade, & I hope he will bring us together again—good by, dear boy, from your true friend—

Thuey, I enclose an envelope but will write my address here too for future—

Thuey, you went away without getting paid, aint you broke? I can send you a little, a few 10ct bills, my darling—You write to me, Thu, just how it is—you need not be afraid, my darling comrade—it is little, but it may be some use—Thuey, you write to me just as you would to your own older brother—7


  • 1. According to his diary (Charles I. Glicksberg, Walt Whitman and the Civil War [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1933], 136), Whitman sent a letter to Bethuel Smith on September 16, 1863. Bethuel Smith, Company F, Second U.S. Cavalry, was wounded in 1863. He wrote to Whitman on September 17, 1863, from the U.S. General Hospital at Carlisle, Pennsylanvia, "I left the armory hospital in somewhat of A hurry." He expected, he explained on September 28, 1863, to rejoin his regiment shortly, and was stationed near Washington when he wrote on October 13, 1863. He wrote on December 16, 1863, from Culpeper, Virginia, that he was doing provost duty, and on February 28, 1864, he was in a camp near Mitchell Station, Virginia, where "the duty is verry hard." He was wounded again on June 11 (so his parents reported to Whitman on August 29, 1864), was transported to Washington, and went home on furlough on July 1. He returned on August 14 to Finley Hospital, where, on August 30, 1864, he wrote to Whitman: "I would like to see you verry much, I have drempt of you often & thought of you oftener still." He expected to leave the next day for Carlisle Barracks to be mustered out, and on October 22, 1864, he wrote to Whitman from Queensbury, New York. When his parents communicated with Walt Whitman on January 26, 1865, Bethuel was well enough to perform tasks on the farm. Smith was one of the soldiers to whom Whitman wrote ten years later; see Whitman's letter to Bethuel Smith, December 1874 (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence, 6 vols. [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:318–319). [back]
  • 2. At this point Whitman deleted: "Thuey, I think about you often & miss you more than you have any idea of—I hope you will . . ." [back]
  • 3. Compare the similar phrasing in Whitman's letter from November 21, 1863 . [back]
  • 4. Alfred Pleasonton (1824–1897) commanded the Union cavalry in 1863. After Gettysburg, he participated in battles at Culpepper Courthouse and Brandy Station. [back]
  • 5. James Ewell Brown Stuart (1833–1864) was the Confederate cavalry leader. [back]
  • 6. Washington theaters were featuring "ghosts" in September 1863. The "Original Ghost" appeared at the Varieties on September 7. The Washington Theatre and Canterbury Hall also advertised ghosts on the same date, and Ford's New Theatre announced the imminent appearance of a specter. [back]
  • 7. Draft Letter. [back]
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