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Walt Whitman to Hannah E. Stevenson, 8 October 1863

Dear friend2

Your letter was received, enclosing one from Mary Wigglesworth with $30 from herself & her sisters Jane & Anne—As I happened stopping at one of the hospitals last night Miss Lowe just from Boston came to me & handed the letters—My friend, you must convey the blessings of the poor young men around me here, many amid deepest afflictions not of body only but of soul, to your friends Mary, Jane, & Anne Wigglesworth.3 Their & all contributions shall be sacredly used among them. I find more & more how a little money rightly directed, the exact thing at the exact moment, goes a great ways, to make gifts comfort & truly nourish these American soldiers, so full of manly independence, is required the spirit of love & boundless brotherly tenderness, hand in hand with greatest tact. I do not find any lack in the storehouses, nor eager willingness of the North to unlock them for the soldiers—but sadly everywhere a lack of fittest hands to apply, & of just the right thing in just the right measure, & of all being vivified by the spirit I have mentioned—

Say to the sisters Mary & Jane & Anne Wigglesworth, & to your own sister, Margaret,4 that as I feel it a privilege myself to be doing a part among these things, I know well enough the like privilege must be sweet to them, to their compassionate & sisterly souls, & need indeed few thanks, & only ask its being put to best use, what they feel to give among sick & wounded. I have received L B Russell's5 letter & contribution by same hand, & shall try to write to him to-morrow—


Address | care Major Hapgood | paymaster U S A cor 15th & F st | Washington D C.


  • 1. Endorsed (by Walt Whitman): "sent Oct 8 '63 | Hannah E Stevenson | 80 Temple st | Boston | Mass." Draft Letter. [back]
  • 2. Hannah E. Stevenson was the sister of Margaret S. Curtis, wife of Boston counselor Charles Curtis. Both women sent sums of money to Whitman for his work in the army hospitals. Stevenson heard of Whitman's hospital work from Dr. Le Baron Russell, and she wrote to Whitman on October 6, 1863 . She had been, Dr. Russell wrote to Whitman on October 4, 1867, "an ardent worker in one of the Georgetown Hospitals". She was also associated with William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips in the abolitionist movement and was a patron of the Home for Aged Colored Women in Boston. She died in 1887; see the Boston Evening Transcript, June 11, 1887. On presenting a rough draft of this October 8, 1863, letter to Horace Traubel, Whitman exclaimed: "That was a great woman" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1961], 1:26). [back]
  • 3. Like Hannah E. Stevenson, Anne and Mary Wigglesworth were patrons of various benevolent organizations in Boston. Mary died in 1882 and Anne in 1891; see the Boston Evening Transcript, August 29, 1882, and January 6, 1891. [back]
  • 4. Margaret S. Curtis, wife of a Boston counselor, and her sister, Hannah E. Stevenson, sent sums of money to Whitman (see Whitman's letter from October 4, 1863). Mr. and Mrs. Curtis had sent $30 on October 1, 1863. According to the Boston Directory of 1888, Mrs. Curtis died on March 13 of that year. [back]
  • 5. See Whitman's letter from December 3, 1863 . [back]
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