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Walt Whitman to Hiram Sholes, [30 May 1867]

Dear friend Hiram,1

Your letter of 27th May2 has come safe to hand, & I was truly glad to hear from you. Hiram, you must not think I have forgotten you, for I have thought of you too many times since the days we used to see each other there in the Hospital. Lewis Brown is well. I see him often. He has a place here as Clerk, at $1200 a year. He is in the 4th Auditor's Office, Treasury Department, & that is his address. Did you know Adrian Bartlett—in Ward K? He is also a clerk in 4th Auditor's. Thompson,3 the one so low with diarrhea, went home to New Jersey, & I have never heard from him since. Taber was killed in one of the Battles of the Wilderness. Shot in the head & fell instantly. Tom Sawyer, (Lewy Brown's friend), passed safe through the war—but we have not heard from him now for two years. Dr. Bliss is practising here in Washington. Dr Bowen4 also. Old Armory Square is now used as an Army Clothing depot. Of course all the big hospitals are long broken up—there now remain only the Post Hospital, U. S. A. on K st. & two or three small regimental hospitals in & around the city.5

As to me & my fortunes I am in pretty good health, thank God—& I am working in the Attorney General's office (as the heading of this letter.) It is an easy kind of place—the other clerks are all young men, friendly & jovial—So I have things pleasant enough. The pay is 1000 a year.6

Miss Lowell7 is still around—is interested in the African schools. Lewy Brown has just been in to see me—he says he wrote two letters & wrote to your mother—Joe Harris often asks for you & is doing well—is in the State Office—Mrs & Miss Martins are well.

Curly, at last accounts, was home in Ohio. Cate is home in New Hampshire—he has been committing matrimony—& is now supposed to be suffering the consequences—poor reckless young man—Mrs. Wright8 is at Flushing, L. I., New York. She is in the Soldiers' orphan home.

Hiram, you ought to have put in your letter how you got along with your leg since, & how you are now in health, & how you are situated. I want to hear all about you generally—all the particulars.

Well I believe that is all this time. I send you my love, dear friend & soldier, & I hope this will find you well in health & in good spirits. So God bless you, boy, & for the present I must bid you Farewell—


  • 1.

    Draft letter.

    After seeing Walt Whitman's name in a newspaper, Sholes (mentioned in Walt Whitman's April 21, 1863 letter to Thomas P. Sawyer) wrote to him from Albany on May 24, 1867. Sholes had occupied a bed next to Lewis Brown's in Armory Square Hospital in 1862 and 1863, and recalled Walt Whitman's visits: "My kind friend (for so you must permit me to call you) I have thought of you many times since I left Washington and how well can I remember you as you came into the Wards with the Haversack under your arm, giving some little necessary here, a kind word there, and when you came to Louis [Brown's] bed and mine how cordialy you grasped our hands and anxiously enquired into our condition. I thank you for all this and you in your lonely moments must be happy in thinking of the good you have done to the many suffering ones during the war." In his June 8, 1867 reply, Sholes reported that his health was excellent, but not his economic lot: he had been an attendant in an insane asylum, a watchman, and a doorkeeper, positions he was able to hold for only short periods of time. (These letters are in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.)

    Walt Whitman's letter supplies details about soldiers mentioned earlier in his correspondence: Brown (see Whitman's August 1, 1863 letter to Lewis K. Brown), Bartlett (see Whitman's July 11, 1864 letter to Lewis K. Brown), Taber (see Whitman's August 1, 1863 letter to Lewis K. Brown), Sawyer (see Whitman's April 21, 1863 letter to Thomas P. Sawyer), Dr. Bliss (see Whitman's April 21, 1863 letter to Thomas P. Sawyer), Harris (see Whitman's July 11, 1864 letter to Lewis K. Brown), Curley (see Whitman's August 1, 1863 letter to Lewis K. Brown), and Cate (see Whitman's November 8–9, 1863 letter to Lewis K. Brown).

  • 2. Walt Whitman was in error: Sholes's letter was dated May 24. [back]
  • 3. Perhaps H. B. Thompson, who wrote to Walt Whitman on July 22, 1869: "You will not remember the writer of this letter.…I wont forget Walt Whitman. I have just read that you have completed your half century. May you live to a ripe old age, loving and beloved. I was reading 'Drum Taps' last night, no man can depict Army life so vividly that had not spent his time amongst the boys." [back]
  • 4. Dr. Charles H. Bowen was a Washington physician. [back]
  • 5. This sentence was lined through. [back]
  • 6. This is an error. According to his November 16, 1866 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, Walt Whitman's salary was $1,600, and he later received a "20 percent addition" (see Whitman's March 5, 1867 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman). Perhaps Walt Whitman sensed that Sholes was about to ask for a loan due to his poor economic lot. [back]
  • 7. In his December 22, 1863 letter to Walt Whitman, Alonzo S. Bush, a soldier, referred to Anna Lowell, a nurse during the war in Armory Square Hospital: "Tell Miss Lowell that her Kindness to the Solders undr her charge While I was there I never Shall forget." [back]
  • 8. Mrs. H. J. Wright was a nurse during the Civil War at the Mansion House Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #104). In "The Soldiers," published in the New-York Times on March 6, 1865, Walt Whitman wrote: "I have known her for over two years in her labors of love." The passage referring to her did not appear with the rest of the article in Specimen Days. [back]
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