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Maria Smith to Walt Whitman, 10 December 1874

 loc_jc.00111_large.jpg Dear friend

it has ben​ along​ time since we have heard from you iwill​ rite​ you afew​ lines that you may now​ i​ have you in rememberance​ yet you were kin to my son Bethuel Smith1 when in the hospital afriend​ in need is a friend indeed Bethuels father has gone to his home to rest2 i​ and my youngest son are left at the old home lonely Bethuel lives not far from us he is well as iha​ but little time to rite​ god bless you

from Maria Smith to Mr Walt Whitman  loc_jc.00112_large.jpg Adress​ glensfalls​ Warren County N Y

Maria Smith (1811–1887) was the mother of Whitman's friend and former Civil War Soldier Bethuel Smith (1841–1893). Her husband and Bethuel's father, Christopher Smith (1801–1871), was a farmer, and the Smith family lived in New York. Christopher and Maria were the parents of several children, and Bethuel Smith had at least four older brothers, a younger brother, and two younger sisters. Maria Smith writes about her family in this letter, and Whitman's draft response was written on the verso of her letter. In reply to Whitman's letter and later ones, she wrote again on February 1, 1875 and March 14, 1875. In the latter she said: "it always seemed to me that god sent you to save the life of our son [Bethuel] that he might Come home and see his parents once more."


  • 1. Bethuel Smith (1841–1893), a New York native, was the son of Christopher Smith (1801–1871), a farmer, and Maria Smith (1811–1887). Bethuel Smith served in the Union Army—Company F, Second U.S. Cavalry—during the Civil War. Smith was wounded in 1863 and taken to Armory Square Hospital in Washington, D. C., where he met Whitman. Smith 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 Whitman on January 26, 1865, Bethuel was well enough to perform tasks on the farm. Smith recovered from his injuries and went on to marry Lois E. Chadwick Smith (1845–1911). The couple had six children. Smith was one of the soldiers to whom Whitman wrote in the 1870s; see Whitman's letter to Bethuel Smith, December 1874. [back]
  • 2. Maria's husband Christopher Smith (1801–1871) was a farmer and a Rhode Island native. He died more than three years before Maria wrote this letter to Whitman. [back]
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