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Maria Smith to Walt Whitman, 1 February 1875

 loc_jc.00115_large.jpg Dear friend

your ever welcom​ letter has reached me all right and the bundle of paper you sent me ihave​ sent Bethuels1 papers to him today there was three bundles to him Bethuel Smith lives afew​ miles South West of us ihear​ from him often he and his Wife and youngest little boy was at our hous​ the last of november ihave​ not seen him since but expect him soon he was maried​ awhile after he came home and got well he has three little boys and one girl the first boy is slender and sickly the rest are healthy two of his boys looks very much like him they are good children and smart Bethuel is well and healthy he has bought some land and is trying to pay for it he is drawing pople​ wood to the papermill to make paper with and someimes​ works at other work it is rather hard times this winter money is scarse and wages down not much going on around here  loc_jc.00116_large.jpg idid​ not rite​ much in that letter isent​ you ifeared​ it never would reach you but thank god it has reached you all right it has allways​ seemed to me since our Son came home that some of us should rite​ to you my husband Could not rite​ therefore it left me to do the riting​ mostly Bethuel was sick when he came home he mearly​ got home alive had ben​ wounded and had the Chronic diare​ the war is ahard​ place indeed you have seen some of the hardship of it perhaps all you wish to see or even hear of my husband was afflicte​ with acanser​ it Comenced​ on his lip it eat his jawboan​ into and then along the side of his neck untill it Came to the arter​ ioften​ thought he would bleed to death he told me not to try to stop the blood for he would asoon​ bleed to death as not or die another way it was the worst soar​ iever​ seen he sufered​ about 6 months very much indeed the pain were mostly in his head he was very patient allthrough​ his sickness he was ready to go when the lord should see fit to Call after him about three years from the time it Comenced​ it wore him out  loc_jc.00117_large.jpg Mrs. Smith Bethuel's mother Feb. 1. '75 sent postal card, April 21, '75 he died the 4 of april in the year 1871 iwill​ rite​ the names of our Children Comencing​ at the first ira​ Smith Halsa/ William J/ Calvin/ Bethuel Joseph D/ Slly​ M/ Mary2

Mary was Maried​ to David H Deen3 they are at our house now and will stay untill​ the first of next month then they will return to new york to their boat he left it on the jersey shore near the Centeral​ pennsylvania railrode​ Depo​ Sally M maryed​ Harvy Allen4 he is aboatman​ to​ She goes with him is ent​ for them to Come here and stay with me this winter they are with me this winter to​ Joseph is in the lumberwoods this winter my health is very good iwas​ not well for about one year after my husbands​ death iwas​ almost tierd​ and wornout​ ishould​ like to see you very much Bethuel will rite​ soon he has often told us of your kindness to him it awlways​ seemed to me that god sent you to save the life of our son that he might Come home and see his parents once more even sick and wounded Bethuel has your picture


we always thout​ agreatdeal​ of that picture how iwould​ like to see you if your health should be good enoug​ to come here Come out and see us weall​ would be somuch​ pleased to see you wemay​ see eachother​ yet sometime if you Canot​ read this iwill​ send you my love Dear friend

from Maria Smith to Walt Witman​

they are wating​ forthe​ letter to cary​ to the village

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 wrote about her family on December 10, 1874. Whitman's draft response was written on the verso of her letter. In reply to Whitman's letter and later ones, she wrote this letter and another dated March 14, 1875.


  • 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. Little is known about Ira, Halsa, William, Calvin, Joseph, Sally, and Mary Smith. They are the children of Maria (1811–1887) and Christopher Smith (1801–1871) and the siblings of Bethuel Smith (1841–1893). [back]
  • 3. David H. Dean (1849–1924), a carpenter, married Mary Smith (1852–1904). Dean was the son-in-law of Maria (1811–1887) and Christopher Smith (1801–1871) and the brother-in-law of Bethuel Smith (1841–1893). [back]
  • 4. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
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