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Will W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 31 October 1868

 loc_vm.02081_large.jpg Friend Whitman

Your kind letter2 received me some time since and owing to your intended pleasure trip3 I did not reply at the time, but have been noticeing​ the press for note of your return to your official duties & your paper so informed me—I trust your trip has been one of pleasure as well as profit—mental & pecuniary—but alack! pecuniary profits to authors & literary men are small and often meagre as to permit the wolf tiger to enter the fold—this I know from the experience of some literary friends here. "B.F. Taylor—"4son of Benj F.5 "Snacks"—Gideon B Thompson6—who I think may make a mark in the world of letters in years to come, yet the past has been any thing but bright or encouraging.

I was highly pleased with the article of Col Hinton7 and think he even drew mildly upon facts as to your Hospital8 career. none perhaps can appreciate the kindness extended by you, more than I, while a hospital truant, stranger like them, yet the positiveness of your nature drew upon those lives of friendship and fellow love, that in many natures  loc_vm.02082_large.jpg are not reached by years of culture. Slow as I have alwas​ been to form friends, I found myself anxious to call you such in a few short days—and how many more have you met like me in the past eight years. But more of this anon, how no doubt "Leaves of Grass" will progress to a close. by the way I have been asked several times where your books could be obtained & as I had sent the paper with Col H's letter to my freind​ B.F. Taylor without making note of it, I have been unable to answer & besides the American News Co9 to whom we have sent, enforms that your "Leaves of Grass" are out of print. Send me the desired information in your next letter.

What can you be doing at Washington now, and the, election so close at hand? a freind​ to the poor & downtrodden of our country. I would naturally suppose you to be in New York working as I work for the election of Horatio Seymour,10 all have their influence and you no doubt could bring some to our aid. The afflictions of the Union Army are of the past. Our foe—worthy—calls for help. And shall we who have the welfare of our common country at heart refuse to lend that helping hand they now so much need. I am sorry to see that during the campaign the rebellion has been fought over  loc_vm.02083_large.jpg and over again—by patriots—who never knew the battle cry, the terrors and excitement attending these—past issues—let them be of the past. Our country and the fallen foe both need our aid, can we withold​ them? The west is Democratic but fraud upon fraud has given the three central states to our opponents and we hope to redeem all on tuesday. Ohio is the only one in doubt, and I hope even for it. But ere this reaches you the day will have passed & all decided

The West is a great country and your summer trip next should be extended hitherward where you may judge of the country people and their hospitality.

With kind regards of my family to you[no handwritten text supplied here]

I am truly Yours &c Will W Wallace  loc_vm.02084_large.jpg  loc_vm.02079_large.jpg  loc_vm.02080_large.jpg

During the Civil War, Will W. Wallace met Whitman in Washington, perhaps in Campbell Hospital. Wallace was later assigned duty as a hospital steward at a Union hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. See Wallace's letters to Whitman of April 5, 1863, May 7, 1863, and July 1, 1863.


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Hon Walt Whitman | Atty Genls Office, | Washington City, | D.C. It is postmarked: INDIANAPOLIS | NOV | 2 | IND.; CARRIER | NOV | 4 | 2 DEL. [back]
  • 2. Whitman's letters to Will W. Wallace have not survived. [back]
  • 3. The "pleasure trip" Wallace has referred to here is in reference to Whitman's vacation to Providence, RI. In Whitman's October 14, 1868 letter to William Douglas O'Connor—also resident of Providence at the time—he wrote that Paulina Davis, who had recently visited Whitman's New York lodgings, and her husband, Thomas, had arranged to have Whitman stay as their guest. "I shall come on to Providence, to-morrow, 15th—they to meet me at the depot, & take me home as their guest—from whence I shall report to you, & to Dr. & Mrs. Channing forthwith—& fulfil my promised visit to them also, before I return here—which will be about 21st or 22d." [back]
  • 4. Benjamin Franklin Taylor (1822–1887) was an American poet who worked as a Western correspondent during the Civil War. An obituary printed in the New York Times on February 25, 1887, named "The River of Time" as "perhaps the most admired of his poems." [back]
  • 5. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
  • 6. Gideon B. Thompson (1839 or 1840–1911), commonly known as "Snacks" after an amateur role he had once acted in a play, was an Indianapolis printer who served as editor of the Sentinel and later of the Indianapolis News, resigning from the latter post in 1875 or 1876. [back]
  • 7. Richard Josiah Hinton (1830–1901) was a radical abolitionist, activist, writer, and printer. He was born in London and came to the U.S. in 1851, moving to Kansas in 1856 to join the abolitionist John Brown. Hinton served in the Union Army from 1861 to 1865, and saw Whitman while lying wounded in a hospital, a scene which he described in the Cincinnati Commercial on August 26, 1871. With fellow abolitionist James Redpath, he wrote Hand-book to Kansas Territory and the Rocky Mountains' Gold Region (1859). Later, he wrote Rebel Invasion of Missouri and Kansas (1865) and John Brown and His Men (1894). After the war, he wrote for many newspapers. [back]
  • 8. Armory Square Hospital was the hospital Walt Whitman most frequently visited in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War. Because of Armory Square's location near a steamboat landing and railroad, it received the bulk of serious casualties from Virginia battlefields. At the end of the war, it recorded the highest number of deaths among Washington hospitals. See Martin G. Murray, "Traveling with the Wounded: Walt Whitman and Washington's Civil War Hospitals." [back]
  • 9. The American News Company was a New York magazine—and later comic book—distribution company founded in 1864 by Henry Dexter (1813–1910). The American News Company published John Burroughs's Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person in 1867. [back]
  • 10. Horatio Seymour (1810–1886), former governor of New York, was Ulysses S. Grant's opponent in the presidential election of 1868. Francis Preston Blair, Jr. (1821–1875), a Civil War veteran and later a Senator from Missouri, ran as the vice presidential candidate. [back]
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