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Palin H. Sims to Walt Whitman, 17 March 1885

[illegible] Walt

Circumstances, Recollections, and an irresistable will I might say, induces me to write for the purpose of gratifying you and George2 as well as myself. I often see your name mentioned in the various papers, and I have your address in my Memorandum Book. Well now to the point. Let us recall your visit previous to the battle of Fredericksburg.

The Tent You and I took the rest and the memories of the scenes and the effects of our thoughts there, and since then, the various trials, scenes pleasures, hopes, fears of each us three, Walt, George, Palin, and then how we follow on, and then on the 30th Sept 1864, and then after 3 years & 15 days to be in Command on that extreme left flank, when the order came through the lips  loc.03696.002_large.jpg of Wright. Keep up a fire, and then our retreat, the last to retreat, and surrender, then on to Richmond and on and on to Danville, then Georges absence, his return, his few remarks, and then x x our exchange, return, the absence of Sam,3 of Butler4 --- Lincoln. Oh Walt what scenes, trials we pass through life yet can we not look back with somewhat of a hope that all was for the best, that we are blessed with light, with Fraternity, Charity & Loyalty to all with Malice towards none, that it is a great pleasure for us, for you to hear from me, that you see I have a lingering appetite to let you and George know that I am still here in this mortal coil and that I desire a few lines from you, that we may at times through the great facilities of the present day correspond and now and  loc.03696.003_large.jpg hereafter may we hope to be able to see each other in that Celestial light vouchsafed to all mankind.

Truly Yours Palin H Sims late Co G 51st New York [illegible] Vol Infty—1861 to 1865

N.B. I am living with my Son in law his wife (my daughter) and their 2 children.

I gave up Plumbing busness​ some time ago. I am not rich in money. Capt Sam's sword is now in 13th Regmt armory—his remains in Greenwood.


Walt Whitman

The preceeding remarks are written with a view to further correspondence yet a few lines, your signature, might suffice and I would be pleased to hold a letter from you, one who I esteem, one who knew, my Brother,

I have had quite a correspondence with a Capt Steele late of the so called Confederate Army, who is published, nay I have it in his own hand writing that his Sergeant, DeLaMott, Shot, Capt Sims.5 This circumstance, and confessions showing regrets &c, &c I sometimes think would be a theme for one of talent such as I believe you posses and I hope a correspondence will be happy interviews in the sweet bye & bye


Palin H. Sims was a member of George Washington Whitman's Fifty-First Regiment, New York State Volunteers.


  • 1. The word "Hamilton" is embossed at the top of the letter (perhaps as a letterhead, although it may be an archive stamp). Next to it is a piece of a postage stamp. [back]
  • 2. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in 1861 and remained on active duty until the end of the Civil War. He was wounded in the First Battle of Fredericksburg (December 1862) and was taken prisoner during the Battle of Poplar Grove (September 1864). As a Civil War correspondent, Walt wrote warmly about George's service, such as in "Our Brooklyn Boys in the War" (January 5, 1863); "A Brooklyn Soldier, and a Noble One" (January 19, 1865); "Return of a Brooklyn Veteran" (March 12, 1865); and "Our Veterans Mustering Out" (August 5, 1865). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with partner Mr. Smith and later a mason named French. George also took a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. Walt and George lived together for over a decade in Camden, but when Walt decided not to move with George and his wife Louisa in 1884, a rift occurred that was ultimately not mended before Walt's 1892 death. For more information on George Washington Whitman, see Martin G. Murray, "Whitman, George Washington," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Samuel Harris Smith (1829–1864) was a captain of the Union army and served alongside his brother Palin H. Sims in the 51st New York Volunteer Infantry. He was killed at what is now known as The Battle of the Crater in Petersburg, Virginia, on July 30, 1864. [back]
  • 4. This is perhaps Frank Butler, a first lieutenant in the Fifty-First Regiment, who was killed at Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864. [back]
  • 5. The New York Herald ran an article by James F. Steel of South Carolina in 1880 that read: "At the battle of the Mine, at Petersburg, 1864, I was Captain of Company I, Seventeenth Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers, and in this desperate hand to hand fight, a Captain Sims, of a New York regiment (I think from Brooklyn), as he mounted the breastworks immediately before my company was killed by Sergeant LaMott." [back]
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