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Charles S. Kingsley to Walt Whitman, 21 March 1863

Dear Walt

I1 scribble a few words to you that you may know I received your letter and that I delivered the enclosed one to Gray2 (not knowing where to find Bloom)3 on Saturday night. Rather, I left it for him, at his house. I read your letter yesterday (Sunday) at Freds. A Doctor Phillips of the army, a great friend of Charlie Russells,4 arrived last night and called upon me. We meet at Freds to day at two O.C[lock] and I suppose we will have a big time. I saw Ben Knower5 walking on Fifth Avenue yesterday escorting his pretty sister. Freitsh6 sends you his compliments, respects Etc. Etc. Fred and Bloom are both in excellent condition. Fred is now on Wool's7 staff and is just back from a tour of inspection among the forts down east, including Portland, Portsmouth, Boston, Newport, New London Etc. Etc., firing off all the guns to test their effectiveness Etc. But to appreciate the history of this tour of inspection you should hear it from Fred your self. It is very funny— When last I saw Bloom, ten days or so ago he was just getting over a catarrah of the [illegible]. Poor Bloom, he didn't smoke, nor drink, and I presume he was very miserable. As I write a pugilistic duo, in the alley beyond me, have just ended an "affaire d'honneur." The smaller of two wicked, naughty boys, is weeping and wiping a bloody nose on the ragged sleeve of his jacket. The victorious youth is about to throw a small quantity of mud at the conquered one, and that he may not soil his fingers therewith he has picked up a piece of barrell hoop upon the end of which he has scraped up the quantum suf. He does not throw with great precision for the conquered person after dodging the first shower from the victors improvised catapult, runs rapidly into his mothers room in the tenement house opposite and finds therein a shelter from the foe. I shall write a long letter one of these fine days Walt and will give you all the news of interest that I can glean.

Until then, may all be secure with you, Walt and believe me, Truly Yours


  • 1. In a notebook, Whitman described Kingsley as "a young man, upper class, at Pfaff's &c—fond of training for boat-racing &c.—June, July, 1862" (The Library of Congress #8). He was listed in the Directory of 1865–1866 as the proprietor of a furniture store; his name did not appear thereafter. [back]
  • 2. John Frederick Schiller Gray was a captain in the Twentieth New York Infantry and later held the same rank in the Assistant Adjutant General's Volunteers. He became a major on January 4, 1865, and resigned on December 6 of the same year; see Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 2 vols. (Washington D.C.: Government Publications Office, 1903). In 1862 he fought in the battle at Antietam, and at Charles Pfaff's beer cellar located in lower Manhattan, he gave Whitman "a fearful account of the battlefield at ½ past 9 the night following the engagement." (For discussion of Whitman's activity at Pfaff's, see "The Bohemian Years.") See Whitman's notations in Frederick W. Hedge's Prose Writers of Germany, reprinted in Emory Holloway, ed., Walt Whitman—Complete Poetry & Selected Prose and Letters (London: Nonesuch Press, 1938), 1099. In 1864, according to one of Whitman's notebooks (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #103), Gray was stationed at New Orleans. He graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York in 1871, and briefly practiced medicine with his father in New York. Whitman referred to him during this period in a notebook (The Library of Congress, Notebook #109). Later he practiced in Paris, Nice, and Geneva. He died of Bright's disease at St. Clair Springs, Michigan, on April 18, 1891; obituaries appeared in the New York Herald and the New York Tribune on August 19, 1891. [back]
  • 3. Nathaniel Bloom operated a fancy-goods store on Broadway for many years. What appears to be an early description of him was printed by Richard Maurice Bucke, ed., in Notes and Fragments from The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1902), 9:142; Trent Collection, Duke University): "Bloom—Broad-shouldered, six-footer, with a hare-lip. Clever fellow, and by no means bad looking… Direct, plain-spoken, natural-hearted, gentle-tempered, but awful when roused—cartman, with a horse, cart &c, of his own—drives for a store in Maiden lane." Whitman referred to him in one of his notebooks (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #109). Later in life Bloom was listed as an importer; his name does not appear in the Directories after 1900. [back]
  • 4. Charles Russell was a member of the so-called Fred Gray Association, a group that gathered at Charles Pfaff's beer cellar was located in lower Manhattan and that Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price characterize as "a loose confederation of young men who seemed anxious to explore new possibilities of male-male affection" ( Re-Scripting Walt Whitman: An Introduction to His Life and Work). Members of the group included Walt Whitman, Nat Bloom, John Frederick Schiller Gray, Nat Gray, Charles Kingsley, Charles Chauncey, Hugo Fritsch, Fred Vaughan, a man known only as "Perkins," and someone referred to as "Raymond" that may be Henry J. Raymond. [back]
  • 5. Benjamin Knower was listed as a clerk (1862–1863) and later as a New York merchant. In an 1863 diary, Whitman noted the receipt of a letter from Knower on May 6 [Charles I. Glicksberg, Walt Whitman and the Civil War (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1933), 135]; Knower was also mentioned in two other diaries (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebooks #104 and #108). [back]
  • 6. Hugo Fritsch was the son of the Austrian Consul General. He was also part of the Fred Gray Association (see note four, above). [back]
  • 7. General John Ellis Wool (1784–1869) was the oldest Union general of the American Civil War and was in command of the Department of the East. Among other assignments, he led military operations in New York City during and after the draft riots the following July. [back]
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