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Walt Whitman to Byron Sutherland, 26 August 1865

Dear friend,

Your letter from Dewittville came safe, about nine days ago—& I have been expecting to hear from you since. Byron, I am still here, and as far as appears at present am likely to remain employed here, through the fall—but may ask for leave of absence for two or three weeks before long. There is a great stream of Southerners comes in here day after day, to get pardoned 1—All the rich, and all high officers of the rebel army cannot do any thing, cannot buy or sell, &c. until they have special pardons—(that is hitting them where they live)—so they all send or come up here in squads, old & young, men & women—

They come to this office to get them—sometimes the rooms are filled with a curious gathering—I talk with them frequently, listen to their stories, descriptions, opinions &c. &c—As you know, almost every thing of that sort (& especially all odd characters) are interesting to me—Some 4 or 5000 pardons have been passed through here—but the President hasn't signed more than 200—The rest are all blank yet—Andy Johnson seems disposed to be in no hurry about it—What I learn & know about him (the President), I think he is a good man.2

Byron, there is nothing new or special with me. I have changed my back room to the front room, & have my meals sent up by the landlady—She gives me very good grub, & I like it, both room & board, ($32.50 a month)—The last ten or twelve days here have been very pleasant & sufficiently cool—after the melting hot summer—I am writing this in the office, by my big window, looking out on a splendid view across & down the Potomac for several miles, & over into Virginia, along Arlington heights—The trees, grass, river, & sky are splendid.

Well, my dear comrade, how are you, & how does it go? You must write & let me hear about you—& I shall want to know also if you get this. I wish it was so we could see each other, & be together once in a while. Well, Byron, I must close. I send you my love, & God bless you, dearest comrade—Write soon, dear son, & give me all particulars.3

Direct | Walt Whitman | Attorney Generals Office | Washington, D. C.


  • 1. Whitman corresponded with Byron Sutherland, a soldier, between 1865 and 1870. On September 20, 1868, he wrote to Sutherland: "I retain just the same friendship I formed for you the short time we were together, (but intimate,) in 1865" (Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library; Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:44–45). [back]
  • 2. In his jottings for "Sept. 8, 9 &c.," Whitman noted that Johnson was signing the pardons "very freely of late. The President, indeed, as at present appears, has fix'd his mind on a very generous and forgiving course toward the return'd secessionists" (Bucke, The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman [New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1902], 6:219). [back]
  • 3. Sutherland replied on September 5, 1865, from Corry, a lumber and oil center in Pennsylvania. He was working on a farm and "managing to save $30 per month," had "considerable leisure time" for "light reading," and expected during the winter to "learn a trade or go to School." See also Whitman's letter of October 15, 1865 . [back]
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