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Walt Whitman to Nathaniel Bloom, 5 September 1863

Dear Nat1

I wish you were here if only to enjoy the bright & beautiful weather we are having here now for about two weeks—then it is sufficiently cool, & the air buoyant & inspiriting—dear friend, how long it is since we have seen each other, since those pleasant meetings & those hot spiced rums & suppers & our dear friends Gray & Chauncey, & Russell, & Fritschy too, (who for a while at first used to sit so silent,) & Perkins & our friend Raymond—how long it seems—how much I enjoyed it all. What a difference it is with me here—I tell you, Nat, my evenings are frequently spent in scenes that make a terrible difference—for I am still a hospital visitor, there has not passed a day for months (or at least not more than two) that I have not been among the sick & wounded, either in hospitals or down in camp—occasionally here I spend the evenings in hospital—the experience is a profound one, beyond all else, & touches me personally, egotistically, in unprecedented ways—I mean the way often the amputated, sick, sometimes dying soldiers cling & cleave to me as it were as a man overboard to a plank, & the perfect content they have if I will remain with them, sit on the side of the cot awhile, some youngsters often, & caress them &c.—It is delicious to be the object of so much love & reliance, & to do them such good, soothe & pacify torments of wounds &c—You will doubtless see in what I have said the reason I continue so long in this kind of life—as I am entirely on my own hook too.

Life goes however quite well with me here—I work a few hours a day at copying &c, occasionally write a newspaper letter, & make enough money to pay my expenses—I have a little room, & live a sort of German or Parisian student life—always get my breakfast in my room, (have a little spirit lamp) & rub on free & happy enough, untrammeled by business, for I make what little employment I have suit my moods—walk quite a good deal, & in this weather the rich & splendid environs of Washington are an unfailing fountain to me—go down the river, or off into Virginia once in a while—All around us here are forts, by the score—great ambulance & teamsters' camps &c—these I go to—some have little hospitals, I visit, &c &c—

Dear Nat, your good & friendly letter came safe, & was indeed welcome—I had not thought you had forgotten me, but I wondered why you did not write—What comfort you must take out there in the country, by the river—I have read your letter many times, as I do from all my dear friends & boys there in New York—Perkins lately wrote me a first-rate letter, & I will reply to it soon—I wish to see you all very much—I wish you to give my love to Fritschy, & Fred Gray—I desire both to write to me—Nat, you also, my dear comrade, & tell me all about the boys & everything, all the little items are so good—should Charles Russell visit New York, I wish you to say to him I send him my love—I wish you the same to Perk, & to Kingsley2 & Ben Knower—So good bye, my comrade, till we meet, & God bless you, dear friend—


address me care Major Hapgood, Paymaster U S A, cor 15th & F Washington D C—


  • 1. For accounts of Whitman's New York friends, see his letters from March 19–20, 1863, and March 31, 1863 . [back]
  • 2. 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. Perkins has not been identified. [back]
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