In Whitman's Hand

Letters Written for Soldiers

During the Civil War Walt Whitman had numerous occasions to work as an amanuensis, writing on behalf of soldiers who could not (or preferred not) to write themselves. His Memoranda During the War (1875) suggests he wrote such letters frequently: "When eligible, I encourage the men to write, and myself, when call'd upon, write all sorts of letters for them, (including love letters, very tender ones.)" Yet relatively few of these Whitman-inscribed letters have been located. All known letters are represented below, but if you are aware of any other such documents, please let the Archive editors know.

The five letters included below possess an unusual degree of human interest. Three of the letters—inscribed for David Ferguson, Albion Hubbard, and Nelson Jabo—are from soldiers to family members. A fourth letter is from Samuel Frayer to Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas as part of Frayer's bid to become an officer in the newly formed "colored regiments" in Washington, DC. The final letter is inscribed to benefit Whitman's own brother, George Washington Whitman. It is a testimonial from the Whitman family doctor, Edward Ruggles, attesting to George's medical condition and advocating for an extended leave of absence.


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Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.