In Whitman's Hand

Letters Written for Soldiers

About this Item

Title: David Ferguson to Margaret Fleming Ferguson, 29 April 1863

Date: April 29, 1863

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02067

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839-1919, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Ashlyn Stewart and Kevin McMullen



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Washington
April 29th 1863.

Dear wife,1

I am now to inform you that I have been now sick for two weeks—have been for the past week in Armory Square Hospital2—have a pretty bad cold, the doctor does not call my disease by any particular name—I have considerable cough—but I think I shall be up all right before a great while, so you must not be uneasy—I have pretty good care taken of me here, & shall do well —I send you an envelope for you to put a letter in, as I wish you to write to me.

I send you my love. I have this letter written by a friend who sometimes calls in to see me & the other boys.

Good bye for the present, & God bless you & all.


David Ferguson3

The above letter is written by Walt Whitman, a visitor to the hospitals


Notes:

1. This letter is especially poignant because David Ferguson wrote it without knowing that his wife, Margaret, had died five days earlier. See Kenneth M. Price and Jacqueline M. Budell, "Writen by Walt Whitman, a Friend," Prologue Magazine 42, no. 2 (Summer 2016): 44–45. [back]

2. The Armory Square Hospital was a military hospital for Union soldiers, mostly those wounded in Virginia, that operated from 1862–65. It was located at the the intersection of 6th Street SW and B Street SW, where the National Air and Space Museum currently stands. The hospital had a thousand beds spread across twelve wards and overflow tents. [back]

3. David Ferguson served in the 15th New York Engineers, Company I, as a corporal. An immigrant from Scotland, Ferguson enlisted as a private at age 33 and served two years. Military records reveal that he stood 5' 8" tall, had blue eyes and brown hair, with the ruddy complexion one may expect of a rigger who worked outdoors. He was discharged May 22, 1863, on a surgeon's certificate from Armory Square General Hospital, with the report citing "[e]xtreme debility resulting from a severe attack of pneumonia and the impossibility of his recovering before the expiration of his term of service." Ferguson died of consumption on June 16, 1863 (less than eight weeks after his wife) at 609 Water Street, lower east side of New York City. He is buried in Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn. His young daughter (11) and son (9) were left orphaned (Price and Budell, 44–45). [back]


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