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Title: City Photographs—No. IV

Creator: Walt Whitman [listed as Velsor Brush]

Date: April 12, 1862

Whitman Archive ID: per.00250

Source: New York Leader 12 April 1862: [1]. Transcribed from a digital image of an original issue. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the journalism, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: Whitman's name does not appear in the byline for this piece. However, the article is signed "Velsor Brush," which is a known Whitman pseudonym. Charles I. Glicksberg first identified Whitman as the author of the "City Photographs" series in Walt Whitman and the Civil War (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1933), 15–23. Scholars have continued to support Glicksberg's claim. The Whitman Archive editors agree that the style and content of the piece are consistent with other known Whitman writings of this period.

Contributors to digital file: Ashley Lawson, Janel Cayer, Liz McClurg, Sarah Walker, Elizabeth Lorang, and Kevin McMullen

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[Written for the Leader.]







Wishing to make my parting bow to this worthy old establishment, by bringing things up to date, I took another tour through the three buildings during Wednesday afternoon, April 2d, 1862. I found, on inquiry, 307 patients at that period in the Hospital—somewhat below the usual average, (which ranges from 350 up to 400.)

In the present paper, which concludes the series devoted to the Hospital, I will sketch the observations of this visit of Wednesday, and also give a few interesting statistics of the numbers, nativities, diseases, &c., of the inmates; and the sum total admitted to the establishment from its beginning.


The regular eight months' change in the resident medical staff has just gone into operation. Dr. M. K. Hogan (who shows himself fitted by native qualities and educational accomplishments for the curative art) is now House Physician to the Hospital, and Drs. Smith and Baker are assistants. Dr. McKee (lately House Physician), is deserving of special mention for his previous care of the Soldiers' Department. Dr. Hogan is specially vigilant over this department.

The new House Surgeons for the ensuing eight months are, Dr. Alfred North in the First Division (in place of Dr. Roosa), and Dr. Cutler in the Second Division (in place of Dr. Little). The Juniors are Dr. Barker on the medical side, Dr. Foster on the first surgical, and Dr. Jenkins on the second surgical side.


It may not be amiss to mention here, while I think of it, a case of death that had just occurred in the Hospital, the day I was there last, from skylarking. A young man, who had been himself a medical student, was practicing feats of fun and agility among his companions, in his room or store, down town; and among the rest he took a notion to stand on his head, on a table, near the wall, with his feet straight up. The table slanted off, and the young fellow had a bad fall, which resulted in his being brought to the Hospital with a broken back. He lingered a couple of days, of course beyond the hope of relief or recovery, and then died.


The ward devoted to these cases was only sparsely filled at the time of my visit of last Wednesday. There was one case, a brown-faced, middle-aged Hercules of a fellow, from some United States ship; a thorough-bred Jack Tar, whose rope-sinewed arms were covered all over with tattoo—who had come ashore some ten days before, on leave and with a pocketful of money. For seven days he had been on such a "bust" as only fellows from men-of-war can stand, and live through it—one perpetual stream of hell-fire, in the shape of three-cent vitriolized brandy! Then came the "man with the poker."

The poor fellow told me, with perfect naivetë, what he had endured for some fifty hours, under his horrible dementia. For a long while he had been attacked, covered, pulled at, buffeted, &c., by swarms of grinning monkeys and apes, who put him to every conceivable torment and annoyance. Then he had the company of a large, fierce, black dog, that amused itself by incessantly springing at him and biting him, first on one spot, and then another; and then crowds of infuriated men and women would chase him and belabor him with cudgels, and pull his hair, &c. As I saw the case, and heard from the nurse's lips also, it was pitiful to see the agony the poor fellow endured under his delusion.

Another man here was laboring under the idea that there was a beautiful, angelic lady floating up in the air, over his bed, reaching down to him a glass of liquor. He mounted on a table to take it, and the attendants had to pull him down.

In this ward I have myself seen cases of New York men of standing, talent and fortune, stopping here to receive the advantages the place offers for the cure of delirium tremens.


There is something especially melancholy in the sight presented in the groups of sick United States soldiers, mostly in the North Building—which is exclusively devoted to them. A very large proportion of them are robust-framed young men from the country—from northern New York, and from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and so on.

I have spent two or three Sunday afternoons, of late, in going around among these sick soldiers, just to help cheer and change a little the monotony of their sickness and confinement—and indeed, just as much, too, for the melancholy entertainment and friendly interest and sympathy, I found aroused in myself toward and among the men. Many of them have no relatives or acquaintances at all in New York, and time moves on slowly and dully enough to them.

Many of these soldiers, though quite full-sized, I found upon inquiry to be lads of only eighteen, nineteen, or twenty years of age; some of them never before in a city, brought up, so far, on farms, or occasionally away in the lumber woods, or perhaps taking a trip down or up the rivers.

One Sunday night, in a ward in the South Building, I spent one of the most agreeable evenings of my life amid such a group of seven convalescent young soldiers of a Maine regiment. We drew around together, on our chairs, in the dimly-lighted room, and after interchanging the few magnetic remarks that show people it is well for them to be together, they told me stories of country life and adventures, &c., away up there in the Northeast. They were to leave the next day in a vessel for the Gulf, where their regiment was; and they felt so happy at the prospect. I shook hands with them all round at parting, and I know we all felt as if it were the separation of old friends.


There is a lady comes from time to time, quiet and without any fuss, here among the sick and lonesome volunteers. She brings illustrated and other papers, books of stories, little comforts in the way of eating and drinking, shirts, gowns, handkerchiefs, &c. I dare not mention her name, but she is beautiful. I see evidences of her having been there, almost always, on my visits. Doctor Hogan has several times mentioned her to me, and so has the excellent Mrs. Mack, the nurse; and often and often have the soldiers mentioned her, and shown me something she has given them. She is clearly averse to the eclat of good works, and sometimes, to avoid show, sends her gifts by a servant to Mrs. Mack for the soldiers.

There are other good, benevolent women who come or send here—and men, too.


The officers of the Hospital have made an agreement with the General Government, by which some 300 more sick soldiers are to be received and cared for in the Institution. As the spring advances there can be, if necessary, temporary buildings erected on the grounds, in which the soldiers can be accommodated.

At the time of my visit on Wednesday, there were several soldiers brought in from the 105th New York Regiment.

Measles has been very prevalent the last winter among the soldiers. At one time I would find "Rebeola" on two-thirds of the little card-racks at the head of their beds.


In ward 8, in the North Building (which seems to me to be a model hospital, in its architectural points), I found, on this visit, two or three curious cases. Two of empyema, very severe—the matter, or pus, running out of the incisions made in the side—a cough, or strong breath, making it run quite freely. Another case of an Indian-looking German, named Korsner, who has been there in that ward for nearly four years, lying in a kind of half stupor, never talking to any one. He is a pensionary of the United States military service.

In ward 12, I found a German boy, just brought there from a grocery in Forsyth street, where he had been working. He had a fever and miserable bad blood—the doctor tells me without doubt from having been half starved by his boss—fed on mean, cheap, deficient food.


As an evidence how advanced, from former times, is the art of surgery, I will mention an operation at this visit. It was performed, in the amputating theatre, by Dr. Thomas Markoe, on an United States soldier, who had been badly wounded in the foot, in one of the late engagements. It became necessary to amputate to save life. Under the old dispensations, the operation would have taken off the leg nearly up to the knee (at what is called the upper third), but in this case it was done by Dr. Markoe, after what is known as the Symes' operation. The bones of the foot forward were all amputated, and then the flap of the heel brought around and left to make a cushion to walk upon, so that the crippled leg will only be a trifle shorter than the other.


As I said in a former article, the tragic interest of mortal reality that concentrates around the wards of this Broadway Hospital is to me indeed great. As an illustration, I will mention that there have been 24 deaths here the past year (1861), from stabs and gun-shot wounds; and 82 from falling off buildings, or down ladders, platforms, and the like. There have been 14 deaths from railroad accidents, and 22 from burns and scalds. There have been 8 deaths caused by stages, or other vehicles, running over people. Only 2 deaths, however, from suicide.

There have been 164 inquests held at the Hospital the past year.


It is quite marvellous how remarkable forms of maladies, and also casualties and accidents, take an epidemic form. For instance, among medical cases, if there happens, after a long interval, to come in a solitary case of valvular disease of the heart, it is very likely that, from one quarter or another, there will rapidly follow, two, three, or perhaps four or five, more cases of the same complaint; all coming, in this manner, in a heap. The same with accidents from severe burns, or from powder-explosions, and also from concussions of the brain, or remarkable cases of fracture, of some particular part.


Dr. North had quite a curious case, on Wednesday, of a woman who came there with dislocated lower jaw, from gaping. The jaw hung quite helpless, but firmly fixed—and had been so for eighteen hours. The poor woman refused to become an inmate of the Hospital, but was very anxious to be treated at once—which Dr. N. proceeded to do. She was etherized; the jaw was then pressed in a proper manner, and put back in its connections, almost in an instant. The poor woman was then brought to, with as good a jaw as ever, and went away rejoicing.

I take this opportunity to thank the surgeons of the Hospital for the opportunity of seeing several very fine operations, and for their interesting explanations of them to me, before and afterwards.


Throughout the Hospital, amid the long list of diseases, the most numerous (the past year, for instance, to give the reader an idea) are such as intermittent fever, of which there were 233 cases; rheumatism, 205 cases; remittent fever, 125; typhoid, 95; bronchitis, 62; delirium tremens, 79; phthisis (pulmonary consumption), 167; rubeola (measles), 131; pneumonia (inflammation of lungs), 49; ulcer, 120; erysipelas, 49; dysentery, 35; dyspepsia, 23; and of abscess, 42 cases.

There have been 109 cases of incised wounds—9 of them of the throat; 85 cases of lacerated wounds; 62 of gunshot wounds; and 75 of the scalp.

There have been 10 cases of poisoning (technically called), 6 of them by opium; 6 of sun-stroke (all recovered).

Any quantity of contusions and fractures; of the latter, 25 of the skull; 24 of the wrist alone; 15 of the clavicle (collar bone); 16 of ribs; 41 of the femur (thigh-bone); about 140 cases of broken leg, &c. I cannot begin to mention the various remarkable surgical cases that come to this Hospital.

These, with the endless string of medical cases, throat diseases, fevers, &c.


Out of 3,363 patients the past year, 1,415 were natives of the United States, 1,042 of Ireland, 374 of Germany, 190 of England, 70 of Scotland, and the remainder divided among the rest of the world.


The whole number of patients treated in this grand old Hospital, from its outset in 1792 down to the 1st day of January, 1862, has been 122,805. Even this number, however, does not include the whole of the patients that may be rightfully said to belong in the sum total of those treated in the Hospital from its origin.


This is considered a part of the establishment, being under the same control, Governors, and financial supervision, as the Hospital I have been sketching. I shall sketch the Bloomingdale Asylum in a future Photograph.


This Broadway Hospital, in its history, really dates back to the year 1770, before the Revolution. Its charter from the Royal Governor is as old as that; its first building was burnt down, 28th February, 1775. Another building was erected, however; and then the Revolutionary war interrupted good works. During the occupation of New York, the Hospital was seized and used by the British, for their sick, and as barracks.

After the close of the war, as soon as possible, the founders' plans were resumed and carried out—on the 3d of January, 1791, the first official statement of patients being rendered.

From that time, down to date, it has continued on its course, almost every year increasing its facilities, as well as bringing a larger call upon it, until now its stands in the front rank of such establishments, especially for surgery.

I will not take the ungracious course of mentioning certain points where change and reform need to come in to-day, but prefer to be thankful that an institution so complete, and with such advantages, is situated down town here in New York, always ready to dispense its curative and surgical blessings.



1. Broadway Hospital, also known as New York Hospital, was the first major hospital in New York City. Prior to his more famous visits to the Civil War hospitals in Washington, Whitman visited the Broadway Hospital for several years beginning in the 1850s, developing close personal friendships with many of the wounded and with the physicians. For other articles about the hospital, see "City Photographs" (March 16, 1862); "City Photographs" (March 22, 1862); and "City Photographs" (March 29, 1862). [back]

2. The Bloomingdale Asylum, the first of its kind in the United States, opened in 1808. [back]

3. "Velsor Brush" was Whitman's pseudonym for a series of articles entitled "City Photographs," which he published in the New York Leader. The name was a combination of his mother's maiden name (Louisa Van Velsor) and grandmother's maiden name (Hannah Brush). For a discussion of the possible artistic implications of the name Brush, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 25–26. [back]


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