Thus in silence, in dream's projections, Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals;.
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The hurt and the wounded I pacify with soothing hand, I sit by the restless all the dark night — some are so young; Some suffer so much — I recall the experience sweet and sad; Many a soldier's loving arms about this neck have cross'd and rested, Many a soldier's kiss dwells on these bearded lips.
Some critics would charge that he should have joined the Union Army, but anyone who knew him, like his friend and biographer John Burroughs, could hardly conceive of the mild and empathic poet as a soldier.
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But he feared the Civil War would shatter his beloved nation. During the early years of the war he continued writing in Brooklyn, thinking as many Americans did that the war would be soon be over.
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His younger brother George was one of the first to enlist in the Union Army in When George's name was published on a list of wounded soldiers in the newspapers in December , Walt hurried south to find his brother. Whitman was relieved to discover that George had hardly been hurt at all.
Soldiers' Missionary While in Washington, D. He also saw Lincoln speak from a hotel window in early , when the president-elect passed through New York City on the way to his first inauguration. When Fort Sumter was attacked in April Whitman was outraged.
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Fearing that George had been wounded, Whitman traveled southward to Washington. Unable to find his brother at military hospitals where he inquired, he traveled to the front in Virginia, where he discovered that George had only been very slightly wounded. While at Falmouth, Virginia, Walt Whitman saw a horrifying sight beside a field hospital, a pile of amputated limbs. He came to empathize with the intense suffering of wounded soldiers, and during two weeks in December , he spent visiting his brother he resolved to begin helping in military hospitals.
Wartime Washington contained a number of military hospitals which took in thousands of wounded and ill soldiers. Whitman moved to the city in early , taking a job as a government clerk.
Civil War Poetry
He began making the rounds in hospitals, consoling the patients and distributing writing paper, newspapers, and treats such as fruits and candy. From to the spring of Whitman spent time with hundreds, if not thousands, of soldiers. He helped them write letters home. And he wrote many letters to his friends and relatives about his experiences.
African American Civil War Poetry - Black Print Culture
Whitman later said that being around the suffering soldiers had been beneficial to him, as it somehow restored his own faith in humanity. Are you a teacher or a student? New content is added regularly to the website, including online exhibitions , videos , lesson plans, and issues of the online journal History Now, which features essays by leading scholars on major topics in American history. Approximately 3. Recent scholarship indicates that at least , men died.
Lewis Mitchell of the 1st Minnesota Volunteers was one of those men. The unit lost only one man—Mitchell. Gordon wrote the poem featured here. Read the introduction and the poem. Apply your knowledge of American history and literature to answer the following questions:.