Was Walt Whitman In The Civil War

Introduction to Walt Whitman and his Civil War days

Walt Whitman was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. He wrote prolifically during the early 19th century and is most famous for his work Leaves of Grass, which was first published in 1855. He is sometimes referred to as the ‘Father of Free Verse’ and is considered to be one of the most influential American poets. Beyond his poetry, Whitman had an interesting involvement in the Civil War. He is remembered today as a Civil War nurse, who dedicated his time to caring for wounded soldiers.

Walt Whitman Volunteered as a Nurse During the Civil War

During the Civil War, Whitman volunteered his time to serve as a volunteer nurse at Union army hospitals in Washington D.C. He was not formally employed by the Union army, but still threw himself into the work to help tend to the wounded soldiers. In addition to nursing, he helped organize supplies, deliver letters and packages, read aloud to patients and provide moral support to those in need.

Whitman’s intentions went beyond basic care; he sought to create a connection with the soldiers he was treating and made it a point to write to many of their families, informing them of a loved one’s whereabouts and condition. He also wrote to patients, after they were back home, and joined them in corresponding with the families of deceased soldiers.

In some of his letters, Whitman wrote of the good that was happening in the hospitals. He wrote of many men recovering and being sent back home. He wrote of how he personally was trying to look after the well being of the men, despite being uncalled for. Despite it being sought of a thankless act, Whitman only seemed to gain a newfound respect for those who were volunteering.

Whitman’s Bright Nature Helped Brighten The Wounded Soldiers’ Lives

Whitman’s presence at these hospitals seemed to have a calming effect on some of the soldiers. With his optimistic attitude, boyish good looks, and kind hearted demeanor, he brought a sense of happiness to the weary faces. After each visit, the men would thank him for being so encouraging, dignifying and full of understanding. Many would write to him, telling him how much he has worked for them and how much of a difference he made in their lives.

Whitman was also instrumental in the lives of the soldiers’ families, who often turned to him for consolation. He often wrote letters to people who had lost someone they loved in the war, reassuring them of the sacrifice that had been made, and offering comfort to the bereaved.

Hardships Experienced By Whitman During the Civil War

In July 1863, Whitman suffered a great adversity. His younger brother, George, was injured in battle, and Walt rushed to the front lines to be by his brother’s side. Despite Whitman’s care, George died. After George’s death, Whitman left hospital duty to spend a few months in mourning.

The Civil War had a profound effect on Whitman. Although the physical wounds endured by the soldiers were healed, he could never forget the horrors they experienced and the losses incurred by those in his care. He wrote of his experiences in a number of poems and in the essay “Reconciliation”, which was published in 1865.

Although his view of the war was unlikely to be one of perfect happiness, he was encouraged by the fact that the wounded soldiers were to some extent being cared for. He began to look forward to the new era of growth and development that the era might bring to America.

The Legacy of Walt Whitman in the Civil War

Even before the Civil War, Whitman’s works had become immensely popular, particularly in the Union north. During the war, his heroism, courage and selflessness only added to the admiration . By the end of the war, he had become something of a national hero, winning the admiration and respect of the Union soldiers.

In 1891, a statue of Whitman was erected in Washington D.C.’s Sickles Square, in tribute to his service during the American Civil War. The statue is an iconic symbol of Whitman’s selflessness and patriotism and stands today as a reminder of the sacrifices made by countless American citizens during the conflict.

Walt Whitman’s Poetry During Civil War

During and after the war, Whitman wrote some of his most ambitious, emotionally intense works. In 1864, he released “Drum-Taps”, a collection of war poems, which poetically captured his experiences in the war and his reflections on loss and mourning.

Whitman’s work during this period was also more overtly political, at times expressing his dissent on how the war was waged. He penned a handful of works, such as “Beat! Beat! Drums!”, “Year of Meteors” and “The Wound Dresser”, which directly contrasted the hot-tempered and thoughtless patriotism of the times. Though his views were at odds with vehemence, he was among the few intellectuals to oppose the war.

In the wake of the war, Whitman published his book “Memories of President Lincoln”, in 1867. This volume, which contained 40 of his poems, contained many of his feelings about the president’s assassination, and the sentiments of mourners across the nation.

Whitman viewed the Civil War as a Necessary Path to Unify

Despite his stance against some of the war’s politics, Walt Whitman viewed the Civil War as a necessary evils that would bring a unified American nation. He believed that this long and painful battle would force the citizens of the Union to come together, uniting them against the Confederacy. He believed that the Union would continue to stand and protect the safety of every American after the war.

In his essay “Reconciliation” he wrote, “The war has brought us these great years of trial, these new and serious experiences and many unknowns-and I see in them the possibilities of a richer, greater and better America.” He saw the Civil War as a way for America to become more unified and stronger than before.

Whitman and His Legacy Today

Walt Whitman has been credited with playing a major role in unifying Americans during the Civil War. Even after his death in 1892, Whitman’s influence is still felt across the United States. He is remembered for his iconic poem “Leaves of Grass” and for his service to the Union during the Civil War.

His commitment to the Union and to his service to those in need has made him an iconic presence in American history. He continues to serve as a reminder to future generations that, in a time of darkness, one can look towards light to find solace and peace. He is not only remembered as an influential poet, but also as a patriot who put his comfort aside to make a difference during one of the most turbulent times in U.S history.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

Leave a Comment