As one of America’s earliest and most renowned poets and writers, Walt Whitman is particularly remembered for his works related to the Civil War. Walt Whitman was born in 1819 and grew up in New York City and Long Island, NY. He attended school until he was eleven, after which he worked as an office boy for a law office, a printer’s apprentice and a schoolteacher. By the time of the Civil War, Whitman was an established figure in his own right.
The Civil War had a profound influence on the life and writing of Walt Whitman. As the war broke out, Whitman’s brother George enlisted in the Union army, prompting Whitman to devote himself to aiding wounded soldiers. In 1862, Whitman moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked as a nurse in the hospital wards and wrote letters home to his family and friends. As part of his nursing duties, Whitman wrote poems and read them aloud to comfort and entertain the wounded soldiers.
The scenarios Whitman encountered during the war deeply affected him, and his own experience of being a nurse inspired him to write. He found some of his greatest poetic inspiration in the moments he shared treating wounded soldiers. His war experiences triggered the greatest outpouring of verses in his entire career, and much of this work appeared in the 3rd edition of his poetry book, Leaves of Grass. In this book, Whitman wrote about the horrors of war and a nation divided by violence. Whitman also wrote about war’s human cost, lamenting the loss of so many soldiers and expressing compassion for family members left behind.
Aside from his literary works related to the war, Whitman’s contribution to the Civil War also included being a correspondent for the New York Tribune, working as a reporter and editor of publications like The New York Times and The Brooklyn Eagle. During his stay in Washington DC, Whitman also visited wounded soldiers in the battlefields and wrote articles describing the scenes he witnessed. He often wrote letters home to various newspapers, providing an honest look at what life was like for soldiers and civilians during the war.
Whitman also continued to publish his works to raise money for the soldiers. In 1863, he organized a fundraising effort on behalf of the Union soldiers, selling copies of his poetry to bring in much-needed money and supplies. After the war ended, Whitman returned to his home in New York and continued to serve as a correspondent for various newspapers, bringing yet more attention to the issues related to the Civil War.
Whitman’s Political Beliefs
Walt Whitman’s writings through the Civil War captured his views on the faction politics of the nation at this time. His works tended to be strongly pro-Union, and he promoted brotherhood, equality, and peace among the citizens. He argued that, as a nation, Americans needed to come together in order to end the civil strife and move forward. He also believed that slavery had to end in order for the nation to become stronger. Whitman’s works reinforced the idea that the Union would eventually win. He argued that if the South were to be defeated, then they should be given a fair transition to reunite with the Union.
Although Whitman was pro-Union and vehemently opposed slavery, there were many instances during the war that he did not support the Union’s actions. He was still by and large a proponent of Unionist policies, but also one who was firm in his views that civil liberties had to be protected and that the rule of law had to be followed. Over the course of the Civil war, Whitman became increasingly critical of certain Union policies, such as the draft and the abolition of slavery.
Additionally, Whitman’s works during the Civil War tried to express the idea that the common people, both from the North and the South, could unite in the pursuit of peace and had to learn to live together despite their differences. His works tried to preserve the dignity of all people and sought to bring them together by celebrating their similarities rather than focusing on their differences.
Aftermath of the Civil War
Following the Civil War, Walt Whitman continued his writing, reflecting on his experiences during the war and the lives lost during it. He wrote about the post-war reconciliation and the need for the nation to heal from the conflict. In his later works, he sought to inspire hope for the future and encourage Americans to focus on their shared unity rather than the divisions that had caused the war in the first place.
In addition to his works concerning the Civil war, Whitman continued to write poems and essays about other topics, such as the natural world and the struggles of humanity. He was also an activist for social justice, advocating for the rights of women, African Americans, and the poor, among other causes. Walt Whitman’s legacy as a writer, poet, and advocate of equality has continued to inspire generations of readers, scholars, and activists.
Legacy of Walt Whitman’s Contributions
The legacy of Walt Whitman’s contributions to the Civil War and its aftermath can still be felt today. Hundreds of years since he wrote of the war, his works offer readers a unique perspective on its events. His social activism and dedication to equal rights continue to inspire others to fight for a fair and just society. His words remind us of the human cost of war and inspire us to seek peace and unity in our world.
Whitman has left behind a legacy of poetry and prose that not only depict the experiences of soldiers and people during the Civil War, but also bring to light the psychological trauma and lasting effects of war on those involved. His work has helped to shape a greater understanding of the Civil War in American history and open up a conversation on the consequences of war. Today, Whitman’s works on the Civil War have become cherished parts of American culture, ensuring that his memory and message will live on for generations to come.
Whitman’s Later Literary Endeavors
In addition to his literary works related to the Civil War, Whitman continued to produce a vast array of writings throughout his life. He wrote extensively on social issues of the time, including labor rights and the needs of the working classes. He wrote several important pieces on the women’s rights movement and the civil rights movement. He was also an advocate for various environmental initiatives, encouraging readers to become stewards of the natural world.
Whitman also wrote extensively about his own experiences. His later works alternate between his experiences with death and his reflections on the experiences of life. He wrote about the wonders of nature, philosophy, and the joys of living life to the fullest. He also wrote about the importance of self-reflection and the need to constantly strive for greater understanding.
In the last decade of his life, Whitman’s works took on a spiritual tone. Much of his later works emphasize the importance of developing a greater understanding of the divine and explore the emotional journeys of existence. In many of his later works, Whitman attempts to reconcile the tragedy of death with the hope of life. He wrote extensively about his own journey towards understanding the source of all being and the connectedness of all life.
The Lasting Impact of Walt Whitman
Throughout his life, Walt Whitman was a teacher, an advocate, and a poet. He strove to bring attention to the issues that were important to him, never shying away from the subjects of his time. His efforts to bring attention to important social issues during the Civil War remain inspiring and relevant. Today, his works still evoke awe and admiration, captivating readers both young and old.
In addition to his literary works, Whitman’s lasting impact can be felt in the ways that he championed for social justice and change. His writing and advocacy for the rights of all Americans, regardless of gender, race or class, has set a high standard for social activism and has made him an important figure in American history. The lessons learned from his work on the Civil War and his other writings continue to help shape our understanding of the world today.
The legacy of Walt Whitman continues to live on even centuries after his passing. His works are an example of courage, dedication, and justice that is worthy of admiration and emulation. Today, his influence can still be felt in our society, where his work is used to inspire hope and promote feelings of solidarity within the community.