Walt Whitman did not sit home when Civil War gripped the U.S. In 1863-1864 (for two long years' of days in his early 40's), Whitman passed throughout the military hospitals of Washington D.C. as a volunteer, sitting with soldiers, using his meager funds to buy them everything from ice cream to brandy, reading them letters from home, and writing letters to their loved ones. Whitman was never the same. On May 7 at the Huntington Library, Civil War scholar Drew Faust tried to make the numbers of that war real for us. There was no military i.d. system then--not even an official form of dog tag. American families often lived out the remaining decades of the 19th century never knowing what had happened to their loved ones. Whitman leant his pen at the most practical level--bedside by bedside--carrying connections and news.
Image Credit: George C. Cox, 1887 in New York.