Handwritten Papers from Walt Whitman, Former US Attorney Clerk, Released
Posted Apr 12, 2011 3:32 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward
The National Archives today revealed Civil War records handwritten by noted author Walt Whitman, while he worked as a clerk for the U.S. Attorney General. According to the Associated Press, in the years immediately after the war, Whitman wrote letters and speeches for the attorney general.
Whitman got the job through a friend, fellow poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. According to ABC News, Whitman went to Washington D.C. in 1862, searching for a brother whose name Whitman thought appeared on a list of deceased soldiers. He found his brother alive and lived in Washington until 1873, writing many of his now-famous Civil War poems. He also aided and transported wounded soldiers from both sides of the war.
Besides the U.S. attorney’s office, Whitman worked as a clerk for the Army Paymaster’s office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, transcribing letters and memorandums after the Civil War. It’s been reported that Whitman wrote his poetry at his government office, taking advantage of the light and heat it offered.
Kenneth Price, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, discovered the documents. They number in the thousands, and were released today to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. "We've tended to think of Whitman in two ways during the Civil War as the person who was attentively visiting these soldiers and as this great poet of the Civil War, and people don't think about the third life he had going on in Washington, D.C.," Price told ABC News. "It's the life the city directory records as his fundamental life. It's the life that funded the other two lives."