This Week in the Civil War - 485

Jan 16, 2013

On January 16, 1863, Walt Whitman wrote a pained letter to his brother, Thomas Jefferson Whitman, in which he bemoaned the Union’s recent defeat at Fredericksburg as the most “complete piece of mismanagement perhaps ever yet known in the earth's wars.”

While Whitman today is celebrated as one of America’s greatest poets, works like Leaves of Grass, penned in the 1850s, were seen as scandalous by an American reading public unready for Whitman’s unconventional lifestyle. An opponent of slavery, Whitman supported the Union with the poem Beat! Beat! Drums and volunteered as a nurse in army hospitals. 

After Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, Whitman penned Oh Captain, My Captain, eulogizing the President for having navigated the ship of state through the storm of war, only to meet a violent end.