Walt Whitman Banner


In 1861, while writing for New York newspapers, Whitman began to visit the Broadway Hospital, working as a volunteer aide to the wounded soldiers. When his brother, George, serving with the 51st New York Infantry, was wounded in 1862, Walt went to Virginia to find him. George recovered, but Walt had witnessed the suffering of wounded soldiers in Washington's hospitals and felt he had to stay and help. He dedicated himself to nursing the wounded and dying soldiers of both the North and the South, earning money to live on by taking a part-time job in the paymaster's office. Whitman tried to alleviate the suffering in any way he could, even spending some of his scant salary to provide small gifts such as fruit and stationery to the wounded. He wrote letters for soldiers who were not able to write, helped change dressings, and at times even assisted in surgery.

Whitman's poetry now was greatly influenced by the war and the suffering it had produced. In May a book of Whitman's war poems, "Drum Taps", was published. After Lincoln's assassination, Whitman was moved to write two of his most popular works: "O captain! My Captain!" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd".