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Complete Prose Works by Walt Whitman

Part 11 out of 13

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_American Society from a Park Policeman's Point of View_

Am in New York city, upper part--visit Central Park almost every day
(and have for the last three weeks) off and on, taking observations or
short rambles, and sometimes riding around. I talk quite a good deal
with one of the Park policemen, C.C., up toward the Ninetieth street
entrance. One day in particular I got him a-going, and it proved
deeply interesting to me. Our talk floated into sociology and
politics. I was curious to find how these things appear'd on their
surfaces to my friend, for he plainly possess'd sharp wits and good
nature, and had been seeing, for years, broad streaks of humanity
somewhat out of my latitude. I found that as he took such appearances
the inward caste-spirit of European "aristocracy" pervaded rich
America, with cynicism and artificiality at the fore. Of the bulk of
official persons, Executives, Congressmen, Legislators, Aldermen,
Department heads, &c., &c., or the candidates for those positions,
nineteen in twenty, in the policeman's judgment, were just players
in a game. Liberty, Equality, Union, and all the grand words of
the Republic, were, in their mouths, but lures, decoys, chisel'd
likenesses of dead wood, to catch the masses. Of fine afternoons,
along the broad tracks of the Park, for many years, had swept by
my friend, as he stood on guard, the carriages, &c., of American
Gentility, not by dozens and scores, but by hundreds and thousands.
Lucky brokers, capitalists, contractors, grocery-men, successful
political strikers, rich butchers, dry goods' folk, &c. And on a large
proportion of these vehicles, on panels or horse-trappings, were
conspicuously borne _heraldic family crests_. (Can this really be
true?) In wish and willingness (and if that were so, what matter about
the reality?) titles of nobility, with a court and spheres fit for the
capitalists, the highly educated, and the carriage-riding classes--to
fence them off from "the common people"--were the heart's desire of
the "good society" of our great cities--aye, of North and South.

So much for my police friend's speculations--which rather took me
aback--and which I have thought I would just print as he gave them (as
a doctor records symptoms.)


_St. Louis, Missouri, November, '79_.--What do you think I find
manufactur'd out here--and of a kind the clearest and largest, best,
and the most finish'd and luxurious in the world--and with ample
demand for it too? _Plate glass_! One would suppose that was the last
dainty outcome of an old, almost effete-growing civilization; and yet
here it is, a few miles from St. Louis, on a charming little river,
in the wilds of the West, near the Mississippi. I went down that
way to-day by the Iron Mountain Railroad--was switch'd off on a
side-track four miles through woods and ravines, to Swash Creek,
so-call'd, and there found Crystal city, and immense Glass Works,
built (and evidently built to stay) right in the pleasant rolling
forest. Spent most of the day, and examin'd the inexhaustible and
peculiar sand the glass is made of--the original whity-gray stuff in
the banks--saw the melting in the pots (a wondrous process, a real
poem)--saw the delicate preparation the clay material undergoes for
these great pots (it has to be kneaded finally by human feet, no
machinery answering, and I watch'd the picturesque bare-legged
Africans treading it)--saw the molten stuff (a great mass of a glowing
pale yellow color) taken out of the furnaces (I shall never forget
that Pot, shape, color, concomitants, more beautiful than any antique
statue,) pass'd into the adjoining casting-room, lifted by powerful
machinery, pour'd out on its bed (all glowing, a newer, vaster study
for colorists, indescribable, a pale red-tinged yellow, of tarry
consistence, all lambent,) roll'd by a heavy roller into rough plate
glass, I should say ten feet by fourteen, then rapidly shov'd into the
annealing oven, which stood ready for it. The polishing and grinding
rooms afterward--the great glass slabs, hundreds of them, on their
flat beds, and the see-saw music of the steam machinery constantly at
work polishing them--the myriads of human figures (the works employ'd
400 men) moving about, with swart arms and necks, and no superfluous
clothing--the vast, rude halls, with immense play of shifting shade,
and slow-moving currents of smoke and steam, and shafts of light,
sometimes sun, striking in from above with effects that would have
fill'd Michel Angelo with rapture.

Coming back to St. Louis this evening, at sundown, and for over an
hour afterward, we follow'd the Mississippi, close by its western
bank, giving me an ampler view of the river, and with effects a little
different from any yet. In the eastern sky hung the planet Mars,
just up, and of a very clear and vivid yellow. It was a soothing and
pensive hour--the spread of the river off there in the half-light--
the glints of the down-bound steamboats plodding along--and that
yellow orb (apparently twice as large and significant as usual) above
the Illinois shore. (All along, these nights, nothing can exceed the
calm, fierce, golden, glistening domination of Mars over all the stars
in the sky.)

As we came nearer St. Louis, the night having well set in, I saw some
(to me) novel effects in the zinc smelting establishments, the tall
chimneys belching flames at the top, while inside through the openings
at the facades of the great tanks burst forth (in regular position)
hundreds of fierce tufts of a peculiar blue (or green) flame, of a
purity and intensity, like electric lights--illuminating not only the
great buildings themselves, but far and near outside, like hues of the
aurora borealis, only more vivid. (So that--remembering the Pot from
the crystal furnace--my jaunt seem'd to give me new revelations in the
color line.)


_Jotted Down at the Time_

I find this incident in my notes (I suppose from "chinning" in
hospital with some sick or wounded soldier who knew of it):

When Kilpatrick and his forces were cut off at Brandy station (last
of September, '63, or thereabouts,) and the bands struck up "Yankee
Doodle," there were not cannon enough in the Southern Confederacy to
keep him and them "in." It was when Meade fell back. K. had his large
cavalry division (perhaps 5,000 men,) but the rebs, in superior force,
had surrounded them. Things look'd exceedingly desperate. K. had two
fine bands, and order'd them up immediately; they join'd and
play'd "Yankee Doodle" with a will! It went through the men like
lightning--but to inspire, not to unnerve. Every man seem'd a giant.
They charged like a cyclone, and cut their way out. Their loss was but
20. It was about two in the afternoon.


_Walking Down Pennsylvania Avenue_

_April 7, 1864_.--Warmish forenoon, after the storm of the past few
days. I see, passing up, in the broad space between the curbs, a big
squad of a couple of hundred conscripts, surrounded by a strong cordon
of arm'd guards, and others interspers'd between the ranks. The
government has learn'd caution from its experiences; there are many
hundreds of "bounty jumpers," and already, as I am told, eighty
thousand deserters! Next (also passing up the Avenue,) a cavalry
company, young, but evidently well drill'd and service-harden'd men.
Mark the upright posture in their saddles, the bronz'd and bearded
young faces, the easy swaying to the motions of the horses, and the
carbines by their right knees; handsome and reckless, some eighty of
them, riding with rapid gait, clattering along. Then the tinkling
bells of passing cars, the many shops (some with large show-windows,
some with swords, straps for the shoulders of different ranks,
hat-cords with acorns, or other insignia,) the military patrol
marching along, with the orderly or second-lieutenant stopping
different ones to examine passes--the forms, the faces, all sorts
crowded together, the worn and pale, the pleas'd, some on their way
to the railroad depot going home, the cripples, the darkeys, the
long trains of government wagons, or the sad strings of ambulances
conveying wounded--the many officers' horses tied in front of
the drinking or oyster saloons, or held by black men or boys, or


_Tuesday, Aug. 1, 1865_.--About 3 o'clock this afternoon (sun broiling
hot) in Fifteenth street, by the Treasury building, a large and
handsome regiment, 195th Pennsylvania, were marching by--as it
happen'd, receiv'd orders just here to halt and break ranks, so that
they might rest themselves awhile. I thought I never saw a finer set
of men--so hardy, candid, bright American looks, all weather-beaten,
and with warm clothes. Every man was home-born. My heart was much
drawn toward them. They seem'd very tired, red, and streaming with
sweat. It is a one-year regiment, mostly from Lancaster county, Pa.;
have been in Shenandoah valley. On halting, the men unhitch'd their
knapsacks, and sat down to rest themselves. Some lay flat on the
pavement or under trees. The fine physical appearance of the whole
body was remarkable. Great, very great, must be the State where such
young farmers and mechanics are the practical average. I went around
for half an hour and talk'd with several of them, sometimes squatting
down with the groups.


_April 30, 1866_.--Here is a single significant fact, from which one
may judge of the character of the American soldiers in this just
concluded war: A gentleman in New York city, a while since, took it
into his head to collect specimens of writing from soldiers who had
lost their right hands in battle, and afterwards learn'd to use the
left. He gave public notice of his desire, and offer'd prizes for the
best of these specimens. Pretty soon they began to come in, and by the
time specified for awarding the prizes three hundred samples of such
left-hand writing by maim'd soldiers had arrived.

I have just been looking over some of this writing. A great many of
the specimens are written in a beautiful manner. All are good. The
writing in nearly all cases slants backward instead of forward. One
piece of writing, from a soldier who had lost both arms, was made by
holding the pen in his mouth.


Culpepper, where I am stopping, looks like a place of two or three
thousand inhabitants. Must be one of the pleasantest towns in
Virginia. Even now, dilapidated fences, all broken down, windows
out, it has the remains of much beauty. I am standing on an eminence
overlooking the town, though within its limits. To the west the long
Blue Mountain range is very plain, looks quite near, though from 30
to 50 miles distant, with some gray splashes of snow yet visible. The
show is varied and fascinating. I see a great eagle up there in
the air sailing with pois'd wings, quite low. Squads of red-legged
soldiers are drilling; I suppose some of the new men of the Brooklyn
14th; they march off presently with muskets on their shoulders. In
another place, just below me, are some soldiers squaring off logs to
build a shanty--chopping away, and the noise of the axes sounding
sharp. I hear the bellowing, unmusical screech of the mule. I mark the
thin blue smoke rising from camp fires. Just below me is a collection
of hospital tents, with a yellow flag elevated on a stick, and moving
languidly in the breeze. Two discharged men (I know them both)
are just leaving. One is so weak he can hardly walk; the other is
stronger, and carries his comrade's musket. They move slowly along
the muddy road toward the depot. The scenery is full of breadth, and
spread on the most generous scale (everywhere in Virginia this thought
fill'd me.) The sights, the scenes, the groups, have been varied and
picturesque here beyond description, and remain so.

I heard the men return in force the other night--heard the shouting,
and got up and went out to hear what was the matter. That night scene
of so many hundred tramping steadily by, through the mud (some big
flaring torches of pine knots,) I shall never forget. I like to go to
the paymaster's tent, and watch the men getting paid off. Some have
furloughs, and start at once for home, sometimes amid great chaffing
and blarneying. There is every day the sound of the wood-chopping
axe, and the plentiful sight of negroes, crows, and mud. I note large
droves and pens of cattle. The teamsters have camps of their own, and
I go often among them. The officers occasionally invite me to dinner
or supper at headquarters. The fare is plain, but you get something
good to drink, and plenty of it. Gen. Meade is absent; Sedgwick is in


One of my war time reminiscences comprises the quiet side scene of
a visit I made to the First Regiment U. S. Color'd Troops, at their
encampment, and on the occasion of their first paying off, July 11,
1863. Though there is now no difference of opinion worth mentioning,
there was a powerful opposition to enlisting blacks during the earlier
years of the secession war. Even then, however, they had their
champions. "That the color'd race," said a good authority, "is capable
of military training and efficiency, is demonstrated by the testimony
of numberless witnesses, and by the eagerness display'd in the
raising, organizing, and drilling of African troops. Few white
regiments make a better appearance on parade than the First and Second
Louisiana Native Guards. The same remark is true of other color'd
regiments. At Milliken's Bend, at Vicksburg, at Port Hudson, on Morris
Island, and wherever tested, they have exhibited determin'd bravery,
and compell'd the plaudits alike of the thoughtful and thoughtless
soldiery. During the siege of Port Hudson the question was often ask'd
those who beheld their resolute charges, how the 'niggers' behav'd
under fire; and without exception the answer was complimentary to
them. 'O, tip-top!' 'first-rate!' 'bully!' were the usual replies. But
I did not start out to argue the case--only to give my reminiscence
literally, as jotted on the spot at the time."

I write this on Mason's (otherwise Analostan) island, under the fine
shade trees of an old white stucco house, with big rooms; the white
stucco house, originally a fine country seat (tradition says the
famous Virginia Mason, author of the Fugitive Slave Law, was born
here.) I reach'd the spot from my Washington quarters by ambulance up
Pennsylvania avenue, through Georgetown, across the Aqueduct bridge,
and around through a cut and winding road, with rocks and many bad
gullies not lacking. After reaching the island, we get presently in
the midst of the camp of the 1st Regiment U. S. C. T. The tents look
clean and good; indeed, altogether, in locality especially, the
pleasantest camp I have yet seen. The spot is umbrageous, high and
dry, with distant sounds of the city, and the puffing steamers of the
Potomac, up to Georgetown and back again. Birds are singing in the
trees, the warmth is endurable here in this moist shade, with the
fragrance and freshness. A hundred rods across is Georgetown. The
river between is swell'd and muddy from the late rains up country.
So quiet here, yet full of vitality, all around in the far distance
glimpses, as I sweep my eye, of hills, verdure-clad, and with
plenteous trees; right where I sit, locust, sassafras, spice, and many
other trees, a few with huge parasitic vines; just at hand the banks
sloping to the river, wild with beautiful, free vegetation, superb
weeds, better, in their natural growth and forms, than the best
garden. Lots of luxuriant grape vines and trumpet flowers; the river
flowing far down in the distance.

Now the paying is to begin. The Major (paymaster) with his clerk seat
themselves at a table--the rolls are before them--the money box is
open'd--there are packages of five, ten, twenty-five cent pieces.
Here comes the first Company (B), some 82 men, all blacks. Certes, we
cannot find fault with the appearance of this crowd--negroes though
they be. They are manly enough, bright enough, look as if they had the
soldier-stuff in them, look hardy, patient, many of them real handsome
young fellows. The paying, I say, has begun. The men are march'd up in
close proximity. The clerk calls off name after name, and each walks
up, receives his money, and passes along out of the way. It is a real
study, both to see them come close, and to see them pass away, stand
counting their cash--(nearly all of this company get ten dollars
and three cents each.) The clerk calls George Washington. That
distinguish'd personage steps from the ranks, in the shape of a very
black man, good sized and shaped, and aged about 30, with a military
mustache; he takes his "ten three," and goes off evidently well
pleas'd. (There are about a dozen Washingtons in the company. Let us
hope they will do honor to the name.) At the table, how quickly the
Major handles the bills, counts without trouble, everything going on
smoothly and quickly. The regiment numbers to-day about 1,000 men
(including 20 officers, the only whites.)

Now another company. These get $5.36 each. The men look well. They,
too, have great names; besides the Washingtons aforesaid, John Quincy
Adams, Daniel Webster, Calhoun, James Madison, Alfred Tennyson, John
Brown, Benj. G. Tucker, Horace Greeley, &c. The men step off aside,
count their money with a pleas'd, half-puzzled look. Occasionally, but
not often, there are some thoroughly African physiognomies, very black
in color, large, protruding lips, low forehead, &c. But I have to say
that I do not see one utterly revolting face.

Then another company, each man of this getting $10.03 also. The pay
proceeds very rapidly (the calculation, roll-signing, &c., having been
arranged beforehand.) Then some trouble. One company, by the rigid
rules of official computation, gets only 23 cents each man. The
company (K) is indignant, and after two or three are paid, the refusal
to take the paltry sum is universal, and the company marches off to
quarters unpaid.

Another company (I) gets only 70 cents. The sullen, lowering,
disappointed look is general. Half refuse it in this case. Company G,
in full dress, with brass scales on shoulders, look'd, perhaps, as
well as any of the companies--the men had an unusually alert look.
These, then, are the black troops,--or the beginning of them. Well,
no one can see them, even under these circumstances--their military
career in its novitiate--without feeling well pleas'd with them.

As we enter'd the island, we saw scores at a little distance, bathing,
washing their clothes, &c. The officers, as far as looks go, have a
fine appearance, have good faces, and the air military. Altogether it
is a significant show, and brings up some "abolition" thoughts. The
scene, the porch of an Old Virginia slave-owner's house, the Potomac
rippling near, the Capitol just down three or four miles there, seen
through the pleasant blue haze of this July day.

After a couple of hours I get tired, and go off for a ramble. I write
these concluding lines on a rock, under the shade of a tree on the
banks of the island. It is solitary here, the birds singing, the
sluggish muddy-yellow waters pouring down from the late rains of the
upper Potomac; the green heights on the south side of the river before
me. The single cannon from a neighboring fort has just been fired, to
signal high noon. I have walk'd all around Analostan, enjoying its
luxuriant wildness, and stopt in this solitary spot. A water snake
wriggles down the bank, disturb'd, into the water. The bank near by is
fringed with a dense growth of shrubbery, vines, &c.


There have been collected in a cluster nearly five thousand big and
little American poems--all that diligent and long-continued research
could lay hands on! The author of 'Old Grimes is Dead' commenced
it, more than fifty years ago; then the cluster was pass'd on and
accumulated by C. F. Harris; then further pass'd on and added to by
the late Senator Anthony, from whom the whole collection has been
bequeath'd to Brown University. A catalogue (such as it is) has been
made and publish'd of these five thousand poems--and is probably the
most curious and suggestive part of the whole affair. At any rate it
has led me to some abstract reflection like the following.

I should like, for myself, to put on record my devout acknowledgment
not only of the great masterpieces of the past, but of the benefit of
_all_ poets, past and present, and of _all_ poetic utterance--in its
entirety the dominant moral factor of humanity's progress. In view of
that progress, and of evolution, the religious and esthetic elements,
the distinctive and most important of any, seem to me more indebted
to poetry than to all other means and influences combined. In a very
profound sense _religion is the poetry of humanity_. Then the points
of union and rapport among all the poems and poets of the world,
however wide their separations of time and place and theme, are
much more numerous and weighty than the points of contrast. Without
relation as they may seem at first sight, the whole earth's poets and
poetry--_en masse_--the Oriental, the Greek, and what there is of
Roman--the oldest myths--the interminable ballad-romances of the
Middle Ages--the hymns and psalms of worship--the epics, plays, swarms
of lyrics of the British Islands, or the Teutonic old or new--or
modern French--or what there is in America, Bryant's, for instance,
or Whittier's or Longfellow's--the verse of all tongues and ages,
all forms, all subjects, from primitive times to our own day
inclusive--really combine in one aggregate and electric globe or
universe, with all its numberless parts and radiations held together
by a common centre or verteber. To repeat it, all poetry thus has (to
the point of view comprehensive enough) more features of resemblance
than difference, and becomes essentially, like the planetary globe
itself, compact and orbic and whole. Nature seems to sow countless
seeds--makes incessant crude attempts--thankful to get now and then,
even at rare and long intervals, something approximately good.


_A Reminiscence of New York Plays and Acting Fifty Years Ago_

In an article not long since, "Mrs. Siddons as Lady Macbeth," in "The
Nineteenth Century," after describing the bitter regretfulness to
mankind from the loss of those first-class poems, temples, pictures,
gone and vanish'd from any record of men, the writer (Fleeming Jenkin)

If this be our feeling as to the more durable works of art, what
shall we say of those triumphs which, by their very nature, la
no longer than the action which creates them--the triumphs of the
orator, the singer, or the actor? There is an anodyne in the words,
"must be so," "inevitable," and there is even some absurdity in
longing for the impossible. This anodyne and our sense of humor
temper the unhappiness we feel when, after hearing some great
performance, we leave the theatre and think, "Well, this great thing
has been, and all that is now left of it is the feeble print up
my brain, the little thrill which memory will send along my nerves,
mine and my neighbors; as we live longer the print and thrill must
be feebler, and when we pass away the impress of the great artist
will vanish from the world." The regret that a great art should in
its nature be transitory, explains the lively interest which many
feel in reading anecdotes or descriptions of a great actor.

All this is emphatically my own feeling and reminiscence about the
best dramatic and lyric artists I have seen in bygone days--for
instance, Marietta Alboni, the elder Booth, Forrest, the tenor
Bettini, the baritone Badiali, "old man Clarke"--(I could write
a whole paper on the latter's peerless rendering of the Ghost in
"Hamlet" at the Park, when I was a young fellow)--an actor named
Ranger, who appear'd in America forty years ago in _genre_ characters;
Henry Placide, and many others. But I will make a few memoranda at
least of the best one I knew.

For the elderly New Yorker of to-day, perhaps, nothing were more
likely to start up memories of his early manhood than the mention of
the Bowery and the elder Booth, At the date given, the more stylish
and select theatre (prices, 50 cents pit, $1 boxes) was "The Park,"
a large and well-appointed house on Park Row, opposite the present
Post-office. English opera and the old comedies were often given in
capital style; the principal foreign stars appear'd here, with Italian
opera at wide intervals. The Park held a large part in my boyhood's
and young manhood's life. Here I heard the English actor, Anderson, in
"Charles de Moor," and in the fine part of "Gisippus." Here I heard
Fanny Kemble, Charlotte Cushman, the Seguins, Daddy Rice, Hackett
as Falstaff, Nimrod Wildfire, Rip Van Winkle, and in his Yankee
characters. (See pages 19, 20, "Specimen Days.") It was here (some
years later than the date in the headline) I also heard Mario many
times, and at his best. In such parts as Gennaro, in "Lucrezia
Borgia," he was inimitable--the sweetest of voices, a pure tenor, of
considerable compass and respectable power. His wife, Grisi, was with
him, no longer first-class or young--a fine Norma, though, to the

Perhaps my dearest amusement reminiscences are those musical ones. I
doubt if ever the senses and emotions of the future will be thrill'd
as were the auditors of a generation ago by the deep passion of
Alboni's contralto (at the Broadway Theatre, south side, near Pearl
street)--or by the trumpet notes of Badiali's baritone, or Bettini's
pensive and incomparable tenor in Fernando in "Favorita," or Marini's
bass in "Faliero," among the Havana troupe, Castle Garden.

But getting back more specifically to the date and theme I started
from--the heavy tragedy business prevail'd more decidedly at the
Bowery Theatre, where Booth and Forrest were frequently to be heard.
Though Booth _pere,_ then in his prime, ranging in age from 40 to 44
years (he was born in 1796,) was the loyal child and continuer of the
traditions of orthodox English play-acting, he stood out "himself
alone" in many respects beyond any of his kind on record, and with
effects and ways that broke through all rules and all traditions. He
has been well describ'd as an actor "whose instant and tremendous
concentration of passion in his delineations overwhelm'd his audience,
and wrought into it such enthusiasm that it partook of the fever of
inspiration surging through his own veins." He seems to have been
of beautiful private character, very honorable, affectionate,
good-natured, no arrogance, glad to give the other actors the best
chances. He knew all stage points thoroughly, and curiously ignored
the mere dignities. I once talk'd with a man who had seen him do the
Second Actor in the mock play to Charles Kean's Hamlet in Baltimore.
He was a marvellous linguist. He play'd Shylock once in London,
giving the dialogue in Hebrew, and in New Orleans Oreste (Racine's
"Andromaque") in French. One trait of his habits, I have heard, was
strict vegetarianism. He was exceptionally kind to the brute creation.
Every once in a while he would make a break for solitude or wild
freedom, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for days. (He
illustrated Plato's rule that to the forming an artist of the very
highest rank a dash of insanity or what the world calls insanity is
indispensable.) He was a small-sized man--yet sharp observers noticed
that however crowded the stage might be in certain scenes, Booth
never seem'd overtopt or hidden. He was singularly spontaneous and
fluctuating; in the same part each rendering differ'd from any and
all others. He had no stereotyped positions and made no arbitrary
requirements on his fellow-performers.

As is well known to old play-goers, Booth's most effective part was
Richard III. Either that, or lago, or Shylock, or Pescara in "The
Apostate," was sure to draw a crowded house. (Remember heavy
pieces were much more in demand those days than now.) He was also
unapproachably grand in Sir Giles Overreach, in "A New Way to Pay Old
Debts," and the principal character in "The Iron Chest."

In any portraiture of Booth, those years, the Bowery Theatre, with its
leading lights, and the lessee and manager, Thomas Hamblin, cannot be
left out. It was at the Bowery I first saw Edwin Forrest (the play was
John Howard Payne's "Brutus, or the Fall of Tarquin," and it affected
me for weeks; or rather I might say permanently filter'd into my
whole nature,) then in the zenith of his fame and ability. Sometimes
(perhaps a veteran's benefit night,) the Bowery would group together
five or six of the first-class actors of those days--Booth, Forrest,
Cooper, Hamblin, and John R. Scott, for instance. At that time and
here George Jones ("Count Joannes") was a young, handsome actor, and
quite a favorite. I remember seeing him in the title role in "Julius
Caesar," and a capital performance it was.

To return specially to the manager. Thomas Hamblin made a first-rate
foil to Booth, and was frequently cast with him. He had a large,
shapely, imposing presence, and dark and flashing eyes. I remember
well his rendering of the main role in Maturin's "Bertram, or the
Castle of St. Aldobrand." But I thought Tom Hamblin's best acting was
in the comparatively minor part of Faulconbridge in "King John"--he
himself evidently revell'd in the part, and took away the house's
applause from young Kean (the King) and Ellen Tree (Constance,) and
everybody else on the stage--some time afterward at the Park. Some of
the Bowery actresses were remarkably good. I remember Mrs. Pritchard
in "Tour de Nesle," and Mrs. McClure in "Fatal Curiosity," and as
Millwood in "George Barnwell." (I wonder what old fellow reading these
lines will recall the fine comedietta of "The Youth That Never Saw a
Woman," and the jolly acting in it of Mrs. Herring and old Gates.)

The Bowery, now and then, was the place, too, for spectacular pieces,
such as "The Last Days of Pompeii," "The Lion-Doom'd" and the yet
undying "Mazeppa." At one time "Jonathan Bradford, or the Murder at
the Roadside Inn, "had a long and crowded run; John Sefton and his
brother William acted in it. I remember well the Frenchwoman Celeste,
a splendid pantomimist, and her emotional "Wept of the Wishton-Wish."
But certainly the main "reason for being" of the Bowery Theatre
those years was to furnish the public with Forrest's and Booth's
performances--the latter having a popularity and circles of
enthusiastic admirers and critics fully equal to the former--though
people were divided as always. For some reason or other, neither
Forrest nor Booth would accept engagements at the more fashionable
theatre, the Park. And it is a curious reminiscence, but a true one,
that both these great actors and their performances were taboo'd by
"polite society" in New York and Boston at the time--probably as being
too robustuous. But no such scruples affected the Bowery.

Recalling from that period the occasion of either Forrest or Booth,
any good night at the old Bowery, pack'd from ceiling to pit with
its audience mainly of alert, well-dress'd, full-blooded young and
middle-aged men, the best average of American-born mechanics--the
emotional nature of the whole mass arous'd by the power and magnetism
of as mighty mimes as ever trod the stage--the whole crowded
auditorium, and what seeth'd in it, and flush'd from its faces and
eyes, to me as much a part of the show as any--bursting forth in
one of those long-kept-up tempests of hand-clapping peculiar to the
Bowery--no dainty kid-glove business, but electric force and muscle
from perhaps 2,000 full-sinew'd men--(the inimitable and chromatic
tempest of one of those ovations to Edwin Forrest, welcoming him back
after an absence, comes up to me this moment)--Such sounds and scenes
as here resumed will surely afford to many old New Yorkers some
fruitful recollections.

I can yet remember (for I always scann'd an audience as rigidly as
a play) the faces of the leading authors, poets, editors, of those
times--Fenimore Cooper, Bryant, Paulding, Irving, Charles King,
Watson Webb, N. P. Willis, Hoffman, Halleck, Mumford, Morris, Leggett,
L. G. Clarke, R. A. Locke and others, occasionally peering from the
first tier boxes; and even the great National Eminences, Presidents
Adams, Jackson, Van Buren and Tyler, all made short visits there on
their Eastern tours.

Awhile after 1840 the character of the Bowery as hitherto described
completely changed. Cheap prices and vulgar programmes came in. People
who of after years saw the pandemonium of the pit and the doings
on the boards must not gauge by them the times and characters I am
describing. Not but what there was more or less rankness in the crowd
even then. For types of sectional New York those days--the streets
East of the Bowery, that intersect Division, Grand, and up to Third
avenue--types that never found their Dickens, or Hogarth, or Balzac,
and have pass'd away unportraitured--the young ship-builders, cartmen,
butchers, firemen (the old-time "soap-lock" or exaggerated "Mose" or
"Sikesey," of Chanfrau's plays,) they, too, were always to be seen in
these audiences, racy of the East river and the Dry Dock. Slang, wit,
occasional shirt sleeves, and a picturesque freedom of looks and
manners, with a rude good-nature and restless movement, were generally
noticeable. Yet there never were audiences that paid a good actor or
an interesting play the compliment of more sustain'd attention or
quicker rapport. Then at times came the exceptionally decorous and
intellectual congregations I have hinted it; for the Bowery really
furnish'd plays and players you could get nowhere else. Notably, Booth
always drew the best hearers; and to a specimen of his acting I will
now attend in some detail.

I happen'd to see what has been reckon'd by experts one of the most
marvellous pieces of histrionism ever known. It must have been about
1834 or '35. A favorite comedian and actress at the Bowery, Thomas
Flynn and his wife, were to have a joint benefit, and, securing Booth
for Richard, advertised the fact many days beforehand. The house
fill'd early from top to bottom. There was some uneasiness behind the
scenes, for the afternoon arrived, and Booth had not come from down
in Maryland, where he lived. However, a few minutes before ringing-up
time he made his appearance in lively condition.

After a one-act farce over, as contrast and prelude, the curtain
rising for the tragedy, I can, from my good seat in the pit, pretty
well front, see again Booth's quiet entrance from the side, as, with
head bent, he slowly and in silence, (amid the tempest of boisterous
hand-clapping,) walks down the stage to the footlights with that
peculiar and abstracted gesture, musingly kicking his sword, which he
holds off from him by its sash. Though fifty years have pass'd since
then, I can hear the clank, and feel the perfect following hush of
perhaps three thousand people waiting. (I never saw an actor who
could make more of the said hush or wait, and hold the audience in
an indescribable, half-delicious, half-irritating suspense.) And so
throughout the entire play, all parts, voice, atmosphere, magnetism,

"Now is the winter of our discontent,"

to the closing death fight with Richmond, were of the finest and
grandest. The latter character was play'd by a stalwart young fellow
named Ingersoll. Indeed, all the renderings were wonderfully good.
But the great spell cast upon the mass of hearers came from Booth.
Especially was the dream scene very impressive. A shudder went through
every nervous system in the audience; it certainly did through mine.

Without question Booth was royal heir and legitimate representative of
the Garrick-Kemble-Siddons dramatic traditions; but he vitalized and
gave an unnamable _race_ to those traditions with his own electric
personal idiosyncrasy. (As in all art-utterance it was the subtle and
powerful something _special to the individual_ that really conquer'd.)

To me, too, Booth stands for much else besides theatricals. I consider
that my seeing the man those years glimps'd for me, beyond all else,
that inner spirit and form--the unquestionable charm and vivacity, but
intrinsic sophistication and artificiality--crystallizing rapidly upon
the English stage and literature at and after Shakspere's time, and
coming on accumulatively through the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries to the beginning, fifty or forty years ago, of those
disintegrating, decomposing processes now authoritatively going on.
Yes; although Booth must be class'd in that antique, almost extinct
school, inflated, stagy, rendering Shakspere (perhaps inevitably,
appropriately) from the growth of arbitrary and often cockney
conventions, his genius was to me one of the grandest revelations of
my life, a lesson of artistic expression. The words fire, energy,
_abandon_, found in him unprecedented meanings. I never heard a
speaker or actor who could give such a sting to hauteur or the taunt.
I never heard from any other the charm of unswervingly perfect
vocalization without trenching at all on mere melody, the province of

So much for a Thespian temple of New York fifty years since, where
"sceptred tragedy went trailing by" under the gaze of the Dry Dock
youth, and both players and auditors were of a character and like we
shall never see again. And so much for the grandest histrion of modern
times, as near as I can deliberately judge (and the phrenologists put
my "caution" at 7)--grander, I believe, than Kean in the expression
of electric passion, the prime eligibility of the tragic artist.
For though those brilliant years had many fine and even magnificent
actors, undoubtedly at Booth's death (in 1852) went the last and by
far the noblest Roman of them all.



London Edition, June 1887_ If you will only take the following pages,
as you do some long and gossippy letter written for you by a relative
or friend travelling through distant scenes and incidents and jotting
them down lazily and informally, but ever veraciously (with occasional
diversion of critical thought about sombody or something,) it might
remove all formal or literary impediments at once, and bring you and
me closer together in the spirt in which the jottings were collated to
be read. You have had, and have, plenty of public events and facts and
general statistics of America;--in the following book is a common
individual New World _private life_, its birth and growth, its
struggles for a living, its goings and comings and observations (or
representative portions of them) amid the United States of America the
last thirty or forty years, with their varied war and peace, their
local coloring, the unavoidable egotism, and the lights and shades and
sights and joys and pains and sympathies common to humanity. Further
introductory light may be found in the paragraph, "A Happy Hour's
Command," and the bottom note belonging to it at the beginning of the
book. I have said in the text that if I were required to give good
reason-for-being of "Specimen Days," I should be unable to do so. Let
me fondly hope that it has at least the reason and excuse of such
off-hand gossippy letter as just alluded to, portraying American
life-sights and incidents as they actually occurred--their
presentation, making additions as far as it goes, to the simple
experience and association of your soul, from a comrade soul;--and
that also, in the volume, as below any page of mine, anywhere, ever
remains, for seen or unseen basis-phrase, GOOD-WILL BETWEEN THE COMMON


_To English Edition "Specimen Days"_

As I write these lines I still continue living in Camden, New Jersey,
America. Coming this way from Washington city, on my road to the
sea-shore (and a temporary rest, as I supposed) in the early summer
of 1873, I broke down disabled, and have dwelt here, as my central
residence, all the time since--almost 14 years. In the preceding pages
I have described how, during those years, I partially recuperated (in
1876) from my worst paralysis by going down to Timber creek, living
close to Nature, and domiciling with my dear friends George and Susan
Stafford. From 1877 or '8 to '83 or '4 I was well enough to travel
around, considerably--journey'd westward to Kansas, leisurely
exploring the Prairies, and on to Denver and the Rocky Mountains;
another time north to Canada, where I spent most of the summer with
my friend Dr. Bucke, and jaunted along the great lakes, and the St.
Lawrence and Saguenay rivers; another time to Boston, to properly
print the final edition of my poems (I was there over two months, and
had a "good time.") I have so brought out the completed "Leaves
of Grass" during this period; also "Specimen Days," of which the
foregoing is a transcript; collected and re-edited the "Democratic
Vistas" cluster (see companion volume to the present)--commemorated
Abraham Lincoln's death, on the successive anniversaries of its
occurrence, by delivering my lecture on it ten or twelve times; and
"put in," through many a month and season, the aimless and resultless
ways of most human lives.

Thus the last 14 years have pass'd. At present (end-days of March,
1887--I am nigh entering my 69th year) I find myself continuing on
here, quite dilapidated and even wreck'd bodily from the paralysis,
&c.--but in _good heart_ (to use a Long Island country phrase,) and
with about the same mentality as ever. The worst of it is, I have
been growing feebler quite rapidly for a year, and now can't walk
around--hardly from one room to the next. I am forced to stay in-doors
and in my big chair nearly all the time. We have had a sharp, dreary
winter too, and it has pinch'd me. I am alone most of the time; every
week, indeed almost every day, write some--reminiscences, essays,
sketches, for the magazines; and read, or rather I should say dawdle
over books and papers a good deal--spend half the day at that.

Nor can I finish this note without putting on record--wafting over sea
from hence--my deepest thanks to certain friends and helpers (I would
specify them all and each by name, but imperative reasons, outside of
my own wishes, forbid,) in the British Islands, as well as in America.
Dear, even in the abstract, is such flattering unction always no doubt
to the soul! Nigher still, if possible, I myself have been, and
am to-day indebted to such help for my very sustenance, clothing,
shelter, and continuity. And I would not go to the grave without
briefly, but plainly, as I here do, acknowledging--may I not say even
glorying in it?


Mainly I think I should base the request to weigh the following pages
on the assumption that they present, however indirectly, some views of
the West and Modern, or of a distinctly western and modern (American)
tendency, about certain matters. Then, too, the pages include (by
attempting to illustrate it,) a theory herein immediately mentioned.
For another and different point of the issue, the Enlightenment,
Democracy and Fair-show of the bulk, the common people of America
(from sources representing not only the British Islands, but all the
world,) means, at least, eligibility to Enlightenment, Democracy and
Fair-show for the bulk, the common people of all civilized nations.

That positively "the dry land has appeared," at any rate, is an
important fact.

America is really the great test or trial case for all the problems
and promises and speculations of humanity, and of the past and

I say, too, we[41] are not to look so much to changes, ameliorations,
and adaptations in Politics as to those of Literature and (thence)
domestic Sociology. I have accordingly in the following melange
introduced many themes besides political ones.

Several of the pieces are ostensibly in explanation of my own
writings; but in that very process they best include and set forth
their side of principles and generalities pressing vehemently for
consideration our age.

Upon the whole, it is on the atmosphere they are born in, and, (I
hope) give out, more than any specific piece or trait, I would care to

I think Literature--a new, superb, democratic literature--is to be
the medicine and lever, and (with Art) the chief influence in modern
civilization. I have myself not so much made a dead set at this
theory, or attempted to present it directly, as admitted it to color
and sometimes dominate what I had to say. In both Europe and America
we have serried phalanxes who promulge and defend the political claims:
I go for an equal force to uphold the other.


CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY, _April, 1888_.


[41] We who, in many departments, ways, make _the building up of the
masses,_ by _building up grand individuals_, our shibboleth: and in
brief that is the marrow of this book.


Glad am I to give--were anything better lacking--even the most brief
and shorn testimony of Abraham Lincoln. Everything I heard about him
authentically, and every time I saw him (and it was my fortune through
1862 to '65 to see, or pass a word with, or watch him, personally,
perhaps twenty or thirty times,) added to and anneal'd my respect and
love at the moment. And as I dwell on what I myself heard or saw of
the mighty Westerner, and blend it with the history and literature of
my age, and of what I can get of all ages, and conclude it with
his death, it seems like some tragic play, superior to all else I
know--vaster and fierier and more convulsionary, for this America of
ours, than Eschylus or Shakspere ever drew for Athens or for England.
And then the Moral permeating, underlying all! the Lesson that none
so remote--none so illiterate--no age, no class--but may directly or
indirectly read!

Abraham Lincoln's was really one of those characters, the best of
which is the result of long trains of cause and effect--needing a
certain spaciousness of time, and perhaps even remoteness, to properly
enclose them--having unequal'd influence on the shaping of this
Republic (and therefore the world) as to-day, and then far more
important in the future. Thus the time has by no means yet come for a
thorough measurement of him. Nevertheless, we who live in his era--who
have seen him, and heard him, face to face, and are in the midst of,
or just parting from, the strong and strange events which he and we
have had to do with--can in some respects bear valuable, perhaps
indispensable testimony concerning him.

I should first like to give a very fair and characteristic likeness of
Lincoln, as I saw him and watch'd him one afternoon in Washington, for
nearly half an hour, not long before his death. It was as he stood on
the balcony of the National Hotel, Pennsylvania avenue, making a short
speech to the crowd in front, on the occasion either of a set of new
colors presented to a famous Illinois regiment, or of the daring
capture, by the Western men, of some flags from "the enemy," (which
latter phrase, by the by, was not used by him at all in his remarks.)
How the picture happen'd to be made I do not know, but I bought it a
few days afterward in Washington, and it was endors'd by every one
to whom I show'd it. Though hundreds of portraits have been made, by
painters and photographers, (many to pass on, by copies, to future
times,) I have never seen one yet that in my opinion deserv'd to be
called a perfectly _good likeness_; nor do I believe there is really
such a one in existence. May I not say too, that, as there is no
entirely competent and emblematic likeness of Abraham Lincoln in
picture or statue, there is not--perhaps cannot be--any fully
appropriate literary statement or summing-up of him yet in existence?

The best way to estimate the value of Lincoln is to think what the
condition of America would be to-day, if he had never lived--never
been President. His nomination and first election were mainly
accidents, experiments. Severely view'd, one cannot think very much
of American Political Parties, from the beginning, after the
Revolutionary War, down to the present time. Doubtless, while they
have had their uses--have been and are "the grass on which the cow
feeds"--and indispensable economies of growth--it is undeniable that
under flippant names they have merely identified temporary passions,
or freaks, or sometimes prejudice, ignorance, or hatred. The only
thing like a great and worthy idea vitalizing a party, and making it
heroic, was the enthusiasm in '64 for re-electing Abraham Lincoln, and
the reason behind that enthusiasm.

How does this man compare with the acknowledg'd "Father of his
country"? Washington was model'd on the best Saxon, and Franklin--of
the age of the Stuarts (rooted in the Elizabethan period)--was
essentially a noble Englishman, and just the kind needed for the
occasions and the times of 1776-'83. Lincoln, underneath his
practicality, was far less European, was quite thoroughly Western,
original, essentially non-conventional, and had a certain sort of
out-door or prairie stamp. One of the best of the late commentators on
Shakspere, (Professor Dowden,) makes the height and aggregate of his
quality as a poet to be, that he thoroughly blended the ideal with
the practical or realistic. If this be so, I should say that what
Shakspere did in poetic expression, Abraham Lincoln essentially did in
his personal and official life. I should say the invisible foundations
and vertebra of his character, more than any man's in history, were
mystical, abstract, moral and spiritual--while upon all of them was
built, and out of all of them radiated, under the control of the
average of circumstances, what the vulgar call _horse-sense_, and
a life often bent by temporary but most urgent materialistic and
political reasons.

He seems to have been a man of indomitable firmness (even obstinacy)
on rare occasions, involving great points; but he was generally very
easy, flexible, tolerant, almost slouchy, respecting minor matters. I
note that even those reports and anecdotes intended to level him
down, all leave the tinge of a favorable impression of him. As to
his religious nature, it seems to me to have certainly been of the
amplest, deepest-rooted, loftiest kind.

Already a new generation begins to tread the stage, since the persons
and events of the secession war. I have more than once fancied to
myself the time when the present century has closed, and a new one
open'd, and the men and deeds of that contest have become somewhat
vague and mythical-fancied perhaps in some great Western city, or
group collected together, or public festival, where the days of old,
of 1863, and '4 and '5 are discuss'd--some ancient soldier sitting
in the background as the talk goes on, and betraying himself by his
emotion and moist eyes--like the journeying Ithacan at the banquet of
King Alcinoiis, when the bard sings the contending warriors and their
battles on the plains of Troy:

"So from the sluices of Ulysses' eyes
Fast fell the tears, and sighs succeeded sighs."

I have fancied, I say, some such venerable relic of this time of ours,
preserv'd to the next or still the next generation of America. I have
fancied, on such occasion, the young men gathering around; the awe,
the eager questions: "What! have you seen Abraham Lincoln--and heard
him speak--and touch'd his hand? Have you, with your own eyes, look'd
on Grant, and Lee, and Sherman?"

Dear to Democracy, to the very last! And among the paradoxes generated
by America, not the least curious was that spectacle of all the kings
and queens and emperors of the earth, many from remote distances,
sending tributes of condolence and sorrow in memory of one rais'd
through the commonest average of life--a rail-splitter and

Consider'd from contemporary points of view--who knows what the future
may decide?--and from the points of view of current Democracy and The
Union, (the only thing like passion or infatuation in the man was the
passion for the Union of These States,) Abraham Lincoln seems to me
the grandest figure yet, on all the crowded canvas of the Nineteenth


_Walt Whitman gossips of his sojourn here years ago as a newspaper
writer. Notes of his trip up the Mississippi and to New York._

Among the letters brought this morning (Camden, New Jersey, Jan. 15,
1887,) by my faithful post-office carrier, J.G., is one as follows:

"NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 11, '87.--We have been informed that when you were
younger and less famous than now, you were in New Orleans and perhaps
have helped on the _Picayune_. If you have any remembrance of the
_Picayune's_ young days, or of journalism in New Orleans of that era,
and would put it in writing (verse or prose) for the _Picayune's_
fiftieth year edition, Jan. 25, we shall be pleased," etc.

In response to which: I went down to New Orleans early in 1848 to work
on a daily newspaper, but it was not the _Picayune_, though I saw
quite a good deal of the editors of that paper, and knew its personnel
and ways. But let me indulge my pen in some gossipy recollections of
that time and place, with extracts from my journal up the Mississippi
and across the great lakes to the Hudson.

Probably the influence most deeply pervading everything at that time
through the United States, both in physical facts and in sentiment,
was the Mexican War, then just ended. Following a brilliant campaign
(in which our troops had march'd to the capital city, Mexico, and
taken full possession,) we were returning after our victory. From the
situation of the country, the city of New Orleans had been our channel
and _entrepot_ for everything, going and returning. It had the best
news and war correspondents; it had the most to say, through its
leading papers, the _Picayune_ and _Delta_ especially, and its voice
was readiest listen'd to; from it "Chapparal" had gone out, and his
army and battle letters were copied everywhere, not only in the United
States, but in Europe. Then the social cast and results; no one who
has never seen the society of a city under similar circumstances can
understand what a strange vivacity and _rattle_ were given throughout
by such a situation. I remember the crowds of soldiers, the gay young
officers, going or coming, the receipt of important news, the many
discussions, the returning wounded, and so on.

I remember very well seeing Gen. Taylor with his staff and other
officers at the St. Charles Theatre one evening (after talking with
them during the day.) There was a short play on the stage, but the
principal performance was of Dr. Colyer's troupe of "Model Artists,"
then in the full tide of their popularity. They gave many fine groups
and solo shows. The house was crowded with uniforms and shoulder-straps.
Gen. T. himself, if I remember right, was almost the only officer in
civilian clothes; he was a jovial, old, rather stout, plain man, with
a wrinkled and dark-yellow face, and, in ways and manners, show'd the
least of conventional ceremony or etiquette I ever saw; he laugh'd
unrestrainedly at everything comical. (He had a great personal
resemblance to Fenimore Cooper, the novelist, of New York.) I remember
Gen. Pillow and quite a cluster of other militaires also present.

One of my choice amusements during my stay in New Orleans was going
down to the old French Market, especially of a Sunday morning. The
show was a varied and curious one; among the rest, the Indian and
negro hucksters with their wares. For there were always fine specimens
of Indians, both men and women, young and old. I remember I nearly
always on these occasions got a large cup of delicious coffee with a
biscuit, for my breakfast, from the immense shining copper kettle of a
great Creole mulatto woman (I believe she weigh'd 230 pounds.) I never
have had such coffee since. About nice drinks, anyhow, my recollection
of the "cobblers" (with strawberries and snow on top of the large
tumblers,) and also the exquisite wines, and the perfect and mild
French brandy, help the regretful reminiscence of my New Orleans
experiences of those days. And what splendid and roomy and leisurely
bar-rooms! particularly the grand ones of the St. Charles and St.
Louis. Bargains, auctions, appointments, business conferences, &c.,
were generally held in the spaces or recesses of these bar-rooms.

I used to wander a midday hour or two now and then for amusement
on the crowded and bustling levees, on the banks of the river. The
diagonally wedg'd-in boats, the stevedores, the piles of cotton
and other merchandise, the carts, mules, negroes, etc., afforded
never-ending studies and sights to me. I made acquaintances among the
captains, boatmen, or other characters, and often had long talks
with them--sometimes finding a real rough diamond among my chance
encounters. Sundays I sometimes went forenoons to the old Catholic
Cathedral in the French quarter. I used to walk a good deal in this
arrondissement; and I have deeply regretted since that I did not
cultivate, while I had such a good opportunity, the chance of better
knowledge of French and Spanish Creole New Orleans people. (I have
an idea that there is much and of importance about the Latin race
contributions to American nationality in the South and Southwest that
will never be put with sympathetic understanding and tact on record.)

Let me say, for better detail, that through several months (1848) I
work'd on a new daily paper, _The Crescent_; my situation rather a
pleasant one. My young brother, Jeff, was with me; and he not only
grew very homesick, but the climate of the place, and especially the
water, seriously disagreed with him. From this and other reasons
(although I was quite happily fix'd) I made no very long stay in the
South. In due time we took passage northward for St. Louis in the
"Pride of the West" steamer, which left her wharf just at dusk. My
brother was unwell, and lay in his berth from the moment we left
till the next morning; he seem'd to me to be in a fever, and I felt
alarm'd. However, the next morning he was all right again, much to my

Our voyage up the Mississippi was after the same sort as the voyage,
some months before, down it. The shores of this great river are very
monotonous and dull--one continuous and rank flat, with the exception
of a meagre stretch of bluff, about the neighborhood of Natchez,
Memphis, &c. Fortunately we had good weather, and not a great crowd of
passengers, though the berths were all full. The "Pride" jogg'd along
pretty well, and put us into St. Louis about noon Saturday. After
looking around a little I secured passage on the steamer "Prairie
Bird," (to leave late in the afternoon,) bound up the Illinois river
to La Salle, where we were to take canal for Chicago. During the day
I rambled with my brother over a large portion of the town, search'd
after a refectory, and, after much trouble, succeeded in getting some

Our "Prairie Bird" started out at dark, and a couple of hours after
there was quite a rain and blow, which made them haul in along shore
and tie fast. We made but thirty miles the whole night. The boat was
excessively crowded with passengers, and had withal so much freight
that we could hardly turn around. I slept on the floor, and the night
was uncomfortable enough. The Illinois river is spotted with little
villages with big names, Marseilles, Naples, etc.; its banks are low,
and the vegetation excessively rank. Peoria, some distance up, is a
pleasant town; I went over the place; the country back is all rich
land, for sale cheap. Three or four miles from P., land of the first
quality can be bought for $3 or $4 an acre. (I am transcribing from my
notes written at the time.)

Arriving at La Salle Tuesday morning, we went on board a canal-boat,
had a detention by sticking on a mud bar, and then jogg'd along at
a slow trot, some seventy of us, on a moderate-sized boat. (If the
weather hadn't been rather cool, particularly at night, it would have
been insufferable.) Illinois is the most splendid agricultural
country I ever saw; the land is of surpassing richness; the place par
excellence for farmers. We stopt at various points along the canal,
some of them pretty villages.

It was 10 o'clock A.M. when we got in Chicago, too late for the
steamer; so we went to an excellent public house, the "American
Temperance," and I spent the time that day and till next morning,
looking around Chicago.

At 9 the next forenoon we started on the "Griffith" (on board of
which I am now inditing these memoranda,) up the blue waters of Lake
Michigan. I was delighted with the appearance of the towns along
Wisconsin. At Milwaukee I went on shore, and walk'd around the place.
They say the country back is beautiful and rich. (It seems to me that
if we should ever remove from Long Island, Wisconsin would be the
proper place to come to.) The towns have a remarkable appearance
of good living, without any penury or want. The country is so good
naturally, and labor is in such demand.

About 5 o'clock one afternoon I heard the cry of "a woman over-board."
It proved to be a crazy lady, who had become so from the loss of her
son a couple of weeks before. The small boat put off, and succeeded in
picking her up, though she had been in the water 15 minutes. She was
dead. Her husband was on board. They went off at the next stopping
place. While she lay in the water she probably recover'd her reason,
as she toss'd up her arms and lifted her face toward the boat.

_Sunday Morning, June 11_.--We pass'd down Lake Huron yesterday and
last night, and between 4 and 5 o'clock this morning we ran on the
"flats," and have been vainly trying, with the aid of a steam tug and
a lumbering lighter, to get clear again. The day is beautiful and the
water clear and calm. Night before last we stopt at Mackinaw, (the
island and town,) and I went up on the old fort, one of the oldest
stations in the Northwest. We expect to get to Buffalo by to-morrow.
The tug has fasten'd lines to us, but some have been snapt and the
others have no effect. We seem to be firmly imbedded in the sand.
(With the exception of a larger boat and better accommodations, it
amounts to about the same thing as a becalmment I underwent on the
Montauk voyage, East Long Island, last summer.) _Later_.--We are off
again--expect to reach Detroit before dinner.

We did not stop at Detroit. We are now on Lake Erie, jogging along at
a good round pace. A couple of hours since we were on the river above.
Detroit seem'd to me a pretty place and thrifty. I especially liked
the looks of the Canadian shore opposite and of the little village
of Windsor, and, indeed, all along the banks of the river. From the
shrubbery and the neat appearance of some of the cottages, I think it
must have been settled by the French. While I now write we can see a
little distance ahead the scene of the battle between Perry's fleet
and the British during the last war with England. The lake looks to me
a fine sheet of water. We are having a beautiful day.

_June 12_.--We stopt last evening at Cleveland, and though it was
dark, I took the opportunity of rambling about the place; went up in
the heart of the city and back to what appear'd to be the courthouse.
The streets are unusually wide, and the buildings appear to be
substantial and comfortable. We went down through Main street and
found, some distance along, several squares of ground very prettily
planted with trees and looking attractive enough. Return'd to the boat
by way of the lighthouse on the hill.

This morning we are making for Buffalo, being, I imagine, a little
more than half across Lake Erie. The water is rougher than on Michigan
or Huron. (On St. Clair it was smooth as glass.) The day is bright and
dry, with a stiff head wind.

We arriv'd in Buffalo on Monday evening; spent that night and a
portion of next day going round the city exploring. Then got in the
cars and went to Niagara; went under the falls--saw the whirlpool and
all the other sights.

Tuesday night started for Albany; travel'd all night. From the time
daylight afforded us a view of the country all seem'd very rich and
well cultivated. Every few miles were large towns or villages.

Wednesday late we arriv'd at Albany. Spent the evening in exploring.
There was a political meeting (Hunker) at the capitol, but I pass'd
it by. Next morning I started down the Hudson in the "Alida;" arriv'd
safely in New York that evening.

_From the New Orleans Picayune, Jan. 25, 1887._


_Thousands lost--here one or two preserv'd_

ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, _Washington, Aug. 22, 1865_.--As I write
this, about noon, the suite of rooms here is fill'd with Southerners,
standing in squads, or streaming in and out, some talking with the
Pardon Clerk, some waiting to see the Attorney General, others
discussing in low tones among themselves. All are mainly anxious about
their pardons. The famous 13th exception of the President's Amnesty
Proclamation of ----, makes it necessary that every secessionist,
whose property is worth $20,000 or over, shall get a special pardon,
before he can transact any legal purchase, sale, &c. So hundreds and
thousands of such property owners have either sent up here, for the
last two months, or have been, or are now coming personally here,
to get their pardons. They are from Virginia, Georgia, Alabama,
Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and every Southern State. Some
of their written petitions are very abject. Secession officers of the
rank of Brigadier General, or higher, also need these special pardons.
They also come here. I see streams of the $20,000 men, (and some
women,) every day. I talk now and then with them, and learn much that
is interesting and significant. All the southern women that come (some
splendid specimens, mothers, &c.) are dress'd in deep black.

Immense numbers (several thousands) of these pardons have been pass'd
upon favorably; the Pardon Warrants (like great deeds) have been
issued from the State Department, on the requisition of this office.
But for some reason or other, they nearly all yet lie awaiting the
President's signature. He seems to be in no hurry about it, but lets
them wait.

The crowds that come here make a curious study for me. I get along,
very sociably, with any of them--as I let them do all the talking;
only now and then I have a long confab, or ask a suggestive question
or two.

If the thing continues as at present, the property and wealth of the
Southern States is going to legally rest, for the future, on these
pardons. Every single one is made out with the condition that the
grantee shall respect the abolition of slavery, and never make an
attempt to restore it.

_Washington, Sept. 8, 9, &c., 1865_.--The arrivals, swarms, &c., of
the $20,000 men seeking pardons, still continue with increas'd numbers
and pertinacity. I yesterday (I am a clerk in the U. S. Attorney
General's office here) made out a long list from Alabama, nearly 200,
recommended for pardon by the Provisional Governor. This list, in the
shape of a requisition from the Attorney General, goes to the State
Department. There the Pardon Warrants are made out, brought back here,
and then sent to the President, where they await his signature. He is
signing them very freely of late.

The President, indeed, as at present appears, has fix'd his mind on a
very generous and forgiving course toward the return'd secessionists.
He will not countenance at all the demand of the extreme Philo-African
element of the North, to make the right of negro voting at elections a
condition and sine qua non of the reconstruction of the United States
south, and of their resumption of co-equality in the Union.


While it was hanging in suspense who should be appointed Secretary of
the Interior, (to take the place of Caleb Smith,) the choice was very
close between Mr. Harlan and Col. Jesse K. Dubois, of Illinois. The
latter had many friends. He was competent, he was honest, and he was a
man. Mr. Harlan, in the race, finally gain'd the Methodist interest,
and got himself to be consider'd as identified with it; and his
appointment was apparently ask'd for by that powerful body. Bishop
Simpson, of Philadephia, came on and spoke for the selection. The
President was much perplex'd. The reasons for appointing Col. Dubois
were very strong, almost insuperable--yet the argument for Mr. Harlan,
under the adroit position he had plac'd himself, was heavy. Those who
press'd him adduc'd the magnitude of the Methodists as a body, their
loyalty, more general and genuine than any other sect--that they
represented the West, and had a right to be heard--that all or nearly
all the other great denominations had their representatives in the
heads of the government--that they as a body and the great sectarian
power of the West, formally ask'd Mr. Harlan's appointment--that he
was of them, having been a Methodist minister--that it would not do
to offend them, but was highly necessary to propitiate them.

Mr. Lincoln thought deeply over the whole matter. He was in more than
usual tribulation on the subject. Let it be enough to say that though
Mr. Harlan finally receiv'd the Secretaryship, Col. Dubois came as
near being appointed as a man could, and not be. The decision was
finally made one night about 10 o'clock. Bishop Simpson and other
clergymen and leading persons in Mr. Harlan's behalf, had been talking
long and vehemently with the President. A member of Congress who was
pressing Col. Dubois's claims, was in waiting. The President had told
the Bishop that he would make a decision that evening, and that he
thought it unnecessary to be press'd any more on the subject. That
night he call'd in the M.C. above alluded to, and said to him: "Tell
Uncle Jesse that I want to give him this appointment, and yet I
cannot. I will do almost anything else in the world for him I am able.
I have thought the matter all over, and under the circumstances think
the Methodists too good and too great a body to be slighted. They have
stood by the government, and help'd us their very best. I have had no
better friends; and as the case stands, I have decided to appoint Mr.


_Written on the fly-leaf of a copy of_ Specimen Days, _sent to Peter
Doyle, at Washington, June, 1883]

Pete, do you remember--(of course you do--I do well)--those great long
jovial walks we had at times for years, (1866-'72) out of Washington
city--often moonlight nights--'way to "Good Hope";--or, Sundays, up
and down the Potomac shores, one side or the other, sometimes ten
miles at a stretch? Or when you work'd on the horse-cars, and I waited
for you, coming home late together--or resting and chatting at the
Market, corner 7th street and the Avenue, and eating those nice musk
or watermelons? Or during my tedious sickness and first paralysis
('73) how you used to come to my solitary garret-room and make up my
bed, and enliven me, and chat for an hour or so--or perhaps go out and
get the medicines Dr. Drinkard had order'd for me--before you went on
duty?... Give my love to dear Mrs. and Mr. Nash, and tell them I have
not forgotten them, and never will.



_Germantown, Phila., Dec. 26, '83_. In memory of these merry Christmas
days and nights--to my friends Mr. and Mrs. Williams, Churchie,
May, Gurney, and little Aubrey.... A heavy snow-storm blocking up
everything, and keeping us in. But souls, hearts, thoughts, unloos'd.
And so--one and all, little and big--hav'n't we had a good time?



_From the Philadelphia Press, Nov. 27, 1884, (Thanksgiving number)_

_Scene_.--A large family supper party, a night or two ago, with voices
and laughter of the young, mellow faces of the old, and a by-and-by
pause in the general joviality. "Now, Mr. Whitman," spoke up one of
the girls, "what have you to say about Thanksgiving? Won't you give
us a sermon in advance, to sober us down?" The sage nodded smilingly,
look'd a moment at the blaze of the great wood fire, ran his
forefinger right and left through the heavy white mustache that might
have otherwise impeded his voice, and began: "Thanksgiving goes
probably far deeper than you folks suppose. I am not sure but it is
the source of the highest poetry--as in parts of the Bible. Ruskin,
indeed, makes the central source of all great art to be praise
(gratitude) to the Almighty for life, and the universe with its
objects and play of action.

"We Americans devote an official day to it every year; yet I sometimes
fear the real article is almost dead or dying in our self-sufficient,
independent Republic. Gratitude, anyhow, has never been made half
enough of by the moralists; it is indispensable to a complete
character, man's or woman's--the disposition to be appreciative,
thankful. That is the main matter, the element, inclination--what
geologists call the _trend_. Of my own life and writings I estimate
the giving thanks part, with what it infers, as essentially the best
item. I should say the quality of gratitude rounds the whole emotional
nature; I should say love and faith would quite lack vitality without
it. There are people--shall I call them even religious people, as
things go?--who have no such trend to their disposition."


_Memorandized at the time, Washington, 1865-'66_

[Of reminiscences of the secession war, after the rest is said, I have
thought it remains to give a few special words--in some respects at
the time the typical words of all, and most definite-of the samples
of the kill'd and wounded in action, and of soldiers who linger'd
afterward, from these wounds, or were laid up by obstinate disease or
prostration. The general statistics have been printed already, but can
bear to be briefly stated again. There were over 3,000,000 men (for
all periods of enlistment, large and small) furnish'd to the Union
army during the war, New York State furnishing over 500,000, which was
the greatest number of any one State. The losses by disease, wounds,
kill'd in action, accidents, &c., were altogether about 600,000, or
approximating to that number. Over 4,000,000 cases were treated in the
main and adjudicatory army hospitals. The number sounds strange, but
it is true. More than two-thirds of the deaths were from prostration
or disease. To-day there lie buried over 300,000 soldiers in the
various National army Cemeteries, more than half of them (and that is
really the most significant and eloquent bequest of the war) mark'd
"unknown." In full mortuary statistics of the war, the greatest
deficiency arises from our not having the rolls, even as far as they
were kept, of most of the Southern military prisons--a gap which
probably both adds to, and helps conceal, the indescribable horrors
of those places; it is, however, (restricting one vivid point only)
certain that over 30,000 Union soldiers died, largely of actual
starvation, in them. And now, leaving all figures and their "sum
totals," I feel sure a few genuine memoranda of such things--some
cases jotted down '64, '65, and '66--made at the time and on the spot,
with all the associations of those scenes and places brought back,
will not only go directest to the right spot, but give a clearer and
more actual sight of that period, than anything else. Before I give
the last cases I begin with verbatim extracts from letters home to my
mother in Brooklyn, the second year of the war.--W.W.]

_Washington, Oct. 13, 1863_.--There has been a new lot of wounded and
sick arriving for the last three days. The first and second days, long
strings of ambulances with the sick. Yesterday the worst, many with
bad and bloody wounds, inevitably long neglected. I thought I was
cooler and more used to it, but the sight of some cases brought tears
into my eyes. I had the luck yesterday, however, to do lots of good.
Had provided many nourishing articles for the men for another quarter,
but, fortunately, had my stores where I could use them at once for
these new-comers, as they arrived, faint, hungry, fagg'd out from
their journey, with soil'd clothes, and all bloody. I distributed
these articles, gave partly to the nurses I knew, or to those in
charge. As many as possible I fed myself. Then I found a lot of oyster
soup handy, and bought it all at once.

It is the most pitiful sight, this, when the men are first brought in,
from some camp hospital broke up, or a part of the army moving. These
who arrived yesterday are cavalry men. Our troops had fought like
devils, but got the worst of it. They were Kilpatrick's cavalry; were
in the rear, part of Meade's retreat, and the reb cavalry, knowing the
ground and taking a favorable opportunity, dash'd in between, cut them
off, and shell'd them terribly. But Kilpatrick turn'd and brought them
out mostly. It was last Sunday. (One of the most terrible sights and
tasks is of such receptions.)

_Oct. 27, 1863_.--If any of the soldiers I know (or their parents or
folks) should call upon you--as they are often anxious to have my
address in Brooklyn--you just use them as you know how, and if you
happen to have pot-luck, and feel to ask them to take a bite, don't
be afraid to do so. I have a friend, Thomas Neat, 2d N.Y. Cavalry,
wounded in leg, now home in Jamaica, on furlough; he will probably
call. Then possibly a Mr. Haskell, or some of his folks, from western
New York: he had a son died here, and I was with the boy a good deal.
The old man and his wife have written me and ask'd me my Brooklyn
address; he said he had children in New York, and was occasionally
down there. (When I come home I will show you some of the letters I
get from mothers, sisters, fathers, &c. They will make you cry.)

How the time passes away! To think it is over a year since I left
home suddenly--and have mostly been down in front since. The year has
vanish'd swiftly, and oh, what scenes I have witness'd during that
time! And the war is not settled yet; and one does not see anything
certain, or even promising, of a settlement. But I do not lose the
solid feeling, in myself, that the Union triumph is assured, whether
it be sooner or whether it be later, or whatever roundabout way we
may be led there; and I find I don't change that conviction from any
reverses we meet, nor delays, nor blunders. One realizes here in
Washington the great labors, even the negative ones, of Lincoln; that
it is a big thing to have just kept the United States from being
thrown down and having its throat cut. I have not waver'd or had any
doubt of the issue, since Gettysburg.

_8th September, '63_.--Here, now, is a specimen army hospital case:
Lorenzo Strong, Co. A, 9th United States Cavalry, shot by a shell last
Sunday; right leg amputated on the field. Sent up here Monday night,
14th. Seem'd to be doing pretty well till Wednesday noon, 16th,
when he took a turn for the worse, and a strangely rapid and fatal
termination ensued. Though I had much to do, I staid and saw all. It
was a death-picture characteristic of these soldiers' hospitals--
the perfect specimen of physique, one of the most magnificent I ever
saw--the convulsive spasms and working of muscles, mouth, and throat.
There are two good women nurses, one on each side. The doctor comes in
and gives him a little chloroform. One of the nurses constantly fans
him, for it is fearfully hot. He asks to be rais'd up, and they put
him in a half-sitting posture. He call'd for "Mark" repeatedly,
half-deliriously, all day. Life ebbs, runs now with the speed of
a mill race; his splendid neck, as it lays all open, works still,
slightly; his eyes turn back. A religious person coming in offers a
prayer, in subdued tones, bent at the foot of the bed; and in the
space of the aisle, a crowd, including two or three doctors, several
students, and many soldiers, has silently gather'd. It is very still
and warm, as the struggle goes on, and dwindles, a little more, and a
little more--and then welcome oblivion, painlessness, death. A pause,
the crowd drops away, a white bandage is bound around and under the
jaw, the propping pillows are removed, the limpsy head falls down, the
arms are softly placed by the side, all composed, all still,--and the
broad white sheet is thrown over everything.

_April 10, 1864_.--Unusual agitation all around concentrated here.
Exciting times in Congress. The Copperheads are getting furious, and
want to recognize the Southern Confederacy. "This is a pretty time to
talk of recognizing such--," said a Pennsylvania officer in hospital
to me to-day, "after what has transpired the last three years." After
first Fredericksburg I felt discouraged myself, and doubted whether
our rulers could carry on the war. But that has pass'd away. The war
_must_ be carried on. I would willingly go in the ranks myself if I
thought it would profit more than as at present, and I don't know
sometimes but I shall, as it is. Then there is certainly a strange,
deep, fervid feeling form'd or arous'd in the land, hard to describe
or name; it is not a majority feeling, but it will make itself felt.
M., you don't know what a nature a fellow gets, not only after being a
soldier a while, but after living in the sights and influences of the
camps, the wounded, &c.--a nature he never experienced before. The
stars and stripes, the tune of Yankee Doodle, and similar things,
produce such an effect on a fellow as never before. I have seen them
bring tears on some men's cheeks, and others turn pale with emotion.
I have a little flag (it belong'd to one of our cavalry regiments,)
presented to me by one of the wounded; it was taken by the secesh in a
fight, and rescued by our men in a bloody skirmish following. It cost
three men's lives to get back that four-by-three flag--to tear it from
the breast of a dead rebel--for _the name_ of getting their little
"rag" back again. The man that secured it was very badly wounded, and
they let him keep it. I was with him a good deal; he wanted to give me
some keepsake, he said,--he didn't expect to live,--so he gave me that
flag. The best of it all is, dear M., there isn't a regiment, cavalry
or infantry, that wouldn't do the like, on the like occasion.

_April 12_.--I will finish my letter this morning; it is a beautiful
day. I was up in Congress very late last night. The House had a
very excited night session about expelling the men that proposed
recognizing the Southern Confederacy. You ought to hear (as I do) the
soldiers talk; they are excited to madness. We shall probably have hot
times here, not in the military fields alone. The body of the army is
true and firm as the North Star.

_May 6, '64_.--M., the poor soldier with diarrhoea, is still living,
but, oh, what a looking object! Death would be a relief to him--he
cannot last many hours. Cunningham, the Ohio soldier, with leg
amputated at thigh, has pick'd up beyond expectation; now looks indeed
like getting well. (He died a few weeks afterwards.) The hospitals are
very full. I am very well indeed. Hot here to-day.

_May 23, '64_.--Sometimes I think that should it come when it _must_,
to fall in battle, one's anguish over a son or brother kill'd might
be temper'd with much to take the edge off. Lingering and extreme
suffering from wounds or sickness seem to me far worse than death in
battle. I can honestly say the latter has no terrors for me, as far
as I myself am concern'd. Then I should say, too, about death in war,
that our feelings and imaginations make a thousand times too much of
the whole matter. Of the many I have seen die, or known of, the past
year, I have not seen or known one who met death with terror. In most
cases I should say it was a welcome relief and release. Yesterday I
spent a good part of the afternoon with a young soldier of seventeen,
Charles Cutter, of Lawrence city, Massachusetts, 1st Massachusetts
Heavy Artillery, Battery M. He was brought to one of the hospitals
mortally wounded in abdomen. Well, I thought to myself, as I sat
looking at him, it ought to be a relief to his folks if they could see
how little he really suffer'd. He lay very placid, in a half lethargy,
with his eyes closed. As it was extremely hot, and I sat a good while
silently fanning him, and wiping the sweat, at length he open'd his
eyes quite wide and clear, and look'd inquiringly around. I said,
"What is it, my boy? Do you want anything?" He answer'd quietly, with
a good-natured smile, "Oh, nothing; I was only looking around to see
who was with me." His mind was somewhat wandering, yet he lay in an
evident peacefulness that sanity and health might have envied. I had
to leave for other engagements. He died, I heard afterward, without
any special agitation, in the course of the night.

_Washington, May 26, '63_.--M., I think something of commencing a
series of lectures, readings, talks, &c., through the cities of the
North, to supply myself with funds for hospital ministrations. I do
not like to be so beholden to others; I need a pretty free supply of
money, and the work grows upon me, and fascinates me. It is the most
magnetic as well as terrible sight: the lots of poor wounded and
helpless men depending so much, in one ward or another, upon my
soothing or talking to them, or rousing them up a little, or perhaps
petting, or feeding them their dinner or supper (here is a patient,
for instance, wounded in both arms,) or giving some trifle for a
novelty or change--anything, however trivial, to break the monotony of
those hospital hours.

It is curious: when I am present at the most appalling scenes, deaths,
operations, sickening wounds (perhaps full of maggots,) I keep cool
and do not give out or budge, although my sympathies are very much
excited; but often, hours afterward, perhaps when I am home, or out
walking alone, I feel sick, and actually tremble, when I recall the
case again before me.

_Sunday afternoon, opening of 1865_.--Pass'd this afternoon among
a collection of unusually bad cases, wounded and sick secession
soldiers, left upon our hands. I spent the previous Sunday afternoon
there also. At that time two were dying. Two others have died during
the week. Several of them are partly deranged. I went around among
them elaborately. Poor boys, they all needed to be cheer'd up. As
I sat down by any particular one, the eyes of all the rest in the
neighboring cots would fix upon me, and remain steadily riveted as
long as I sat within their sight. Nobody seem'd to wish anything
special to eat or drink. The main thing ask'd for was postage stamps,
and paper for writing. I distributed all the stamps I had. Tobacco was
wanted by some.

One call'd me over to him and ask'd me in a low tone what denomination
I belong'd to. He said he was a Catholic--wish'd to find some one of
the same faith--wanted some good reading. I gave him something to
read, and sat down by him a few minutes. Moved around with a word for
each. They were hardly any of them personally attractive cases, and no
visitors come here. Of course they were all destitute of money. I gave
small sums to two or three, apparently the most needy. The men are
from quite all the Southern States, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana,

Wrote several letters. One for a young fellow named Thomas J. Byrd,
with a bad wound and diarrhoea. Was from Russell county, Alabama; been
out four years. Wrote to his mother; had neither heard from her nor
written to her in nine months. Was taken prisoner last Christmas, in
Tennessee; sent to Nashville, then to Camp Chase, Ohio, and kept there
a long time; all the while not money enough to get paper and postage
stamps. Was paroled, but on his way home the wound took gangrene;
had diarrhoea also; had evidently been very low. Demeanor cool, and
patient. A dark-skinn'd, quaint young fellow, with strong Southern
idiom; no education.

Another letter for John W. Morgan, aged 18, from Shellot, Brunswick
county, North Carolina; been out nine months; gunshot wound in right
leg, above knee; also diarrhoea; wound getting along well; quite a
gentle, affectionate boy; wish'd me to put in the letter for his
mother to kiss his little brother and sister for him. [I put strong
envelopes on these, and two or three other letters, directed them
plainly and fully, and dropt them in the Washington post-office the
next morning myself.]

The large ward I am in is used for secession soldiers exclusively.
One man, about forty years of age, emaciated with diarrhoea, I was
attracted to, as he lay with his eyes turn'd up, looking like death.
His weakness was so extreme that it took a minute or so, every time,
for him to talk with anything like consecutive meaning; yet he
was evidently a man of good intelligence and education. As I said
anything, he would lie a moment perfectly still, then, with closed
eyes, answer in a low, very slow voice, quite correct and sensible,
but in a way and tone that wrung my heart. He had a mother, wife, and
child living (or probably living) in his home in Mississippi. It was
long, long since he had seen them. Had he caus'd a letter to be sent
them since he got here in Washington? No answer. I repeated the
question, very slowly and soothingly. He could not tell whether he had
or not--things of late seem'd to him like a dream. After waiting a
moment, I said: "Well, I am going to walk down the ward a moment, and
when I come back you can tell me. If you have not written, I will sit
down and write." A few minutes after I return'd; he said he remember'd
now that some one had written for him two or three days before. The
presence of this man impress'd me profoundly. The flesh was all sunken
on face and arms; the eyes low in their sockets and glassy, and with
purple rings around them. Two or three great tears silently flow'd out
from the eyes, and roll'd down his temples (he was doubtless unused
to be spoken to as I was speaking to him.)Sickness, imprisonment,
exhaustion, &c., had conquer'd the body, yet the mind held mastery
still, and call'd even wandering remembrance back.

There are some fifty Southern soldiers here; all sad, sad cases. There
is a good deal of scurvy. I distributed some paper, envelopes, and
postage stamps, and wrote addresses full and plain on many of the

I return'd again Tuesday, August 1, and moved around in the same
manner a couple of hours.

_September 22, '65_.--Afternoon and evening at Douglas hospital to see
a friend belonging to 2d New York Artillery (Hiram W. Frazee, Serg't,)
down with an obstinate compound fracture of left leg receiv'd in one
of the last battles near Petersburg. After sitting a while with him,
went through several neighboring wards. In one of them found an old
acquaintance transferr'd here lately, a rebel prisoner, in a dying
condition. Poor fellow, the look was already on his face. He gazed
long at me. I ask'd him if he knew me. After a moment he utter'd
something, but inarticulately. I have seen him off and on for the
last five months. He has suffer'd very much; a bad wound in left leg,
severely fractured, several operations, cuttings, extractions of bone,
splinters, &c. I remember he seem'd to me, as I used to talk with him,
a fair specimen of the main strata of the Southerners, those without
property or education, but still with the stamp which comes from
freedom and equality. I liked him; Jonathan Wallace, of Hurd co.,
Georgia, age 30 (wife, Susan F. Wallace, Houston, Hurd co., Georgia.)
[If any good soul of that county should see this, I hope he will send
her this word.] Had a family; had not heard from them since taken
prisoner, now six months. I had written for him, and done trifles for
him, before he came here. He made no outward show, was mild in his
talk and behavior, but I knew he worried much inwardly. But now all
would be over very soon. I half sat upon the little stand near the
head of the bed. Wallace was somewhat restless. I placed my hand
lightly on his forehead and face, just sliding it over the surface.
In a moment or so he fell into a calm, regular-breathing lethargy or
sleep, and remain'd so while I sat there. It was dark, and the lights
were lit. I hardly know why (death seem'd hovering near,) but I stay'd
nearly an hour. A Sister of Charity, dress'd in black, with a broad
white linen bandage around her head and under her chin, and a black
crape over all and flowing down from her head in long wide pieces,
came to him, and moved around the bed. She bow'd low and solemn to
me. For some time she moved around there noiseless as a ghost, doing
little things for the dying man.

_December, '65_.--The only remaining hospital is now "Harewood,"
out in the woods, northwest of the city. I have been visiting there
regularly every Sunday during these two months.

_January 24, '66_.--Went out to Harewood early to-day, and remain'd
all day.

_Sunday, February 4, 1866_.--Harewood Hospital again. Walk'd out this
afternoon (bright, dry, ground frozen hard) through the woods. Ward 6
is fill'd with blacks, some with wounds, some ill, two or three with
limbs frozen. The boys made quite a picture sitting round the stove.
Hardly any can read or write. I write for three or four, direct
envelopes, give some tobacco, &c.

Joseph Winder, a likely boy, aged twenty-three, belongs to 10th
Color'd Infantry (now in Texas;) is from Eastville, Virginia. Was a
slave; belong'd to Lafayette Homeston. The master was quite willing he
should leave. Join'd the army two years ago; has been in one or two
battles. Was sent to hospital with rheumatism. Has since been employ'd
as cook. His parents at Eastville; he gets letters from them, and has
letters written to them by a friend. Many black boys left that part
of Virginia and join'd the army; the 10th, in fact, was made up of
Virginia blacks from thereabouts. As soon as discharged is going back
to Eastville to his parents and home, and intends to stay there.

Thomas King, formerly 2d District Color'd Regiment, discharged
soldier, Company E, lay in a dying condition; his disease was
consumption. A Catholic priest was administering extreme unction to
him. (I have seen this kind of sight several times in the hospitals;
it is very impressive.)

_Harewood, April 29, 1866. Sunday afternoon_.--Poor Joseph Swiers,
Company H, 155th Pennsylvania, a mere lad (only eighteen years of
age;) his folks living in Reedsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have known him
for nearly a year, transferr'd from hospital to hospital. He was badly
wounded in the thigh at Hatcher's Run, February 6, '65.

James E. Ragan, Atlanta, Georgia; 2d United States Infantry. Union
folks. Brother impress'd, deserted, died; now no folks, left alone in
the world, is in a singularly nervous state; came in hospital with
intermittent fever.

Walk slowly around the ward, observing, and to see if I can do
anything. Two or three are lying very low with consumption, cannot
recover; some with old wounds; one with both feet frozen off, so that
on one only the heel remains. The supper is being given out: the
liquid call'd tea, a thick slice of bread, and some stew'd apples.

That was about the last I saw of the regular army hospitals.

[ILLUSTRATION Here is a portrait of E.H. from life, by Henry Inman, in
New York, about 1827 or '28. The painting was finely copper-plated
in 1830, and the present is a fac simile. Looks as I saw him in the
following narrative.]

The time was signalized by the _separation_ of the society of Friends,
so greatly talked of--and continuing yet--but so little really
explain'd. (All I give of this separation is in a Note following.)

Notes (_such as they are) founded on_


_Prefatory Note_--As myself a little boy hearing so much of E.H., at
that time, long ago, in Suffolk and Queens and Kings counties--and
more than once personally seeing the old man--and my dear, dear father
and mother faithful listeners to him at the meetings--I remember how
I dream'd to write perhaps a piece about E.H. and his look and
discourses, however long afterward--for my parents' sake--and the dear
Friends too! And the following is what has at last but all come out of
it--the feeling and intention never forgotten yet!

There is a sort of nature of persons I have compared to little rills
of water, fresh, from perennial springs--(and the comparison is
indeed an appropriate one)--persons not so very plenty, yet some few
certainly of them running over the surface and area of humanity, all
times, all lands. It is a specimen of this class I would now present.
I would sum up in E.H., and make his case stand for the class, the
sort, in all ages, all lands, sparse, not numerous, yet enough to
irrigate the soil--enough to prove the inherent moral stock and
irrepressible devotional aspirations growing indigenously of
themselves, always advancing, and never utterly gone under or lost.

Always E.H. gives the service of pointing to the fountain of all naked
theology, all religion, all worship, all the truth to which you are
possibly eligible--namely in _yourself_ and your inherent relations.
Others talk of Bibles, saints, churches, exhortations, vicarious
atonements--the canons outside of yourself and apart from man--E.H.
to the religion inside of man's very own nature. This he incessantly
labors to kindle, nourish, educate, bring forward and strengthen. He
is the most _democratic_ of the religionists--the prophets.

I have no doubt that both the curious fate and death of his four sons,
and the facts (and dwelling on them) of George Fox's strange early
life, and permanent "conversion," had much to do with the peculiar and
sombre ministry and style of E.H. from the first, and confirmed him
all through. One must not be dominated by the man's almost absurd
saturation in cut and dried biblical phraseology, and in ways, talk,
and standard, regardful mainly of the one need he dwelt on, above all
the rest. This main need he drove home to the soul; the canting and
sermonizing soon exhale away to any auditor that realizes what E.H.
is for and after. The present paper, (a broken memorandum of his
formation, his earlier life,) is the cross-notch that rude wanderers
make in the woods, to remind them afterward of some matter of
first-rate importance and full investigation. (Remember too, that E.H.
was _a thorough believer in the Hebrew Scriptures_, in his way.)

The following are really but disjointed fragments recall'd to
serve and eke out here the lank printed pages of what I commenc'd
unwittingly two months ago. Now, as I am well in for it, comes an old
attack, the sixth or seventh recurrence, of my war-paralysis, dulling
me from putting the notes in shape, and threatening any further
action, head or body. _W.W., Camden, N.J., July, 1888_.

To begin with, my theme is comparatively featureless. The great
historian has pass'd by the life of Elias Hicks quite without glance
or touch. Yet a man might commence and overhaul it as furnishing
one of the amplest historic and biography's backgrounds. While the
foremost actors and events from 1750 to 1830 both in Europe and
America were crowding each other on the world's stage--While so
many kings, queens, soldiers, philosophs, musicians, voyagers,
litterateurs, enter one side, cross the boards, and disappear--amid
loudest reverberating names--Frederick the Great, Swedenborg, Junius,
Voltaire, Rousseau, Linnaeus, Herschel--curiously contemporary with
the long life of Goethe--through the occupancy of the British throne
by George the Third--amid stupendous visible political and social
revolutions, and far more stupendous invisible moral ones--while the
many quarto volumes of the Encyclopaedia Francaise are being published
at fits and intervals, by Diderot, in Paris--while Haydn and
Beethoven and Mozart and Weber are working out their harmonic
compositions--while Mrs. Siddons and Talma and Kean are acting--while
Mungo Park explores Africa, and Capt. Cook circumnavigates the
globe--through all the fortunes of the American Revolution, the
beginning, continuation and end, the battle of Brooklyn, the surrender
at Saratoga, the final peace of '83--through the lurid tempest of the
French Revolution, the execution of the king and queen, and the Reign
of Terror--through the whole of the meteor-career of Napoleon--through
all Washington's, Adams's, Jefferson's, Madison's, and Monroe's
Presidentiads--amid so many flashing lists of names, (indeed there
seems hardly, in any department, any end to them, Old World or New,)
Franklin, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mirabeau, Fox, Nelson, Paul Jones,
Kant, Fichte, and Hegel, Fulton, Walter Scott, Byron, Mesmer,
Champollion--Amid pictures that dart upon me even as I speak, and glow
and mix and coruscate and fade like aurora boreales--Louis the 16th
threaten'd by the mob, the trial of Warren Hastings, the death-bed
of Robert Burns, Wellington at Waterloo, Decatur capturing the
Macedonian, or the sea-fight between the Chesapeake and the
Shannon--During all these whiles,

I say, and though on a far different grade, running parallel and
contemporary with all--a curious, quiet yet busy life centred in a
little country village on Long Island, and within sound on still
nights of the mystic surf-beat of the sea. About this life, this
Personality--neither soldier, nor scientist, nor litterateur--I
propose to occupy a few minutes in fragmentary talk, to give some few
melanges, disconnected impressions, statistics, resultant groups,
pictures, thoughts' of him, or radiating from him.

Elias Hicks was born March 19, 1748, in Hempstead township, Queens
county, Long Island, New York State, near a village bearing the old
Scripture name of Jericho, (a mile or so north and east of the present
Hicksville, on the L.I. Railroad.) His father and mother were Friends,
of that class working with their own hands, and mark'd by neither
riches nor actual poverty. Elias as a child and youth had small
education from letters, but largely learn'd from Nature's schooling.
He grew up even in his ladhood a thorough gunner and fisherman. The
farm of his parents lay on the south or sea-shore side of Long Island,
(they had early removed from Jericho,) one of the best regions in the
world for wild fowl and for fishing. Elias became a good horseman,
too, and knew the animal well, riding races; also a singer fond of
"vain songs," as he afterwards calls them; a dancer, too, at the
country balls. When a boy of 13 he had gone to live with an elder
brother; and when about 17 he changed again and went as apprentice
to the carpenter's trade. The time of all this was before the
Revolutionary War, and the locality 30 to 40 miles from New York city.
My great-grandfather, Whitman, was often with Elias at these periods,
and at merry-makings and sleigh-rides in winter over "the plains."

How well I remember the region--the flat plains of the middle of Long
Island, as then, with their prairie-like vistas and grassy patches in
every direction, and the 'kill-calf' and herds of cattle and sheep.
Then the South Bay and shores and the salt meadows, and the sedgy
smell, and numberless little bayous and hummock-islands in the waters,
the habitat of every sort of fish and aquatic fowl of North America.
And the bay men--a strong, wild, peculiar race--now extinct, or rather
entirely changed. And the beach outside the sandy bars, sometimes many
miles at a stretch, with their old history of wrecks and storms--the
weird, white-gray beach--not without its tales of pathos--tales, too,
of grandest heroes and heroisms. In such scenes and elements and
influences--in the midst of Nature and along the shores of the
sea--Elias Hicks was fashion'd through boyhood and early manhood, to
maturity. But a moral and mental and emotional change was imminent.
Along at this time he says:

My apprenticeship being now expir'd, I gradually withdrew from
the company of my former associates, became more acquainted with
Friends, and was more frequent in my attendance of meetings; and
although this was in some degree profitable to me, yet I made but
slow progress in my religious improvement. The occupation of part of
my time in fishing and fowling had frequently tended to preser
me from falling into hurtful associations; but through the rising
intimations and reproofs of divine grace in my heart, I now began to
feel that the manner in which I sometimes amus'd myself with my gun
was not without sin; for although I mostly preferr'd going alone,
and while waiting in stillness for the coming of the fowl,
mind was at times so taken up in divine meditations, that the
opportunities were seasons of instruction and comfort to me; yet, on
other occasions, when accompanied by some of my acquaintances, and
when no fowls appear'd which would be useful to us after being
obtain'd, we sometimes, from wantonness or for mere diversion, would
destroy the small birds which could be of no service to us. This
cruel procedure affects my heart while penning these lines.

In his 23d year Elias was married, by the Friends' ceremony, to Jemima
Seaman. His wife was an only child; the parents were well off for
common people, and at their request the son-in-law mov'd home with
them and carried on the farm--which at their decease became his own,
and he liv'd there all his remaining life. Of this matrimonial part of
his career, (it continued, and with unusual happiness, for 58 years,)
he says, giving the account of his marriage:

On this important occasion, we felt the clear and consoling evidence
of divine truth, and it remain'd with us as a seal upon our spirits,
strengthening us mutually to bear, with becoming fortitude, the
vicissitudes and trials which fell to our lot, and of which we h
a large share in passing through this probationary state. My wife,
although not of a very strong constitution, liv'd to be the mother
of eleven children, four sons and seven daughters. Our second
daughter, a very lovely, promising child, died when young, with the
small-pox, and the youngest was not living at its birth. The rest
all arriv'd to years of discretion, and afforded us considerable
comfort, as they prov'd to be in a good degree dutiful children. All
our sons, however, were of weak constitutions, and were not able to
take care of themselves, being so enfeebl'd as not to be able to
walk after the ninth or tenth year of their age. The two eldest died
in the fifteenth year of their age, the third in his seventeenth
year, and the youngest was nearly nineteen when he died. But,
although thus helpless, the innocency of their lives, and the
resign'd cheerfulness of their dispositions to their allotments,
made the labor and toil of taking care of them agreeable and
pleasant; and I trust we were preserv'd from murmuring or repining,
believing the dispensation to be in wisdom, and according to the
will and gracious disposing of an all-wise providence, for purposes
best known to himself. And when I have observ'd the great anxiety
and affliction which many parents have with undutiful children who
are favor'd with health, especially their sons, I could perceive
very few whose troubles and exercises, on that account, did not far
exceed ours. The weakness and bodily infirmity of our sons tended to
keep them much out of the way of the troubles and temptations
the world; and we believ'd that in their death they were happy, and
admitted into the realms of peace and joy: a reflection, the most
comfortable and joyous that parents can have in regard to their
tender offspring.

Of a serious and reflective turn, by nature, and from his reading and
surroundings, Elias had more than once markedly devotional inward
intimations. These feelings increas'd in frequency and strength, until
soon the following:

About the twenty-sixth year of my age I was again brought, by the
operative influence of divine grace, under deep concern of mind; and
was led, through adorable mercy, to see, that although I had ceas'd
from many sins and vanities of my youth, yet there were many
remaining that I was still guilty of, which were not yet aton'd for,
and for which I now felt the judgments of God to rest upon m
This caus'd me to cry earnestly to the Most High for pardon and
redemption, and he graciously condescended to hear my cry, and to
open a way before me, wherein I must walk, in order to experience
reconciliation with him; and as I abode in watchfulness and deep
humiliation before him, light broke forth out of obscurity, and my
darkness became as the noon-day. I began to have openings leading to
the ministry, which brought me under close exercise and deep travail
of spirit; for although I had for some time spoken on subjects of
business in monthly and preparative meetings, yet the prospe
of opening my mouth in public meetings was a close trial; but I
endeavor'd to keep my mind quiet and resign' d to the heavenly call,
if it should be made clear to me to be my duty. Nevertheless,
I was, soon after, sitting in a meeting, in much weightiness of
spirit, a secret, though clear, intimation accompanied me to spe
a few words, which were then given to me to utter, yet fear so
prevail'd, that I did not yield to the intimation. For this
omission, I felt close rebuke, and judgment seem'd, for some time,
to cover my mind; but as I humbl'd myself under the Lord's mighty
hand, he again lifted up the light of his countenance upon me, and
enabl'd me to renew covenant with him, that if he would pass by this
my offence, I would, in future, be faithful, if he should again
require such a service of me.

The Revolutionary War following, tried the sect of Friends more
than any. The difficulty was to steer between their convictions as
patriots, and their pledges of non-warring peace. Here is the way they
solv'd the problem:

A war, with all its cruel and destructive effects, having raged for
several years between the British Colonies in North America and the
mother country, Friends, as well as others, were expos' d to many
severe trials and sufferings; yet, in the colony of New York,
Friends, who stood faithful to their principles, and did not meddle
in the controversy, had, after a short period at first, considerable
favor allow'd them. The yearly meeting was held steadily, duri
the war, on Long Island, where the king's party had the rule; yet
Friends from the Main, where the American army ruled, had free
passage through both armies to attend it, and any other meetings
they were desirous of attending, except in a few instances. This was
a favor which the parties would not grant to their best friends, who
were of a war-like disposition; which shows what great advantages
would redound to mankind, were they all of this pacific spirit. I
pass'd myself through the lines of both armies six times during the
war, without molestation, both parties generally receiving me with
openness and civility; and although I had to pass over a tract of
country, between the two armies, sometimes more than thirty miles in
extent, and which was much frequented by robbers, a set, in general,
of cruel, unprincipled banditti, issuing out from both partie
yet, excepting once, I met with no interruption even from the
But although Friends in general experienc'd many favors and
deliverances, yet those scenes of war and confusion occasion
many trials and provings in various ways to the faithful. One
circumstance I am willing to mention, as it caus'd me considerable
exercise and concern. There was a large cellar under the new
meeting-house belonging to Friends in New York, which was generally
let as a store. When the king's troops enter'd the city, they took
possession of it for the purpose of depositing their warlike stores;
and ascertaining what Friends had the care of letting it, their
commissary came forward and offer'd to pay the rent; and those
Friends, for want of due consideration, accepted it. This caus'd
great uneasiness to the concern'd part of the Society, who
apprehended it not consistent with our peaceable principles to
receive payment for the depositing of military stores in our houses.
The subject was brought before the yearly meeting in 1779, and
engag'd its careful attention; but those Friends, who had been
active in the reception of the money, and some few others, were not
willing to acknowledge their proceedings to be inconsistent, nor to
return the money to those from whom it was receiv'd; and in order to
justify themselves therein, they referr'd to the conduct of Friends
in Philadelphia in similar cases. Matters thus appearing very
difficult and embarrassing, it was unitedly concluded to refer the
final determination thereof to the yearly meeting of Pennsylvania;
and several Friends were appointed to attend that meeting in
relation thereto, among whom I was one of the number. We accordingly
set out on the 9th day of the 9th month, 1779, and I was accompanied
from home by my beloved friend John Willis, who was likewise on the
appointment. We took a solemn leave of our families, they feeling
much anxiety at parting with us, on account of the dangers we were
expos'd to, having to pass not only the lines of the two armies, but
the deserted and almost uninhabited country that lay between them,
in many places the grass being grown up in the streets, and many
houses desolate and empty. Believing it, however, my duty to proceed
in the service, my mind was so settled and trust-fix'd in the divine
arm of power, that faith seem'd to banish all fear, and cheerfulness
and quiet resignation were, I believe, my constant companions during
the journey. We got permission, with but little difficulty, to pass

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