Walt Whitman Civil War Letter

Value (2016) | $8,000 Retail$12,000 Retail

It was written by Walt Whitman to my mom's great-great-great-grandfather. Walt Whitman would go around, as I understand, and would be the scribe for injured soldiers in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War. And this young man was a foster child in that family. The letter has been in my family all along. It sat in a closet for years and years. And I'd like to know more about it. And I did see that the date on it is the 12th, and the young man who it was being written for died just about ten days later. So it's kind of sad, too.

The letter is dated in 1863 in Washington. A lot of soldiers either got sick, wounded, hurt, and they had to come off the battlefield, and were in the hospital. Now, Walt Whitman, he had a brother in the Civil War.


And the brother got wounded. Walt Whitman went down to find his brother to see how he was. Found him alive, fortunately. But in the trip, he saw the amputations, the wounding, he saw the destruction, and he immediately wanted to help. One of the things he did was, soldiers who were too sick to write home, he would sit there and write letters for them. They would transcribe it, give him his thoughts. Maybe he helped with the language. So when you brought me this letter, I saw that it was signed, "Albion Hubbard." But when we first looked at it, the handwriting... I know that handwriting. And then, of course, you drop down a little. "Written by Walt Whitman, a friend." And you see, this is all in Walt Whitman's handwriting. It's not just the front, but it's a longer letter. He's talking about, "Please... family, please write to me, I miss you, write me long letters." And then, what really adds to the tragedy is he says, "My diarrhea is still somewhat troublesome, yet I feel in pretty good spirits." It didn't get better, and he died within two weeks. Walt Whitman letters are great when he's talking about literature. But I did a lot of checking, and I didn't find hardly any letters that he wrote for the patients. And he obviously did a lot, but people weren't necessarily saving them, because they weren't Walt Whitman letters, per se, they were the family...


I would say that a collector would easily pay in the $8,000 to $12,000 retail range.

Oh, my gosh. That's wild. I never would have thought that.

Appraisal Details

Brattle Book Shop
Boston, MA
Update (2016)
$8,000 Retail$12,000 Retail
Appraised value (2014)
$8,000 Retail$12,000 Retail
Chicago, IL (July 26, 2014)
January 23, 2017: Transcript of Albion Hubbard Letter, Dictated to Walt Whitman

Friday evening June 12th 1863

Dear friend,

As I have a favorable opportunity, by means of a visitor to the hospital, who is now sitting by the side of my bed, I write you again, making the second time this week, to let you know that I am tolerably comfortable, have good care & medical attendance & hope to be up before long — have been up & moving around the ward both this forenoon & afternoon — though I move around pretty slow, as I am weak yet — a member of the Massachusetts Relief Society has called upon me & given me a few trifles.

Dear friend, I wish you would say to Mrs Rice I send her my best love & respects — I send my love to Horace, also to Charles & Mrs Clare — I would like so much to see the face of a friend, — I wish you would write me a good long letter, some of you my dear friends, as a letter from home is very acceptable in hospital.

My diarrhea is still somewhat troublesome yet I feel in pretty good spirits — I send you an envelope with my address on — Keep a copy of it — & this one you please put a stamp on & write to me — Please give my love to the friends in the village & tell them I should like to hear from them, & give them my direction here in hospital — Good bye for the present

Albion F Hubbard

written by Walt Whitman, a friend.

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