I am indebted to Other Sam for drawing my attention to this very moving detail. One of the best things I saw at the Library of Congress was Whitman’s letter of December 29, 1862 (that is, exactly 106 years before the day I was born), to his mother about finding George in Fredericksburg. We were able to read aloud his words about the suffering of the soldiers putting other suffering into perspective. We have read this letter in a collected of selected letters: “Dear, dear Mother, . . . I succeeded in reaching the 51st New York, and found George alive and well–in order to make sure that you would get the good news, I sent back by messenger to Washington (I dare say you did not get it for some time), a telegraphic dispatch . . .” What is not visible in that version of the letter is the revision Whitman made, no doubt anticipating the anxiety with which his mother would scan the letter if she had not received the “telegraphic dispatch” or was desperate for information about her wounded son. Lovely:
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