The Sacrificial Years: A Chronicle of Walt Whitman's Experiences in the Civil War Hardcover – Mar 1999
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Walt Whitman served as a volunteer nurse in Civil War hospitals from 1862 through 1865. He recorded his experiences in hundreds of letters and "memoranda" describing the suffering and heroism of both Union and Confederate soldiers. Although some of this material has been previously published, it has never before appeared in the chronological sequence of the events described, thus producing the effect of a diary--something Whitman didn't keep (but wished he had) during the war years. Accompanying the text are a series of 50 painstakingly reproduced period photographs capturing both the field hospitals where Whitman worked and the war leaders (Lincoln, Grant, Lee) he discusses. The vividly written text reflects the author's reverence for the details of life (and death) in the hospitals. Whitman's grasp of specifics is reminiscent of Hemingway's similar approach to documenting the physical sights, sounds, and smells of the battlefield. There is much here of interest to both Civil War buffs and students of Whitman. Bill Ott
From Kirkus Reviews
The sight of defeated soldiers returning from battle is one America hasnt seen on its own turf since the Civil War. Its a sight that was vividly recorded by Walt Whitman, whose letters, newspaper articles, and other writings from the war are collected here chronologically for the first time. His descriptions are immediate and chilling. Here are soldiers in the wake of the first battle of Bull Run: During the forenoon Washington gets all over motley with these defeated soldiersqueer-looking objects, strange eyes and faces, drenchd (the steady rain drizzles on all day) and fearfully worn, hungry, haggard, blisterd in the feet. So compelled was he by the sight of wounded and dying soldiers that he volunteered as a nurse to attempt to relieve their suffering. Editor McElroy, professor emeritus of American literature at the University of Arizona, gathers here Whitmans dispatches from his years of service, 186166. The great poets admiration for those who have seen battle will resound today, when we are re- learning respect for the silent heroism of American GIs: There is something majestic about a man who has borne his part in battles, especially if he is very quiet regarding it when you desire him to unbosom. I am continually lost at the absence of blowing and blowers among the old-young American militaires. (16 pages b&w illustrations) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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