Walt Whitman: Poems

Walt Whitman and the Civil War

1. Introduction

In the course of history, there are certain incisive incidents that mark a period, ring in a new era or alter people's individual lives most drastically. One such incident is the American Civil War (1861-1865), fought over issues such as slavery, cultural differences and political power (cf. Boyer et al., 230-319). “The Civil War, engulfing two economies and societies, extended far beyond the battlefields” (Boyer et al., 310), therefore, its devastating and disastrous effect on the American people was inevitable. Ordinary men, women and children suddenly found themselves trapped in the midst of a violent conflict that not only split up the nation, but that also increasingly intruded families' lives and in numerous cases even tore them apart.

For Walt Whitman, one of the initial experiences concerning the Civil War was the enrollment of his brothers George and Andrew, (cf. Folsom/Price, 77) while he himself focused on “writing some extended newspaper pieces about the history of Brooklyn for the Brooklyn Daily Standard” (Folsom/Price, 77). Furthermore, “[h]e began visiting wounded soldiers who were moved to New York hospitals, and he wrote about them in a series called 'City Photographs' that he...

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