Library of Congress


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Walt Whitman, half-length portrait, seated, facing left, wearing hat and sweater, holding butterfly

[Detail] Walt Whitman holding butterfly

Historical Comprehension

Students can use Whitman's notes from his hospital visits to understand what it was like to live at the time of the Civil War, to serve in the army, and to be at an army hospital. Have them read from the following pages and consider the following questions. Then, reading Whitman's post-Civil War writings, students can discuss what influences they see from his experience of visiting the hospitals.

  • What sorts of things did the soldiers request? What would you request today, if you were in a hospital? How many of those things would have been available during the Civil War?
  • What was the typical experience of a wounded soldier in an army hospital given the state of medical knowledge and available supplies? How does this experience compare to that of soldiers wounded in later wars?