Walt Whitman, New York, 1887, by George C. Cox (Library of Congress)
The years from 1863 to 1873 were a tumultuous time for Washington, D.C., as it evolved from the anxious capital of a divided nation to a booming postwar town filled with contentious politicians trying to rebuild a devastated nation. It was also a pivotal time for poet Walt Whitman who came to Washington as a “hospital missionary” who carved out a role as a nurse to the war’s many sick and wounded.
During those years, Whitman also met the love of his life, Peter Doyle, began work as a federal clerk, and built a community through his literary circle, eventually becoming one of the nation’s best-loved poets.
Historian Garrett Peck, author of Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C.: The Civil War and America’s Great Poet, examines the personal and creative transformation Whitman underwent during his decade in the nation’s capital. He also retraces his years in Civil War-era Washington, exploring the many places Whitman worked and other sites that bring the period and the poet to life.
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