The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Walt and the Other Whitmans

Do we have other family stories that indicate the strain and stress of the war?

We have so many that one can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer mass of data. One that really strikes the modern reader, however, is the story of the Whitman family of Brooklyn, New York.

Walter Whitman Sr. and Louisa Van Velsor had nine children, eight of whom lived to maturity. He was a master carpenter in Brooklyn, and she was—by all accounts—the steady rock of the family. When the Civil War began, the Whitmans were already under a good deal of strain because the eldest son, Jesse, had been injured while at sea, and the youngest son, Edward, had been born a cripple. As difficult as this sounds to us today, it was by no means uncommon in the nineteenth century, and the Whitmans did not consider themselves a “troubled” group.


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