The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Walt and the Other Whitmans

What happened to the Whitman family after the war?

George Whitman survived the war and lived for another decade. He remained, to the end of his life, deeply proud of what he had done for the cause of the Union. Walt Whitman suffered a serious stroke in 1864, and was never the same—physically—afterward, but he continued to turn out marvelous poetry, including the most famous of all poems having to do with Lincoln’s assassination (see page 336). Jesse Whitman, the eldest son who had suffered an accident at sea, was placed in an asylum by his brother Walt; he died there a few years afterward. The youngest son, Edward, was cared for by family members till the end of his days. Perhaps the saddest story is that of Hannah Whitman, the bright, vivacious, well-educated daughter who ended up in a childless and loveless marriage. Perhaps the most surprising story of all is that of Jeff Whitman, a brilliant, self-taught engineer who designed, among other things, the waterworks in St. Louis, Missouri.


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