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‘Written by … a friend’

Rare letter from Walt Whitman discovered

Walt Whitman.
The newly discovered note is one of three “soldier letters” by Walt Whitman.

The National Archives recently discovered a rare letter written by poet and journalist Walt Whitman on behalf of a dying, illiterate Civil War soldier.

“It’s just simply stunning,” Jackie Budell, an archive specialist, told The Washington Post last week.

Whitman regularly visited wounded soldiers and penned letters for them.

The newly discovered note, dated Jan. 21, 1866, reads in part: “I am mustered out of the service but am not at present well enough to come home. I hope you will try to write back as soon.”

It ends with the postscript: “Written by Walt Whitman, a friend.”

A researcher discovered the letter while sorting through Civil War pension files at the Washington, DC-based archives, which serve as a repository for the nation’s most important documents.

“Soldier letters” from the “Leaves of Grass” author are rare. Only two others are known to exist.

“We’re not going to find another one like this, probably, for a while,” Budell said.

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