Whitman, Walt. Letter to Hugo Fritsch. 1863. 125-127.
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This letter from Walt Whitman to Hugo Fritsch was sent on August 7, 1863.
To Hugo Fritsch
ENDORSED (by ww): "To Hugo|Aug 7 '63."
I rec'd a letter from Bloom yesterday-but, before responding to it (which I will do soon) I must write to you, my friend. Your good letter of June 27th was duly rec'd-I have read it many times-indeed, Hugo, you know not how much comfort you give, by writing me your letters-posting me up.
Well, Hugo, I am still as much as ever, indeed more, in the great military hospitals here. Every day or night I spend four, five, or six hours, among my sick, wounded, prostrate boys. It is fascinating, sad, & with varied fortune of course. Some of my boys get well, some die. After I finish this letter (and then dining at a restaurant), I shall give the latter part of the afternoon & some hours of the night to Armory Square Hospital, a large establishment & one I find most calling on my sympathies & ministrations. I am welcomed by the surgeons as by the soldiers-very grateful to me. You must remember that these government hospitals are not filled as with human debris like the old established city hospitals, New York, &c., but mostly these good-born American young men, appealing to me most profoundly, good stock, often mere boys, full of sweetness & heroism -often they seem very near to me, even as my own children or younger brothers. I make no bones of petting them just as if they were-have long given up formalities & reserves in my treatment of them.
Let me see, Hugo. I will not write any thing about the topics of the horrible riots of last week, nor Gen. Meade, nor Vicksburgh, nor Charleston-I leave them to the newspapers. Nor will I write you this time so much about hospitals as I did last. Tell Fred his letter was received-I appreciate it, received real pleasure from it-`twas a true friend's letter, characteristic, full of vivacity, off hand, & below all a thorough base of genuine remembrance & good will--was not wanting in the sentimental either-(so I take back all abaut the apostate, do you understand, Freddy, my dear?) - & only write this for you till I reply to that said letter a good long (especial) missive to yourself.
I meant to . . . Nat Bloom that if he expects to provoke me into a dignified not mentioning him, nor writing any thing about him, by his studious course of heart-breaking neglect, (which has already reduced me to a skeleton of but little over 200 lbs & a countenance of raging hectic, indicating an early grave), I was determined not to do any thing of the sort, but shall speak of him every time, & send him my love, just as if he were adorned with faithful troth instead of (as I understand) beautiful whiskers -Does he think that beautiful whiskers can fend off the pangs of remorse? In conclusion I have to say, Nathaniel, you just keep on if you think there's no hell.
Hugo, I suppose you were at Charles Chauncey's funeral-tell me all you hear about the particulars of his death-Tell me of course all about the boys, what you do, say, any thing, every thing- Hugo, write oftener-you express your thoughts perfectly-do you not know how much more agreeable to me is the conversation or writing that does not take hard paved tracks, the usual & stereotyped, but has little peculiarities & even kinks of its own, making its genuineness-its vitality? Dear friend, your letters are precious to me-none I have received from any one are more so.
Ah, I see in your letter, Hugo, you speak of my being reformed-no, I am not so frightfully reformed either, only the hot weather here does not admit of drinking heavy drinks, & there is no good lager here-then besides I have no society-I expect to prove to you & all yet that I am no backslider-But here I go nowhere for mere amusement, only occasionally a walk.
And Charles Russell-how I should like to see him-how like to have one of our old times again-Ah Fred, and you, my dear Hugo, & you repentant one with the dark-shining whiskers-must there not be an hour, an evening in the future, when we four returning concentrating New York- ward or elsewhere, shall meet, allowing no interloper, & have our drinks & things, & resume the chain & consolidate & achieve a night better & mellower than ever-we four? Hugo, I wish you to give my love to all the boys-I received a letter from Ben Knower, very good-I shall answer it soon-Give my love to Ben-If Charles Kingsley is in town same to him-ditto Mullen-ditto Perk, (I hope to hear that sweet, sweet fiddler one of these days. that strain again.) I wish to have Fred Gray say something from me, giving my love to his mother & father-I bear them both in mind-I count on having good interviews with them when I see New York.