Ashes of Soldiers “The War of Attempted Secession has, of course, been the distinguishing event of my time,” wrote Walt Whitman after the struggle was over. “I commenced at the close of 1862, and continued steadily through ’63, ’64, and ’65, to visit the sick and wounded of the army, both on the field and in the hospitals in and around Washington City. From the first I kept little notebooks . . .” These notebooks as well as newspaper dispatches and letters of America’s great poet of democracy form a moving portrait of the personal side of the Civil War. For three years Whitman was a voluntary visitor and “consolant” to the wounded soldiers in Washington hospitals; occasionally he visited the battlefront. His record of ministering to young soldiers in their critical moments of courage and suffering is one of the most tender accounts of war’s consequences. These excerpts are drawn from The Wound Dresser, a collection published in 1898.