Yet Whitman made a much different mark on our country during the Civil War, as a nurse’s aide and hospice caregiver. His kindnesses touched hundreds of injured, wounded and dying soldiers in army hospitals in Virginia and the District of Columbia after the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
My great-great grand-uncle, Ephraim Miner, of Somerset County, was one soldier whose path crossed Whitman’s. He kept wartime diaries — likely in notebooks provided by Whitman himself — and I published them last year. While my uncle does not write about the poet, the overlap of their experiences suggests they knew each other briefly, and that this resulted in a rich written Civil War legacy from an otherwise very private farmboy.