The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War

The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War

by Roy Morris


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The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I am not a frequent reader of poetry, I am enamored with both History and Biography, and that is what drew my interest to 'The Better Angel' by Mr. Roy Morris Jr. My knowledge of this Country's notable poets and their work is a void in my reading. Were there to be more books written in this manner it is a gap I believe that would be lessened. I did not expect to read Mr. Whitman's work to any extent as I thought this was a biography of a time period in the poet's life. Mr. Morris does indeed share a great deal about a familiar name in American Literature; he also selectively uses the work of Mr. Whitman, and finally places it all within the context of the deadliest war this Country has ever fought. Approximately 750,00 died in our Civil War. The numbers were so astronomically high due to the nature of the fighting, the ammunition used, and the medical profession's ignorance of even the most basic hygiene, infection, the inability to care for those wounded expeditiously, and the use of medicines that poisoned as often as they helped. Dysentery killed 100,000; one particularly virulent infection, Pyemia claimed 97.4% of those infected. Tetanus was also responsible for killing 89% of its victims. I take the space to mention these statistics, as this was the environment that Mr. Whitman made a major part of his life for years, and many consider this same commitment caused his lingering illnesses and finally his death. While it is true he introduced many to ice cream, brought with him countless small gifts, including a requested toothpick, his time and the comfort he gave to these soldiers made him a hero to thousands forever. All too many times his act was to sit with the dying so that they did not do so alone. He wrote countless letters for those too injured or unable to do so for themselves. He visited the families of some who had been slain. He was a man torn by his personal feelings about the war, the price it exacted, and what was bought. The man was very complex in his thoughts and the angst and contradiction he was forced to deal with. He had a Brother who fought for nearly the entire war, was for a time a prisoner but ultimately survived. He Family in New York included a Mother he loved, and a Brother who slipped into madness and violence as the disease that consumed him advanced. This is not a lengthy book, but it provides a well-written documentary on a portion of this famous man's life. It puts some of his work into the context from which it was created, and how the same circumstances so affected the poet. There was one facet of Mr. Whitman that was mentioned and associated so many times that it began to sound defensive. I suggest this part of the man need not be defended, as it did not add or subtract from his deeds, and while it certainly was part of his writing, his works were not the focus of this book. Long after Mr. Whitman died he lived on in the children grateful soldiers had named after him who lived from Syracuse New York to Kentucky, and one imagines many points between.