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Civil War records written by Walt Whitman unveiled

Apr 12, 2011 3:42:00 PM - thestate.com
A scholar who uncovered extensive Civil War records handwritten by Walt Whitman unveiled his findings Tuesday at the National Archives, saying they can reveal how the famous author's work as a government clerk influenced his poetry and life.

Literature Professor Kenneth Price of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln made an early discovery in 2008 and kept searching on eight different trips to the Archives II facility in College Park, Md. He eventually identified 3,000 documents Whitman wrote as a clerk in the U.S. Attorney General's office.

"It's a fascinating insight onto the Civil War, other than the battles and the generals, of a major literary and intellectual figure," Price said Tuesday.

Whitman's government work has mostly been glossed over by biographers. Many references suggested he was casual about the position, working a few hours and leaving when he wanted, Price said. The amount of material he produced, though, was "staggering" and must have been a serious undertaking, Price said.

Whitman lived in Washington for 10 years during the Civil War and the postwar years of Reconstruction. He was known for visiting thousands of wounded soldiers from both North and South, at times drafting letters for them.

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