Walt Whitman believed in the power of kind attention and “personal magnetism” to help wounded and ill soldiers heal. He visited the hospitals of Washington almost daily, using this leather haversack as a cornucopia of food and small gifts to lift the spirits or improve the health and comfort of the patients in the wards. “It is a comfort & delight to me to minister to them” he told William Davis, who sent a donation in response to Whitman’s fundraising appeals on behalf of the wounded. Whitman sat by the bedsides of the sick, wrote letters home for the wounded, and held the hands of the dying.

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