Specimen Days

Specimen Days first appeared in 1882 within a volume entitled Specimen Days & Collect, published by Rees Welsh and Company in Philadelphia. Composed in 1881 largely out of notes, sketches, and essays written at various stages of the poet's life from the Civil War on, it is the closest thing to a conventional autobiography Whitman ever published.

1. A Happy Hour’s Command

DOWN in the Woods, July 2d, 1882.—If I do it at all I must delay no longer. Incongruous and full ...

2. Answer to an Insisting Friend

YOU ask for items, details of my early life—of genealogy and parentage, particularly of the women...

3. Genealogy—Van Velsor and Whitman

THE LATER years of the last century found the Van Velsor family, my mother’s side, living on thei...

4. The Old Whitman and Van Velsor Cemeteries

July 29, 1881.—AFTER more than forty years’ absence, (except a brief visit, to take my father the...

5. The Maternal Homestead

I WENT down from this ancient grave place eighty or ninety rods to the site of the Van Velsor hom...

6. Two Old Family Interiors

OF the domestic and inside life of the middle of Long Island, at and just before that time, here ...

7. Paumanok, and My Life on It as Child and Young Man

WORTH fully and particularly investigating indeed this Paumanok, (to give the spot its aboriginal...

8. My First Reading—Lafayette

FROM 1824 to ’28 our family lived in Brooklyn in Front, Cranberry and Johnson streets. In the lat...

9. Printing Office—Old Brooklyn

AFTER about two years went to work in a weekly newspaper and printing office, to learn the trade....

10. Growth—Health—Work

I DEVELOP’D (1833–4–5) into a healthy, strong youth (grew too fast, though, was nearly as big as ...

11. My Passion for Ferries

LIVING in Brooklyn or New York city from this time forward, my life, then, and still more the fol...

12. Broadway Sights

BESIDES Fulton ferry, off and on for years, I knew and frequented Broadway—that noted avenue of N...

13. Omnibus Jaunts and Drivers

ONE phase of those days must by no means go unrecorded—namely, the Broadway omnibuses, with their...

14. Plays and Operas Too

AND certain actors and singers, had a good deal to do with the business. All through these years,...

15. Through Eight Years

IN 1848, ’49, I was occupied as editor of the “daily Eagle” newspaper, in Brooklyn. The latter ye...

16. Sources of Character—Results—1860

TO sum up the foregoing from the outset (and, of course, far, far more unrecorded,) I estimate th...

17. Opening of the Secession War

NEWS of the attack on fort Sumter and the flag at Charleston harbor, S. C., was receiv’d in New Y...

18. National Uprising and Volunteering

I HAVE said somewhere that the three Presidentiads preceding 1861 show’d how the weakness and wic...

19. Contemptuous Feeling

EVEN after the bombardment of Sumter, however, the gravity of the revolt, and the power and will ...

20. Battle of Bull Run, July, 1861

ALL this sort of feeling was destin’d to be arrested and revers’d by a terrible shock—the battle ...

21. The Stupor Passes—Something Else Begins

BUT the hour, the day, the night pass’d, and whatever returns, an hour, a day, a night like that ...

22. Down at the Front

FALMOUTH, VA., opposite Fredericksburgh, December 21, 1862.—Begin my visits among the camp hospit...

23. After First Fredericksburg

December 23 to 31.—THE RESULTS of the late battle are exhibited everywhere about here in thousand...

24. Back to Washington

January, ’63.—LEFT camp at Falmouth, with some wounded, a few days since, and came here by Aquia ...

25. Fifty Hours Left Wounded on the Field

HERE is a case of a soldier I found among the crowded cots in the Patent-office. He likes to have...

26. Hospital Scenes and Persons

Letter Writing.—WHEN eligible, I encourage the men to write, and myself, when called upon, write ...

27. Patent-Office Hospital

February 23.—I MUST not let the great hospital at the Patent-office pass away without some mentio...

28. The White House by Moonlight

February 24th.—A SPELL of fine soft weather. I wander about a good deal, sometimes at night under...

29. An Army Hospital Ward

LET me specialize a visit I made to the collection of barrack-like one-story edifices, Campbell h...

30. A Connecticut Case

THIS young man in bed 25 is H. D. B., of the 27th Connecticut, company B. His folks live at North...

31. Two Brooklyn Boys

HERE in this same ward are two young men from Brooklyn, members of the 51st New York. I had known...

32. A Secesh Brave

THE GRAND soldiers are not comprised in those of one side, any more than the other. Here is a sam...

33. The Wounded from Chancellorsville

May, ’63.—AS I write this, the wounded have begun to arrive from Hooker’s command from bloody Cha...

34. A Night Battle, over a Week Since

May 12.—THERE was part of the late battle at Chancellorsville,(second Fredericksburgh,) a little ...

35. Unnamed Remains the Bravest Soldier

OF scenes like these, I say, who writes—whoe’er can write the story? Of many a score—aye, thousan...

36. Some Specimen Cases

June 18th.—IN one of the hospitals I find Thomas Haley, company M, 4th New York cavalry—a regular...

37. My Preparations for Visits

IN my visits to the hospitals I found it was in the simple matter of personal presence, and emana...

38. Ambulance Processions

June 25, Sundown.—AS I sit writing this paragraph I see a train of about thirty huge four-horse w...

39. Bad Wounds—The Young

THE SOLDIERS are nearly all young men, and far more American than is generally supposed—I should ...

40. The Most Inspiriting of All War’s Shows

June 29.—JUST before sundown this evening a very large cavalry force went by—a fine sight. The me...

41. Battle of Gettysburg

July 4th.—THE WEATHER to-day, upon the whole, is very fine, warm, but from a smart rain last nigh...

42. A Cavalry Camp

I AM writing this, nearly sundown, watching a cavalry company (acting Signal service,) just come ...

43. A New York Soldier

THIS afternoon, July 22d, I have spent a long time with Oscar F. Wilber, company G, 154th New Yor...

44. Home-Made Music

August 8th.—TO-NIGHT, as I was trying to keep cool, sitting by a wounded soldier in Armory-square...

45. Abraham Lincoln

August 12th.—I SEE the President almost every day, as I happen to live where he passes to or from...

46. Heated Term

THERE has lately been much suffering here from heat; we have had it upon us now eleven days. I go...

47. Soldiers and Talks

SOLDIERS, soldiers, soldiers, you meet everywhere about the city, often superb-looking men, thoug...

48. Death of a Wisconsin Officer

ANOTHER characteristic scene of that dark and bloody 1863, from notes of my visit to Armory-squar...

49. Hospitals Ensemble

Aug., Sep., and Oct., ’63.—I AM in the habit of going to all, and to Fairfax seminary, Alexandria...

50. A Silent Night Ramble

October 20th.—TO-NIGHT, after leaving the hospital at 10 o’clock, (I had been on self-imposed dut...

51. Spiritual Characters among the Soldiers

EVERY now and then, in hospital or camp, there are beings I meet—specimens of unworldliness, disi...

52. Cattle Droves about Washington

AMONG other sights are immense droves of cattle with their drivers, passing through the streets o...

53. Hospital Perplexity

TO add to other troubles, amid the confusion of this great army of sick, it is almost impossible ...

54. Down at the Front

CULPEPPER, VA., Feb. ’64.—HERE I am pretty well down toward the extreme front. Three or four days...

55. Paying the Bounties

ONE of the things to note here now is the arrival of the paymaster with his strong box, and the p...

56. Rumors, Changes, &c

ABOUT the excitement of Sunday, and the orders to be ready to start, I have heard since that the ...

57. Virginia

DILAPIDATED, fenceless, and trodden with war as Virginia is, wherever I move across her surface, ...

58. Summer of 1864

I AM back again in Washington, on my regular daily and nightly rounds. Of course there are many s...

59. A New Army Organization Fit for America

IT is plain to me out of the events of the war, north and south, and out of all considerations, t...

60. Death of a Hero

I WONDER if I could ever convey to another—to you, for instance, reader dear—the tender and terri...

61. Hospital Scenes—Incidents

IT is Sunday afternoon, middle of summer, hot and oppressive, and very silent through the ward. I...

62. A Yankee Soldier

AS I turn’d off the Avenue one cool October evening into Thirteenth street, a soldier with knapsa...

63. Union Prisoners South

MICHAEL STANSBURY, 48 years of age, a sea-faring man, a southerner by birth and raising, formerly...

64. Deserters

Oct. 24.—SAW a large squad of our own deserters, (over 300) surrounded with a cordon of arm’d gua...

65. A Glimpse of War’s Hell Scenes

IN one of the late movements of our troops in the valley, (near Upperville, I think,) a strong fo...

66. Gifts—Money—Discrimination

AS a very large proportion of the wounded came up from the front without a cent of money in their...

67. Items from My Note Books

SOME of the half-eras’d, and not over-legible when made, memoranda of things wanted by one patien...

68. A Case from Second Bull Run

WELL, poor John Mahay is dead. He died yesterday. His was a painful and long-lingering case, (see...

69. Army Surgeons—Aid Deficiencies

I MUST bear my most emphatic testimony to the zeal, manliness, and professional spirit and capaci...

70. The Blue Everywhere

THIS city, its suburbs, the capitol, the front of the White House, the places of amusement, the A...

71. A Model Hospital

Sunday, January 29th, 1865.—HAVE been in Armory-square this afternoon. The wards are very comfort...

72. Boys in the Army

AS I walk’d home about sunset, I saw in Fourteenth street a very young soldier, thinly clad, stan...

73. Burial of a Lady Nurse

HERE is an incident just occurr’d in one of the hospitals. A lady named Miss or Mrs. Billings, wh...

74. Female Nurses for Soldiers

THERE are many women in one position or another, among the hospitals, mostly as nurses here in Wa...

75. Southern Escapees

Feb. 23, ’65.—I SAW a large procession of young men from the rebel army, (deserters they are call...

76. The Capitol by Gas-Light

TO-NIGHT I have been wandering awhile in the capitol, which is all lit up. The illuminated rotund...

77. The Inauguration

March 4.—THE PRESIDENT very quietly rode down to the capitol in his own carriage, by himself, on ...

78. Attitude of Foreign Governments During the War

LOOKING over my scraps, I find I wrote the following during 1864. The happening to our America, a...

79. The Weather—Does It Sympathize with These Times?

WHETHER the rains, the heat and cold, and what underlies them all, are affected with what affects...

80. Inauguration Ball

March 6.—I HAVE been up to look at the dance and supper-rooms, for the inauguration ball at the P...

81. Scene at the Capitol

I MUST mention a strange scene at the capitol, the hall of Representatives, the morning of Saturd...

82. A Yankee Antique

March 27, 1865.—SERGEANT CALVIN F. HARLOWE, company C, 29th Massachusetts, 3d brigade, 1st divisi...

83. Wounds and Diseases

THE WAR is over, but the hospitals are fuller than ever, from former and current cases. A large m...

84. Death of President Lincoln

April 16, ’65.—I FIND in my notes of the time, this passage on the death of Abraham Lincoln: He l...

85. Sherman’s Army’s Jubilation—Its Sudden Stoppage

WHEN Sherman’s armies, (long after they left Atlanta,) were marching through South and North Caro...

86. No Good Portrait of Lincoln

PROBABLY the reader has seen physiognomies (often old farmers, sea-captains, and such) that, ;beh...

87. Releas’d Union Prisoners from South

THE RELEAS’D prisoners of war are now coming up from the southern prisons. I have seen a number o...

88. Death of a Pennsylvania Soldier

Frank H. Irwin, company E, 93d Pennsylvania—died May I, ’65—My letter to his mother.—DEAR MADAM: ...

89. The Armies Returning

May 7.—Sunday.—TO-DAY as I was walking a mile or two south of Alexandria, I fell in with several ...

90. The Grand Review

FOR two days now the broad spaces of Pennsylvania avenue along to Treasury hill, and so by detour...

91. Western Soldiers

May 26–7.—THE STREETS, the public buildings and grounds of Washington, still swarm with soldiers ...

92. A Soldier on Lincoln

May 28.—AS I sat by the beside of a sick Michigan soldier in hospital to-day, a convalescent from...

93. Two Brothers, One South, One North

May 28–9.—I STAID to-night a long time by the bedside of a new patient, a young Baltimorean, aged...

94. Some Sad Cases Yet

May 31.—JAMES H. WILLIAMS, aged 21, 3d Virginia cavalry.—About as mark’d a case of a strong man b...

95. Calhoun’s Real Monument

IN one of the hospital tents for special cases, as I sat to-day tending a new amputation, I heard...

96. Hospitals Closing

October 3.—THERE are two army hospitals now remaining. I went to the largest of these (Douglas) a...

97. Typical Soldiers

EVEN the typical soldiers I have been personally intimate with,—it seems to me if I were to make ...

98. “Convulsiveness”

AS I have look’d over the proof-sheets of the preceding pages, I have once or twice fear’d that m...

99. Three Years Summ’d Up

DURING those three years in hospital, camp or field, I made over six hundred visits or tours, and...

100. The Million Dead, Too, Summ’d Up

THE DEAD in this war—there they lie, strewing the fields and woods and valleys and battle-fields ...

101. The Real War Will Never Get in the Books

AND so good-bye to the war. I know not how it may have been, or may be, to others—to me the main ...

102. An Interregnum Paragraph

SEVERAL years now elapse before I resume my diary. I continued at Washington working in the Attor...

103. New Themes Entered Upon

1876, ’77.—I FIND the woods in mid-May and early June my best places for composition. 1 Seated on...

104. Entering a Long Farm-Lane

AS every man has his hobby-liking, mine is for a real farm-lane fenced by old chestnut-rails gray...

105. To the Spring and Brook

SO, still sauntering on, to the spring under the willows—musical as soft clinking glasses—pouring...

106. An Early Summer Reveille

AWAY then to loosen, to unstring the divine bow, so tense, so long. Away, from curtain, carpet, s...

107. Birds Migrating at Midnight

DID you ever chance to hear the midnight flight of birds passing through the air and darkness ove...

108. Bumble-Bees

MAY-MONTH—month of swarming, singing, mating birds—the bumble-bee month—month of the flowering li...

109. Cedar-Apples

AS I journey’d to-day in a light wagon ten or twelve miles through the country, nothing pleas’d m...

110. Summer Sights and Indolencies

June 10th.—AS I write, 5 1/2 P. M., here by the creek, nothing can exceed the quiet splendor and ...

111. Sundown Perfume—Quail-Notes—The Hermit-Thrush

June 19th, 4 to 6 1/2, P. M.—Sitting alone by the creek—solitude here, but the scene bright and v...

112. A July Afternoon by the Pond

The fervent heat, but so much more endurable in this pure air—the white and pink pond-blossoms, w...

113. Locusts and Katydids

Aug. 22.—Reedy monotones of locust, or sounds of katydid—I hear the latter at night, and the othe...

Search Results