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Drum Beats: Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers


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Product Description

Drum Beats is a companion volume to Charley Shively's magnificent first book, Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working Class Camerados. In Drum Beats we get to know, through letters and Shively's commentary, the soldiers Whitman met as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War. It is amazing, the love that Whitman inspired in these simple, often barely literate young men.
Material on Abraham Lincoln makes a startling excursus. Lincoln's younger friend, Joshua Speed, describes how he persuaded the impoverished Lincoln to share a double bed with him, which they did for four years. From the full-page photograph of the beautiful young Speed, and from Lincoln's profound despair after Speed left him, it is plain that the most beloved American president was gay (Mary Todd notwithstanding).
Drum Beats ends with "Flutter Gayly in the Wind", another Shively selection of Whitman's poems. Two of the poems -- "Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Voice" and "Ashes of Soldiers" -- were astonishingly beautiful, and I had never seen them before.

Editor: Charles Shively

Paperback  Published June 1989  256 pages


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