Forty-two years of age at the time of Fort Sumter, Walt Whitman of New York had failed at practically everything he tried to do. He was successively an office boy, printer’s devil, schoolteacher, typesetter, journalist and editor. After publishing the book of poems Leaves of Grass in 1855, he cringed every time he saw a review of it.
Serving as a volunteer nurse in the hospitals of Washington, he caught an occasional glimpse of Abraham Lincoln, but spent most of him time bandaging wounds. Belated recognition of his poetic genius came first in Europe, then in the United States, after his death.