Wednesday, March 12, 2008


After seeing the first episode of 'New Amsterdam', I knew that the series would be a great source for my historical Tiddlywinkydinks, and would most likely wind up winning the 2008 Toobits award for Best Blend of Toobworld and History.

I just never thought I'd see one of my neighbors playing a role in all of it!

In the latest episode ("Soldier's Heart"), John flashed back to his days as a battle surgeon during the War Between The States. There he was teamed up with Walt Whitman (CJ Wilson) as his nurse at Antietam in 1862.

Here's what Wikipedia had to say about that battle:

"The Battle of Antietam (also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, particularly in the South), fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek, as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000 casualties."

And here's their take on Whitman's service during the war:

"As the American Civil War was beginning, Whitman published his poem "Beat! Beat! Drums!" as a patriotic rally call for the North.

Whitman's brother George had joined the Union army and began sending Whitman several vividly detailed letters of the battle front.

On December 16, 1862, a listing of fallen and wounded soldiers in the New York Tribune included "First Lieutenant G. W. Whitmore", which Whitman worried was a reference to his brother George.

He made his way south immediately to find him, though his wallet was stolen on the way.

"Walking all day and night, unable to ride, trying to get information, trying to get access to big people", Whitman later wrote he eventually found George alive, with only a superficial wound on his cheek.

Whitman, profoundly affected by seeing the wounded soldiers and the heaps of their amputated limbs, left for Washington on December 28, 1862 with the intention of never returning to New York.

In Washington, D.C., Whitman's friend Charley Eldridge helped him obtain part-time work in the army paymaster's office, leaving time for Whitman to volunteer as a nurse in the army hospitals.

He would write of this experience in "The Great Army of the Sick", published in a New York newspaper in 1863 and, 12 years later, in a book called Memoranda During the War."

So I'm not sure if the armies of the North and the South were still entrenched at Antietam by December when - if - the real Whitman may have shown up. But in Toobworld, Whitman was there by the time of the actual battle.

CJ is not the first actor to play Walt Whitman in Toobworld. Donald Moffat portrayed the poet in the episode "The Body Electric" on 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman'. That series took place about two decades later, so we can chalk up the casting differences in appearance to aging.

Toby OB


Brent McKee said...

The answer is that the Armies were not entrenched around Antietam in December. In fact the Confederates moved south within a few days after the battle. It was a major bone of contention that McClelland didn't give chase immediately; that's why Lincoln removed him from command. In December 1962 the armies were encamped near Fredericksburg Virginia and on December 13 the new Union commander, Ambrose Burnside launched a disastrous attack against the Confederates there.

Toby said...

So this definitely means the TV Walt Whitman led a different life from the True Whitman.

Thanks, Brent!