On March 16, Walter Lafty will present “Walt Whitman: The Civil War’s Poet Patriot” at the Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society museum at 108 S. Seventh Street in Vineland. Lafty, a Philadelphia native, is a Vietnam veteran who is active in Old Baldy, a Civil War roundtable group that researches different aspect of the conflict that divided America in the mid-19th century. Whitman’s poetry was considered highly controversial when it was first published in the 1800s. He approached topics in a candid manner that shocked many readers. One of his best-known collections, Leaves of Grass, was described as obscene for its overt language.
Born in Huntington, New York, in 1819, Whitman later moved to Camden and continued to write and revise his poetry until his death in 1892. Lafty will discuss how the Civil War affected the course of Whitman’s work. When the Civil War started, Whitman published a poem titled “Beat! Beat! Drums!” as a rallying cry for northern troops. He continued to produce war-themed poetry based on his brother George’s experiences as a Union soldier. After discovering his brother’s name on a published list of the wounded, Whitman traveled to the hospital where George had been treated and was profoundly affected by the condition of the men. One of his poems, “A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim,” vividly describes the silence of a morning after a battle:
A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.
When his health forced him to retire from public life, Whitman spent a lot of time in Laurel Springs, revising his earlier works. After his death, the poet was buried in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, in a mausoleum that he had commissioned and designed. Museum doors will open at 1:30 p.m. for light refreshments. Lafty’s presentation will begin at 2 p.m. Admission is $2 per person.
About 40 area residents attended a recent presentation on quilts, offered at the Society by Nancy Steelman, a trustee who is also a member of the Garden Patch Quilters. A veteran quilter, Steelman has won awards for her full-size quilts and wall hangings.
Have you ever considered volunteering? Giving two-and-one-half hours once a month can make all the difference in your life. Those volunteer hours will at times make you laugh, will make you think, will make you learn something new and old about your community and, most certainly, will make a young person remember you and what you gave to them. What does it take? It takes a smile and a willingness to give a little bit of your time to Vineland’s fourth grade students. What will you do? You will able to--with one-on-one training--expose our young people to their history of what made Vineland great in the past and how it can be even greater for them in the future. Training is short and painless and you will always be working with an experienced volunteer. Join me and the rest of our amazing, dedicated volunteers at the Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society. We can all laugh together, we can all think about the old and new stuff and we can all reap the benefits from knowing we handed off our history to our young people in our community. Contact Ruth Shropshire, Education Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 856-691-2925. Or call the Society at 856-691-1111. Leave your name and contact information .