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Walt Whitman at the Lilly

The Soldier's Hymn-Book

According to the title page, this was the fifth edition of the YMCA’s hymnal, with a print run of 10,000 copies.  It is inscribed, in pencil, on the flyleaf, by the previous owner, Mr. Robert Withrow, who notes that the book was “presented to him by an agent of the army tract society.” 

The hymns express Christian confidence in “The Eden Above” and range from the Lord’s Prayer on p. 23 (obviously of interest to Private Withrow, since he creased the corner for quicker access) to more patriotic fare, such as the “Star-Spangled Banner” (pp. 57-58), “Stars and Stripes” (p. 60), and “The Union Forever” (pp. 61-62).   The latter pages are pristine.  According to his obituary in the McDonald, PA, Record, 23 October 1908, the twenty-seven year-old Mr.  Withrow enlisted in Company A of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry in August, 1862, and continued in the service until the close of the war, when he was discharged at the rank of corporal.   Whitman held the hands of hundreds of such men, many of them not so lucky as Robert Withrow, who returned to life in Pennsylvania and died, “an aged and respected … veteran of the Civil War,” in his hometown of Murdockville.

Withrow, not a wiz when it came to spelling, also signed his little book on the pastedown in back:  “Mr. Robert Withrow, A Company, 17 Regiment Pennsylvana [sic] Cavelry [sic].”

Hymnbook dedication

The Soldiers’ Hymn Book.  Boston:  Geo. C. Rand & Avery, 1861.  Published by the Boston Young Men’s Christian Association.