What is the historical context of the poem "The Artilleryman's Vision" by Walt Whitman?

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kathik | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Though Walt Whitman himself never participated in combat, he was a nurse in Washington D.C. during the Civil War. There, he treated many soldiers who had been wounded in combat. The soldiers shared their stories with him, and he used their stories in his poetry.  In "The Artilleryman's Vision," he writes of the soldiers who have survived war and come home. Whitman recognizes that war is something one can never completely forget. It bothers the sleep of the former soldiers. They are reminded of their time on the battlefield constantly but most especially at night when they are trying to sleep.  For those who have been traumatized by war, memories continue to assault them for the rest of their lives.

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