The poem reflects how Whitman genuinely believed about the realities of war. Hence, The Wound Dresser is a memory poem about how the soldiers during the Civil War period were treated not as per their rank, seniority or bravery but by the severity of their wounds. Whitman presents this fact in contrast to the civil society of the times where one’s socio-economic background, ethnicity and race precede all consideration of “needs”. The following concluding stanza from the poem captures its essence.
“I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,
Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad,
(Many a soldier’s loving arms about his neck have cross’d and rested, Many a soldier’s kiss dwells on these bearded lips.)”
RM Bucke, The Wound Dresser: Letters Written to His Mother from the Hospitals in Washington During the Civil …, W Whitman, 1949, Bodley Press, New York.
P Zweig, A review of The wound-dresser, Walt Whitman, 1985.