Whitman's letters to the parents of Erastus Haskell of the 141st New York Volunteers who died on August 2, 1863 in Armory Square Hospital, Washington, D.C., where Whitman frequently visited the sick and wounded. He wrote the Haskells, of Breseport, New York, on July 27, 1863 to inform them that their son was very ill with typhoid fever. In a letter written August 10 he describes his visits with Erastus and their son's last days. In the final letter, dated September 9, Whitman thanks Mr. Haskell for his acknowledgement of the letter of August 10 and reiterates his Brooklyn address so that Mr. and Mrs. Haskell may write to him at home. A fourth letter, written by Joel M. Jansen and Erastus E. Haskell, describes their regiment's good accommodations despite the poor weather. Erastus says further that he and the other musicians have not been on duty for some time, but anticipate active service soon.
Erastus Haskell, born May 25, 1844, and died August 2, 1863, was a fife player in Company K, 141st New York Volunteer Infantry band. Prior to his military service, he worked as a carpenter. Erastus also had one sister, Abigail, who was deaf. His father, Samuel Baldwin Haskell (1810-1876) suffered a stroke, rendering him unable to work.