Civil War Poetry

Civil War Poetry

by Paul Negri

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A superb selection of poems from both sides of the American Civil War, this compilation reflects the struggle's heroism, horror, exaltation, and anguish. More than 75 inspired works include famous poems by Melville, Emerson, Longfellow, Whittier, and Whitman, as well as lesser-known verse by Julia Ward Howe, Edwin Markham, and many others.  See more details below


A superb selection of poems from both sides of the American Civil War, this compilation reflects the struggle's heroism, horror, exaltation, and anguish. More than 75 inspired works include famous poems by Melville, Emerson, Longfellow, Whittier, and Whitman, as well as lesser-known verse by Julia Ward Howe, Edwin Markham, and many others.

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Civil War Poetry


By Paul Negri

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11217-6


JULIA WARD HOWE (1819-1910). Poet, abolitionist, feminist. Her most famous poem, "Battle Hymn of the Republic," was first published in February, 1862. In April of that year it appeared set to music with the addition of the "Glory Hallelujah" chorus, which was not part of the poem as originally published.

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps:
I can read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps.
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment-seat:
Oh! be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.


John Wilkes Booth

Pains the sharp sentence the heart in whose wrath it was uttered,
Now thou art cold;
Vengeance, the headlong, and Justice, with purpose close muttered,
Loosen their hold.

Death brings atonement; he did that whereof ye accuse him—
Murder accurst ;
But from that crisis of crime in which Satan did lose him,
Suffered the worst.

Harshly the red dawn arose on a deed of his doing,
Never to mend;
But harsher days he wore out in the bitter pursuing
And the wild end.

So lift the pale flag of truce, wrap those mysteries round him,
In whose avail
Madness that moved, and the swift retribution that found him,
Falter and fail.

So the soft purples that quiet the heavens with mourning,
Willing to fall,
Lend him one fold, his illustrious victim adorning
With wider pall.

Back to the cross, where the Saviour uplifted in dying
Bade all souls live,
Turns the reft bosom of Nature, his mother, low sighing,
Greatest, forgive!

Robert E. Lee

A gallant foeman in the fight,
A brother when the fight was o'er,
The hand that led the host with might
The blessed torch of learning bore.

Thought may the minds of men divide,
Love makes the heart of nations one,
And so, thy soldier grave beside,
We honor thee, Virginia's son.

HENRY TIMROD (1829-1867). Major lyric poet of the pre-War South. Called the "Poet Laureate of the Confederacy," he served briefly in the Confederate army in 1862, but was discharged due to ill health.


Written during the meeting of the first Southern Congress, at Montgomery, February, 1861.


Hath not the morning dawned with added light?
And will not evening call another star
Out of the infinite regions of the night,
To mark this day in Heaven? At last, we are
A nation among nations; and the world
Shall soon behold in many a distant port
Another Flag unfurled!
Now, come what may, whose favor need we court?
And, under God, whose thunder need we fear?
Thank Him who placed us here
Beneath so kind a sky—the very sun
Takes part with us; and on our errands run
All breezes of the ocean; dew and rain
Do noiseless battle for us; and the Year,
And all the gentle daughters in her train,
March in our ranks, and in our service wield '
Long spears of golden grain!
A yellow blossom as her fairy shield,
June flings her azure banner to the wind,
While in the order of their birth
Her sisters pass, and many an ample field
Grows white beneath their steps, till now, behold
Its endless sheets unfold
Rejoice! beneath those fleeces soft and warm
Our happy land shall sleep
In a repose as deep
As if we lay intrenched behind
Whole leagues of Russian ice and Arctic storm!


And what if, mad with wrongs themselves have wrought,
In their own treachery caught,
By their own fears made bold,
And leagued with him of old,
Who long since in the limits of the North
Set up his evil throne, and warred with God—
What if, both mad and blinded in their rage,
Our foes should fling us down their mortal gage,
And with a hostile step profane our sod!
We shall not shrink, my brothers, but go forth
To meet them, marshalled by the Lord of Hosts,
And overshadowed by the mighty ghosts
Of Moultrie and of Eutaw—who shall foil
Auxiliars such as these? Nor these alone,
But every stock and stone
Shall help us: but the very soil,
And all the generous wealth it gives to toil,
And all for which we love our noble land,
Shall fight beside, and through us, sea and strand,
The heart of woman, and her hand,
Tree, fruit, and flower, and every influence,
Gentle, or grave, or grand;
The winds in our defence
Shall seem to blow; to us the hills shall lend
Their firmness and their calm;
And in our stiffened sinews we shall blend
The strength of pine and palm!


Nor would we shun the battle-ground,
Though weak as we are strong;
Call up the clashing elements around,
And test the right and wrong!
On one side, creeds that dare to teach
What Christ and Paul refrained to preach;
Codes built upon a broken pledge,
And Charity that whets a poniard's edge;
Fair schemes that leave the neighboring poor
To starve and shiver at the schemer's door,
While in the world's most liberal ranks enrolled,
He turns some vast philanthropy to gold;
Religion, taking every mortal form
But that a pure and Christian faith makes warm,
Where not to vile fanatic passion urged,
Or not in vague philosophies submerged,
Repulsive with all Pharisaic leaven,
And making laws to stay the laws of Heaven!
And on the other, scorn of sordid gain,
Unblemished honor, truth without a stain,
Faith, justice, reverence, charitable wealth,
And, for the poor and humble, laws which give,
Not the mean right to buy the right to live,
But life, and home, and health!
To doubt the end were want of trust in God,
Who, if he has decreed
That we must pass a redder sea
Than that which rang to Miriam's holy glee,
Will surely raise at need
A Moses with his rod!


But let our fears—if fears we have—be still,
And turn us to the future! Could we climb
Some mighty Alp, and view the coming time,
We should indeed behold a sight to fill
Our eyes with happy tears!
Not for the glories which a hundred years
Shall bring us; not for lands from sea to sea,
And wealth, and power, and peace, though these shall be;
But for the distant peoples we shall bless,
And the hushed murmurs of a world's distress:
For, to give labor to the poor,
The whole sad plant o'er,
And save from want and crime the humblest door,
Is one among the many ends for which
God makes us great and rich!
The hour perchance is not yet wholly ripe
When all shall own it, but the type
Whereby we shall be known in every land
Is that vast gulf which laves our Southern strand,
And through the cold, untempered ocean pours
Its genial streams, that far off Arctic shores
May sometimes catch upon the softened breeze
Strange tropic warmth and hints of summer seas.


Calm as that second summer which precedes
The first fall of the snow,
In the broad sunlight of heroic deeds,
The city bides the foe.

As yet, behind their ramparts, stern and proud,
Her bolted thunders sleep—
Dark Sumter, like a battlemented cloud,
Looms o'er the solemn deep.

No Calpe frowns from lofty cliff or scaur
To guard the holy strand;
But Moultrie holds in leash her dogs of war
Above the level sand.

And down the dunes a thousand guns lie couched,
Unseen, beside the flood—
Like tigers in some Orient jungle crouched,
That wait and watch for blood.

Meanwhile, through streets still echoing with trade,
Walk grave and thoughtful men,
Whose hands may one day wield the patriot's blade
As lightly as the pen.

And maidens, with such eyes as would grow dim
Over a bleeding hound,
Seem each one to have caught the strength of him
Whose sword she sadly bound.

Thus girt without and garrisoned at home,
Day patient following day,
Old Charleston looks from roof and spire and dome,
Across her tranquil bay.

Ships, through a hundred foes, from Saxon lands
And spicy Indian ports,
Bring Saxon steel and iron to her hands,
And summer to her courts.

But still, along yon dim Atlantic line,
The only hostile smoke
Creeps like a harmless mist above the brine,
From some frail floating oak.

Shall the spring dawn, and she, still clad in smiles,
And with an unscathed brow,
Rest in the strong arms of her palm-crowned isles,
As fair and free as now?

We know not; in the temple of the Fates
God has inscribed her doom:
And, all untroubled in her faith, she waits
The triumph or the tomb.

A Cry to Arms

Ho, woodsmen of the mountain side!
Ho, dwellers in the vales!
Ho, ye who by the chafing tide
Have roughened in the gales!
Leave barn and byre, leave kin and cot,
Lay by the bloodless spade;
Let desk and case and counter rot,
And burn your books of trade!

The despot roves your fairest lands;
And till he flies or fears,
You fields must grow but armed bands,
Your sheaves be sheaves of spears!
Give up to mildew and to rust
The useless tools of gain,
And feed your country's sacred dust
With floods of crimson rain!

Come with the weapons at your call—
With musket, pike, or knife;
He wields the deadliest blade of all
Who lightest holds his life.
The arm that drives its unbought blows
With all a patriot's scorn,
Might brain a tyrant with a rose
Or stab him with a thorn.

Does any falter? Let him turn
To some brave maiden's eyes,
And catch the holy fires that burn
In those sublunar skies.
Oh, could you like your women feel,
And in their spirit march,
A day might see your lines of steel
Beneath the victor's arch!

What hope, O God! would not grow warm
When thoughts like these give cheer?
The lily calmly braves the storm,
And shall the palm tree fear?
No! rather let its branches court
The rack that sweeps the plain;
And from the lily's regal port
Learn how to breast the strain.

Ho, woodsmen of the mountain side!
Ho, dwellers in the vales!
Ho, ye who by the roaring tide
Have roughened in the gales!
Come, flocking gayly to the fight,
From forest, hill, and lake;
We battle for our country's right,
And for the lily's sake!


The despot treads thy sacred sands,
Thy pines give shelter to his bands,
Thy sons stand by with idle hands,

He breathes at ease thy airs of balm,
He scorns the lances of thy palm;
Oh! who shall break thy craven calm,

Thy ancient fame is growing dim,
A spot is on thy garment's rim;
Give to the winds thy battle-hymn,

Call own thy children of the hill,
Wake swamp and river, coast and rill,
Rouse all thy strength and all thy skill,

Cite wealth and science, trade and art,
Touch with thy fire the cautious mart,
And pour thee through the people's heart,

Till even the coward spurns his fears,
And all thy fields, and fens, and meres
Shall bristle like thy palm with spears,

I hear a murmur as of waves
That grope their way through sunless caves,
Like bodies struggling in their graves,

And now it deepens; slow and grand
It swells, as, rolling to the land,
An ocean broke upon thy strand,
Shout! Let it reach the startled Huns!
And roar with all thy festal guns!
It is the answer of thy sons,

Ode at Magnolia Cemetery

Sung on the occasion of decorating the graves of the Confederate dead, at
Cemetery, Charleston, on Memorial Day, April, 1867.

Sleep sweetly in your humble graves,
Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause;
Though yet no marble column craves
The pilgrim here to pause.

In seeds of laurel in the earth
The blossom of your fame is blown,
And somewhere, waiting for its birth,
The shaft is in the stone!
Meanwhile, behalf the tardy years
Which keep in trust your storied tombs,
Behold! your sisters bring their tears,
And these memorial blooms.

Small tributes! but your shades will smile
More proudly on these wreaths to-day,
Than when some cannon-moulded pile
Shall overlook this bay.

Stoop, angels, hither from the skies!
There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valor lies,
By mourning beauty crowned.

JAMES SLOAN GIBBONS (1810-1892). Abolitionist. Gibbons's poem was written in response to Lincoln's call in July 1862 for 300,000 volunteers to enlist in the Union army. The poem was quickly set to music by several composers, the most famous version being by L. O. Emerson.

Three Hundred Thousand More

We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more,
From Mississippi's winding stream and from New England's shore;
We leave our ploughs and workshops, our wives and children dear,
With hearts too full for utterance, with but a silent tear;
We dare not look behind us, but steadfastly before:
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

If you look across the hill tops that meet the northern sky,
Long moving lines of rising dust your vision may descry;
And now the wind, an instant, tears the cloudy veil aside,
And floats aloft our spangled flag in glory and in pride,
And bayonets in the sunlight gleam, and bands brave music pour:
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

If you look all up our valleys where the growing harvests shine,
You may see our sturdy farmer boys fast forming into line;
And children from their mother's knees are pulling at the weeds,
And learning how to reap and sow against their country's needs;
And a farewell group stands weeping at every cottage door:
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

You have called us, and we're coming, by Richmond's bloody tide
To lay us down, for Freedom's sake, our brothers' bones beside,
Or from foul treason's savage grasp to wrench the murderous blade,
And in the face of foreign foes its fragments to parade.
Six hundred thousand loyal men and true have gone before:
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

JAMES RYDER RANDALL (1839-1908). Poet and journalist. "My Maryland," published in May 1861, appeared later in the year set to the music of "O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum!" and came to be known as the "Marseillaise of the Confederate cause."

My Maryland

    The despot's heel is on thy shore,
    His torch is at thy temple door,
    Avenge the patriotic gore
    That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
    And be the battle queen of yore,
    Maryland, my Maryland!

    Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
    My Mother State, to thee I kneel,
    For life and death, for woe and weal,
    Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
    And gird thy beauteous limbs with steel,
    Maryland, my Maryland!

    Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
    Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
    Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
    Remember Howard's warlike thrust,
    And all thy slumberers with the just,
    Maryland, my Maryland!

    Come! 't is the red dawn of the day,
    Come with thy panoplied array,
    With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
    With Watson's blood at Monterey,

    With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
    Maryland, my Maryland!
    Dear Mother, burst the tyrant's chain,
    Virginia should not call in vain,
    She meets her sisters on the plain—
    "Sic semper!" 't is the proud refrain
    That baffles minions back amain,
    Arise in majesty again,
    Maryland, my Maryland!

    Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
    Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
    Maryland! Come to thine own heroic throng
    Stalking with Liberty along,
    And chant thy dauntless slogan song,
    Maryland, my Maryland!

    I see the blush upon thy cheek,
    For thou wast ever bravely meek,
    But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
    From hill to hill, from creek to creek,
    Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
    Maryland, my Maryland!

    Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
    Thou wilt not crook to his control,
    Maryland !
    Better the fire upon thee roll,
    Better the shot, the blade, the bowl,
    Than crucifixion of the soul,
    Maryland, my Maryland!

    I hear the distant thunder hum,
    The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
    She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb;
    Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
    She breathes! She burns! She'll come! She'll come!
    Maryland, my Maryland!


Excerpted from Civil War Poetry by Paul Negri. Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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