photo by S. Thomas Summers
“Future years will never know the seething hell and the black infernal
background, the countless minor scenes and interiors of the secession war; and
it is best they should not. The real war will never get in the books.” – W.
Thanks to all the men and women who saw the “interior of war” and were
denied the opportunity to share their tales. You are all heroes. Although I
do not know your names nor do I know your faces, I shall never forget
“On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signs the final Emancipation Proclamation, which ends slavery in the rebelling states. A preliminary proclamation was issued in September 1862, following the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland. The act signaled an important shift in the Union’s Civil War aims, expanding the goal of the war from reunification to include the eradication of slavery” (This Day in History – History Channel).
Here’s a poem from my book Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War. In it, Private McGraw, atop a large tree, sees former slaves fight for the first time.
The Emancipation Proclamation
Shards of Night
Them Feds started pouring through
the wood like a river that run its banks.
My heart started thunking wilder than a cat’s
heart after that cat scampered up a tree
cause a dog done breathed on its tail –
and sure enough, I was up a tree.
But, hell – my jaw almost clanked
the ground when I see that flood
a might closer. I was perched on top
a whole cluster of Yankee darkies.
Shit, I says, Abe sent them damn slaves
to fight. I first guessed they’d be whooping
and shucking like a gaggle of monkeys,
but they clutched their guns like soldiers
and their faces where all chiseled from stone
solid as Zion. Our boys started popping muskets
first and a few of them niggers fell,
but the others paid no mind to that. They ran
straight at those pickets like shards of night,
screaming hell and spitting lead.
I seen one take three bullets before
he toppled. Each time blood puffed
from his belly like a red cloud at sunset.
And the one swinging the flag made certain
them stripes never scraped the ground.
I swear them darkies be men.
By God, they be men.
Posted in Abraham Lincoln, American Civil War, Emacipation Proclamation, Poem, Poetry
Tagged Abraham Lincoln, American Civil War, Battle of Antietam, Civil War, Emancipation Proclamation, Maryland, Private Hercules McGraw, Slavery, Union, Union Army, United States
Scott’s great snake. Cartoon map illustrating Gen. Winfield Scott’s plan to crush the Confederacy, economically. It is sometimes called the “Anaconda plan.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’ve a friend, a fellow poet, who reads everything I write. Well, at least everything I send him. He, William, read and commented on each poem in my book Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War. He’s also read and commented on every poem in my ever growing, soon to be published second book, The Journals of Lt. Kendal Everly: Poems of the American Civil War.
Recently, William made the following observation. “Here, in The Journals of Lt. Kendal Everly, more than with the rebel series, Private Hercules McGraw, you seem to isolate on the singular enemy ["the man I was to kill"] rather than the mass – as if these soldiers fight soldiers rather than armies.”
William also commented, “It seems that the Union liutennant is more self-absorbed and takes his action as against individuals. The tenor of the Confederate representative has a nobler essence – suggesting the poet has a sympathy for the settled character of the South.”
Hmmmm? Do I like one character (Hercules) more than another (Kendal)?
I need to think this one through. Fascinating.
- Private McGraw Receives Stellar Review (thelintinmypocket.wordpress.com)
- Voices From History (thelintinmypocket.wordpress.com)
Posted in American Civil War, History, Lt. Kendal Everly, Manuscript Development, Poetry, Private Hercules McGraw, Writing, Writing Process
Tagged American Civil War, Civil War, History, Kendal, Kendal Everly, Private Hercules McGraw, Union, United States
Cannon at the First Battle of Bull Run (Photo credit: Jason Pier in DC)
My second manuscript is near completion. It’s titled The Journals of Lt. Arthur Kendal Everly: Poems of the American Civil War. In it, poem by poem (one poem = one journal entry) Everly tell us a tale; he speaks of his journey through the Civil War.
Everly, a pacifist and a teacher, enlists in the Union army solely because he feels it is his duty to fight if his students are to fight. He feels compelled to protect their innocence. Sadly, he fails, despite valiant efforts. Sadly, he also fails to protect himself. He survives the war; yet he, in many ways, dies.
The final part of the book remains unwritten. It will deal with Everly’s experience in the Battle of First Bull Run. Everly will tell a gruesome story. His experience it that battle will, in many ways, destroy him. I find it strange that I’m hesitant to begin the destruction, so to speak. I’m hesitant to see what Everly sees, hesitant to feel what he feels because all he sees and feels will be torn from me. I will construct his hell and, in part, I will therefore construct a hell for me to lie in as well
- On the Eve of Bull Run (thelintinmypocket.wordpress.com)
Posted in Blood, Lt. Arthur Kendal Everly, Manuscript Development
Tagged American Civil War, Civil War, Everly, First Battle of Bull Run, History, John Pope, Kendal, Poetry, Robert E. Lee, Second Battle of Bull Run, Stonewall Jackson, Union, Union Army, United States, War
It’s like a season passed in the blink
of an afternoon. This morning
I smiled at black-eyed-susies
reaching above the grass and clover.
Bees hummed from bloom to bloom
like politicians knocking on doors,
mustering votes. Breeze carried scents
of earth and honey – sweetest spring day
that ever filled my lungs. Made me wanna
touch something soft, something special –
maybe the hand of a Charleston beauty.
But after a day of trading spit and smoke
with a regiment of Billies, this pretty spot
done shed all its pretty. Blood has a queer smell,
like a bog choked with sour fish,
but it don’t mud a patch of ground
like water does. Blood turns dirt
into syrup – walk in it too long
and you get all gummed up.
And the dead are leaking blood all about.
From here it looks like a herd of fellas
decided to nap, but they ain’t waking up
no time soon. You can see their last thought
carved on each of their faces. It’s never fear or anger.
Mostly it seems like sorrow to me, like they know
they just lost memory and hope all at once.
Don’t seem like spring no more.
What season is it? It’s a season for breathing –
at least while you still can.
Thank you to all who have fallen.
- Memorial Day (beatcancer2010.wordpress.com)
Posted in American Civil War, History, Poetry, Soldier's Life
Tagged American Civil War, Charleston, Charleston South Carolina, Food, Memorial Day, National Memorial Day Concert, Union, Vietnam
The poem posted below is from my growing second manuscript. It takes he form of a journal entry written by a Federal officer son after his first battle experience. I was hoping to garner some comments from a few Civil War buff, re-enactors, and other history fans. Is the poem legit? Does it represent a plausible reaction?
July 30, 1861
continues to bellow,
to thunder the caverns
of memory. The clang
when life claps death -
These are the gremlins
that filch my sleep
and foul the breath of night.
Posted in American Civil War, Battle, History, Poetry, Soldier's Life, Uncategorized
Tagged AmericanCivilWar, Civil War, Confederate States of America, History, Union, United State, Walkersville High School, War
It went well.
I was able to present, discuss, and read from Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War. An enthusiatic crowd was in attendance. The reading was held at the historic Van Riper House in Wayne, NJ. Van Riper House staff hope to have me return for other Civil War events. Thanks to all.
Reading/Book Signing at the Van Riper House in Wayne, NJ
I’ve been distracted. The release of my first book, well documented on this blog, has kept me busy. Now, I’m back. It’s time to continue work on my second effort – I am Lieutenant: the Journals of Arthur Kendall Everly. It tells the story of a Northern teacher, against the war, who joins the Union effort despite his anti-war sentiments. Here’s the first poem in the book. It’s been featured on this blog before.
19th Century School House
This is the Place
April 1, 1861
Here, beneath these trees –
oak and ash – shadows lay
like blankets spread
for a community of picnics.
I feast on a moment’s song:
breezes, still laced
with March’s chill, weave
as ribbons about these limbs,
Giggling children dart
behind stalwart trunks
hiding from each other and me –
children teasing me, their teacher,
as I walked to school.
But this spring rumbles.
Men who drape themselves
in the dark robes of politics
brandish words as warriors
brandish swords –
and I am afraid.
Posted in American Civil War, History, Poetry, Uncategorized
Tagged Anti-war movement, Berlin International Film Festival, History, Joe Lynch, Kate Hudson, Lieutenant, Paris, Union
Lord willing, for the next two weeks, I’ll be focusing on Christmas and the Civil War. Each entry will be inspired by portions of letters and journals written by Union and Confederate soldiers. Here’s my first seasonal effort.
On December 27, 1864 a soldier, Private Levi McCormick, wrote his wife. The following is his letter as it was written in 1864.
Dec 27th 1864 Camp 4th Del Vol 3 Brg 2 Dev 3 Corps
Dear wife I will send you a few lines stating how we are I have bin down with the diarier for about a weak it has bin the most sevear that I hav ever ha but I feel better to day & I hav washed all of my cloaths & I borrowed some cloathes while mine are drying I cant write you mutch this time but if I keep wel I will try and write you a interesting leter some of those days we hav got houses built up wonce more but Christmas was a very dul day hear we have not had it yet but the war news is good we have had a despatch from G Shairman he has done more than we could of asked of him I hope this will find you all wel Samey is not very wel he had a cold we hav bin very mutch exposed but I dont want to write about You can sea the reason why I hav not wrote I send my love to all from you ever true and loving Husband
Levi McCormick good by send on your box
Here’s a poem inspired by McCormick’s letter.
Private Levi McCormick Writes His Wife: Christmas 1864
I bin down with squirts.
My backend’s raw as a sun bernt scalp
and cold air snaps at me
when I drop my trousers.
I borrow’d some clothes.
Had to wash mine, bein’ so smelly.
Ther hangin’ on a tree limb near the fire –
stil they be frozen, stiff as a ten day corpse.
Seen me plenty of them.
Anyway, send on a box. I need a scent of home.
Tell the boys mery christmas.
I’ll be lookin’ for that christ star whilse I wate.
Note: I’ve been having diffuculties properly formating my poems. They no longer cut and paste the way I want them to. If you can help, let me know.
- The Peach Orchard and Christmas (thelintinmypocket.wordpress.com)
Posted in American Civil War, History, Poetry, Soldier's Life
Tagged Christmas, Civil War, Confederate, History, Holiday, Union, United States, Wars
- Image by karen horton via Flickr
Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving a recognized, national holiday in 1863. Presented here is a portion of his proclimation, the portion that most spoke to me.
“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they (our blessings) should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
Here’s a link to Lincoln’s entire proclimation: http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/primarysources/lincolns-thanksgiving.html