Home  »  Volume XVI: American EARLY NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART I  »  § 12. Grant and His Career; Black Soldiers

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

II. Poets of the Civil War I

§ 12. Grant and His Career; Black Soldiers

As Grant rose to fame the poets kept pace with his deeds: Melville with Running the Batteries and Boker with Before Vicksburg dealt with the struggle to open the Mississippi. Lookout Mountain was commemorated by Boker—The Battle of Lookout Mountain—and William Dean Howells—The Battle in the Clouds. Two poems this year honoured the negro soldiers that the Union army had begun to use. Boker’s The Black Regiment concerns itself with the assault on Fort Hudson; Brownell’s Bury Them is a stern and terrible poem on the slaughter of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts, with their Colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, at Fort Wagner, South Carolina. The Confederates buried Shaw in a pit under a heap of his men, and Brownell thought of them as dragon’s teeth buried in “the sacred, strong Slave-Sod” only to rise—Southerners are supposed to be speaking—as sabres and bayonets:

  • And our hearts wax strange and chill,
  • With an ominous shudder and thrill,
  • Even here, on the strong Slave-Sod,
  • Lest, haply, we be found
  • (Ah, dread no brave hath drowned!)
  • Fighting against Great God.