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.

III. Poets of the Civil War II

§ 26. Sherman’s March

But the words of her poets could not avail the doomed city when, in 1865, Sherman’s army marched north from Savannah. Timrod, now a citizen of Columbia, wrote his greatest lyric, Carolina, which comes nearest to My Maryland of all the poems of the war in its indignation and power. He reproaches the idle hands and craven calm of the inhabitants, but calls upon the descendants of Rutledge, Laurens, and Marion to rouse themselves against the despot who treads their sacred sands. The answer to this appeal was the burning of Columbia. Hayne and John Dickson Bruns still had hope that Charleston might escape the doom. As Timrod from Charleston had given to the world the first expression of the new nation’s hope, so his friend and fellow townsman, Dr. Bruns, was to utter the last appeal for Charleston in his The Foe at the Gates. There is nothing more tragic in the Civil War than the fall of Charleston—the proud, passionate, and romantic city that had issued her challenge to the South to join her in the conflict with the North. In her last despairing cry the poet calls upon her children to ring round her and catch one last glance from her imploring eye:

  • From all her fanes let solemn bells be tolled;
  • Heap with kind hands her costly funeral pyre,
  • And thus, with pæan sung and anthem rolled,
  • Give her unspotted to the God of Fire.
  • The fall of Charleston was the beginning of the end. Various poems on Lee, notably Ticknor’s Lee, Thompson’s Lee to the Rear, and the anonymous Silent March, suggest the last battles in Virginia. The dominant note of the later poetry is that of melancholy, now and then tempered by a sort of pathetic longing for peace. Eggleston tells us that the most popular poem on both sides came to be C. C. Sawyer’s When This Cruel War Is Over. The sentiment of the poem is echoed in poems on peace by George Herbert Sass, Ticknor, Bruns, and Timrod. Very different from the concluding lines of the Cotton Boll is Timrod’s pathetic yearning for peace, in the poem entitled Christmas:

  • Peace in the quiet dales,
  • Made rankly fertile by the blood of men,
  • Peace in the woodland, and the lonely glen,
  • Peace, in the peopled vales!
  • … …
  • Peace on the whirring marts,
  • Peace where the scholar thinks, the hunter roams,
  • Peace, God of Peace! peace, peace, in all our homes,
  • And peace in all our hearts!