Thursday, August 23, 2012

A New Yorker's Verse

The Cosmic America files are filled with Civil War era poetry. Some epic, some heroic, but much of it banal, trite. Now and again, little snippets of poetry resound with meaning - a few lines crystallize what the war was about in least for some who shouldered muskets and marched off to fight for a cause.

In terms of emancipation - few in the north enlisted with that in mind. It was only after the war that the destruction of the institution rang true as the moral equivalent of Union. Retrospectively, veterans included emancipation as a fundamental component of their cause.

In 1905, an aging New York veteran recalled such sentiment at a Grand Army of the Republic meeting in Brooklyn. Recorded in the post's minute book, these few short lines tidily joined the twin themes of Union and emancipation.

In God’s name let us march to the mutinous South
       I shall fall, as will many of you
But halt not till slavery’s rebellion shall cease –
       Till the Father of Waters shall flow
Unviewed by a slave form Itasca Lake
       To the far Gulf of Mexico

Striking a tone of moralizing self-righteousness, this short piece nevertheless indicated that an emancipationist memory lived on with the veterans who had determined that the Union should survive - ultimately, without slavery.


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