Thursday, November 24, 2022
I'm listening to WWOZ New Orleans' live streaming radio. Tune in to WWOZ now:http://www.wwoz.org/listen/player/
Thursday, November 17, 2022
Tuesday, November 8, 2022
The warrior-monument, crashed in fight,
Shall soar transfigured in loftier light,
A meaning ampler bear;
Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer
Have laid the stone, and every bone
Shall rest in honor there. -- Harper's New Monthly Magazine, July 1866.
Among numerous head-stones or monuments on Cemetery Hill, marred or destroyed by the enemy's concentrated fire, was one, somewhat conspicuous, of a Federal officer killed before Richmond in 1862.
On the 4th of July, 1865, the Gettysburg National Cemetery, on the same height with the original burial-ground, was consecrated, and the corner-stone laid of a commemorative pile.
As previously shown on Melvilliana, Stephen H. Tyng the eminent Protestant Episcopal divine gave the formal prayer at the 1865 ceremony and thus may be seen as the model for Melville's unnamed "priest."
Upon the conclusion of the reading of the letter, the Musical Association sang the following beautiful ode, composed by Gen. W. H. HAYWARD, of Baltimore:
This battle-field — our nation's glory, —Where sweetly sleep our fallen braves,Proclaims aloud the tragic story —The story of their hallow'd graves !Yes ! here on Gettysburg's sad plain,This monument the tale will tell,That thousands for their flag were slain —Whilst fighting for the Union — fell !Here red artillery's deadly fireMow'd squadrons down in dread array ;Here MEADE compell'd LEE to retire,And HOWARD held his ground that day.Then let those tatter'd banners wave —Forever sacred be this ground !Sing paeans to those warriors brave,And be their deeds with glory crown'd !Wives, mothers, sisters, orphans dear,Shall gather round each clay-cold bed,And mourn their lov'd ones buried here —Their husbands, fathers, brothers dead.Now on this consecrated ground,Baptiz'd with patriots' sacred blood,We dedicate each glorious moundTo the Union Battle-Flag and God !
Monday, November 7, 2022
|Stephen Higginson Tyng, 1800-1885|
Mathew Brady Studio - https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.81.M1546
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Frederick Hill Meserve Collection
Delivered at Gettysburg on Independence Day, 1865, the "eloquent prayer" by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Higginson Tyng, Pastor of St. George's Episcopal Church in New York City, is transcribed below from the Revised Report Made to the Legislature of Pennsylvania, relative to the Soldiers' National Cemetery, at Gettysburg (Harrisburg, PA, 1867). Previously, the text of Rev. Tyng's Prayer had appeared with the printed Oration of Major-General O. O. Howard (Gettysburg, 1865); and in the full account of the proceedings at "Gettysburgh" published in the New York Times on July 6, 1865.
Herman Melville's Civil War poem Gettysburg ends with a direct reference to the imposing ceremony for laying the cornerstone of the Soldiers' National Monument in the new National Cemetery:
Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer Have laid the stone, and every bone Shall rest in honor there. -- Gettysburg by Herman Melville
Numerous military officers participated under the direction of General John W. Geary in his official role as Chief Marshal. Soldiers who formally participated in the ceremony included the featured orator General Oliver O. Howard, any military men among the Pennsylvania Freemasons who conducted the rites of consecration, and Colonel Charles G. Halpine aka "Private Miles O'Reilly" with his tribute of stirring verses entitled "Thoughts of the Place and Time." Colonel Halpine's poem was printed in the July 15, 1865 issue of Harper's Weekly, accessible online courtesy of the great Internet Archive:
06 Jul 1865, Thu The New York Times (New York, New York) Newspapers.com
After the procession reached the stand in the Cemetery, and order had been restored, the Band played a piece of music, which was followed by devotional exercises by the Rev. STEPHEN H. TYNG, D.D., as follows:
REMARKS AND PRAYER,
REV. STEPHEN H. TYNG, D. D.
FRIENDS AND BRETHREN:
We are assembled on an occasion of great solemnity. We invoke the presence and the blessing of the all-seeing God. We acknowledge Him as the God of our fathers, and of their children—we confess him as the God of our nation and of its posterity—we acknowledge His power and His wisdom—His mercy and His providence—as displayed in the whole government of our land. He has defended us in danger. He has been our shield in the day of battle. He has given us the victory. He is our strength. He has become our salvation.
We meet this day under His protection, and with His guidance, to erect a monument of our gratitude for His Goodness; and to the honor of the faithful men whom He has been pleased to make the glorious agents of our security and success. By their fidelity unto death, He has restored peace to our nation, given stability to our government, established union among our people, and renewed the prosperity and happiness of our homes and our households. To God we owe the gift of such noble children of our common country. To them we owe the tribute, under Him, of the highest earthly honor, and the most abiding and reverend recognition.
We are gathered here this day to proclaim, with humble, but glad hearts, our common obligations, to Him whose inspiration gave them fidelity, and to them, whose deeds and sacrifices, we hold in everlasting remembrance.
We confess Him this day as the Gracious Giver of divine revelation to us, in those Holy Scriptures, which we acknowledge to have been given by inspiration of God. That sacred book we receive, as the foundation and rule of all religious truth. The glorious redemption which it proclaims—the gracious promises which it contains—the immortal hopes which it imparts—the holy rules which it impresses—the sanctifying power and guidance which it exercises, as the infallible word of the living God, we humbly, gratefully confess—we honor the mighty Saviour whom it announces—we ask the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit, whom it has promised.
Under this guidance we assemble, with solemn prayer and harmony, to vindicate the memory, and to declare the honor of our exalted dead—to testify our unchanging loyality and love, to the country for which they died—to erect a monument which shall stand a perpetual witness of their glorious achievements, and of our fellowship with them, in the great principles of Union, Loyalty and Liberty, for which their costly sacrifice was so willingly and so nobly made.
Let me call you first to a few appropriate utterances from this Holy word of God: “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy Father and he will shew thee; thy elders and they will tell thee. When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people, according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." Deut. 32: 7-9.
“We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out: For they got not the land in possession, by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favor unto them.” Ps. 44: 1-3.
“Happy art thou O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thine excelleney! And thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.” Deut. 33: 29.
“The Eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee, and shall say, Destroy them.” Duet. 33: 27.
"All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord's, and he is the Governor among the nations. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this." Psa. 22: 27–31.
“Instead of thy fathers, shall be thy childern whom thou mayest make princes in all lands. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations; therefore shall the people praise thee forever and ever.” Psa. 45: 16, 17.
“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." Psa. 137: 5, 6.
“Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness. Surely he shall not be moved forever; the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." Psa. 112: 4, 6.
“Also the sons of the stranger that join themselves to the Lord to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer. Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls, a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” Isaiah 56: 5-7.
“And many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake. And they that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars, forever and ever." Dan. 12: 2, 3.
“Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.” St. John 11: 25, 26. “Verily, verily I say unto you, the time is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” St John 5 : 25.
“For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with Him.” 1 Thess. 4:14.
“To him that overcometh, will I give to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Rev. 3: 21.
"These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Rev. 7: 14-17.
"And I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." Rev. 14:13.
Under the guidance of these words of God let us unite in
PRAYER.O God, whose days are without end, who art from everlasting and inhabitest eternity, we bow homage before Thy throne.
To Thee belong the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. In thine hand our breath is, and thine are all our ways.
We behold Thee in the glories of thy creation, and adore the wisdom with which thou hast made them all. The heavens declare Thy glory. The earth is filled with thy goodness. All creatures wait upon Thee, and Thou givest them their meat in due season.
We acknowledge Thy love in the redemption which Thou hast revealed to sinful men in Thy Word; removing their condemnation by a divine sacrifice and ransom; unfolding to their acceptance glorious and sustaining hopes of eternal life; displaying the victory of pardoning grace over human sin, and of everlasting life over mortal death in the triumphant resurrection of Thy dear Son; presenting an assurance of glory to all who believe in Him, though they die, in His ascension to the throne and kingdom, and through His all-sufficient merit, and His unceasing intercession.
We praise Thee for that Holy Spirit whom Thou hast sent in His name, and for His sake, to be the Comforter of Thy people, and to lead them there, whither our Saviour Christ has gone before. We bless Thee for this new and living way of access for sinners to Thy throne of grace.
Cheered by this hope which Thy glorious gospel gives, and adoring the grace which has bestowed it upon us, we are gathered here this day to offer our united praise to Thee for Thy gracious providence and government over our nation; and to commemorate before Thee the glorious and inspiring record of the noble dead, by whose energy and faithfulness the security of our country has been maintained, its peace restored, and its cherished Union and integrity preserved.
The memories of this day lead us, O God, in every year to Thee. Wanderers ready to perish, were our fathers, when Thou didst protect them, in the origin of their history here. Contending for liberty and life, for themselves and their children, against oppression and superior power, were they, in the early struggles of our nation's childhood, where Thou didst maintain their right, and gave them the victory.
Thy grace adorned them with the virtues, in the record of which we rejoice. Thy watchful care and guidance carried them through a warfare, displaying a patriotism, an earnestness of sincerity, a devotion to their country's welfare, and a love for the rights and liberty of man, which have been the highest honor to our nation.
It is Thou, O God, who didst give them wisdom in counsel, courage in war, endurance in depression and distress, patience amidst protracted disaster, and final victory over the hosts of their opposers. It was Thou who didst teach them to establish a nation in peace, and a government in wise, righteous and equitable operation, over the people whom Thy Providence collected beneath it.
In all the past years of this favored nation, Thou hast been our fathers' God and our God. Thou hast guarded us in foreign wars, defended us by land and by sea, multiplied upon us the blessings of civilization and advancement, of religious freedom and truth. Thou hast given to every class of our people their due measure of prosperity; and hast secured for them, under wise and equal laws, the hopes and rights of all. Thou hast made a little one to become a strong nation, and hast here poured out the treasures of Thy mercy, in every varied shape of blessing, upon the millions who have here fed upon Thy goodness, and acknowledge Thee as the God of our salvation.
To Thee, O God, we owe these long succeeding years of peace, prosperity, and social exaltation. To Thee we owe that long succession of wise and honored men, whom thou hast raised up to be the rulers of this people. To Thee we owe that ruling in justice, and in the fear of the Lord, which has so honorably, and habitually distinguished our national history.
The distinction and exaltation which our fathers have attained for us, among the nations of the earth, by the success of their administration, and the fidelity of their personal government, we acknowledge still to be wholly Thy gift, who rulest as the Governor over all the earth, and puttest down one and settest up another.
As we survey the whole history of our nation, in peace and war; in its government and its people; in its intellectual advancement and social exaltation; in its religious privileges and material gains; in the great principles which it has established; and in the example of power acting in justice and forbearance, which it has displayed in all relations, and toward all people; we confess, O God, that all which we have enjoyed and possessed has been Thy gift; and not unto us, but unto Thy name, O Lord, our God, be all the praise.
Each year, O Lord, has justly brought us, on this day, to offer unto Thee the tribute of our thanksgiving and the homage of our praise. Generation after generation have thus adored Thee, as the God who alone has brought salvation unto them.
But we are gathered on a day which calls for very peculiar acknowledgments of our gratitude to Thee; and in a place, and for an especial occasion, which present new and impressive demands for our humble thanksgiving, our submissive penitents, our chastened but rejoicing memory, our sympathizing and benevolent tenderness, our renewed fidelity to our country's welfare, and our fixed and indomitable purpose to maintain the authority which Thou hast established for us, and the liberty and order which Thou hast arranged and appointed.
We are this day, a nation, free, united, independent and at peace—because Thou, O our gracious God, hast defended us from a violent and ungodly conspiracy—hast preserved us through a terrific warfare— hast given us unlimited victory, and hast set up Thy dominion over us, in overturning the wickedness of man's rebellion, and taking the violent in their own craftiness; in breaking the oppressor's yoke, in giving liberty to the prisoner, and freedom to the bruised and suffering slave; in opening to all the children of sorrow a door of hope in the midst of trial, and a day of promise and of glory after a long night of weeping and despair.
O let this day bring this rejoicing nation to the footstool of Thy throne. Wide as the triumphs of the assembling people may spread, may the higher triumphs of Thy grace and mercy be still more gracefully acknowledged, and thankfully enumerated and called to mind.
O God, it is thy patience and bounty which have placed us this day where we are, and made us what we are. Suffer us not to say that our wisdom, or the mightiness of our hand, have gained this triumph; or that anything in us has deserved its bestowal. In the very degree in which Thou hast exalted us, enable us to humble ourselves before Thee; and while Thou art speaking unto us, in language of amazing encouragement, may we sincerely speak to Thee, in the language of self-renouncing penitence, and deeper earnestness of desire and purpose, in everything to do Thy will.
As we look back this day, over all this conflict ended—this journey through deep waters completed—we bless Thee anew, O God, for the great and faithful men whom Thou hast raised up among us, in civil, military and naval life, mighty in counsel, triumphant in battle, and glorious in contests on the deep. But above all, we praise Thee for that beloved and exalted ruler, whom Thou didst set over us, under whose shadow we rejoiced, whose example in life was our faithful guide; whose gentle and forbearing administration was an honor to humanity, and in whose death, though it leaves him enshrined in our hearts, in the grateful affection of millions of his fellow-citizens, we have felt bereaved beyond the common example of mankind.
With our thanksgiving for all the past, we offer this day, O God, our earnest prayers for the abiding welfare, prosperity and peace of our beloved country. We pray Thee to maintain the government which Thou hast given us, against all assaults, and to multiply upon every generation of our people, the social and personal blessings which it is adapted to bestow and secure. May it ever be administered in righteousness, and wise and upright rulers be given to this people. Defend the nation from the violence of rebellion, and rescue them from the mutual recriminations of party spirit. Guard and direct the President of the United States in the faithful discharge of his responsible duties; and pour Thy gracious blessings, both spiritual and temporal, for time and for eternity, upon him and his household. Give to all who are in office under him, the spirit of wisdom and fidelity, in the execution of their various trusts. And ever raise up men fearing God and working righteousness, to administer the government over Thy people, in all the branches and relations of its responsibility. Thus, under the shadow of thy wing, may our land abide and our people dwell, seeking the good of this nation, and speaking peace to all the inhabitants thereof.
And now O Lord, who art especially the God of the suffering, of the widow and the fatherless, we unite to pray for all whom this bitter warfare hath bereaved, or reduced to condition of want or suffering. We are assembled to lay the cornerstone of a monument to soldiers who freely poured forth their blood upon this spot, in their country's defence. The bodies of many who were dear and cherished in the households of our nation, lie buried around us here. While we honor their memory, and would perpetuate the record of their renown, their widows and their orphans we commend to Thee. Their many wounded companions, the charge upon their country's gratitude and kindness, we present, also, before Thee. Awaken a spirit of liberal kindness and just remuneration toward them all, among this whole people; and bless, prosper, and reward every effort which may be made for their comfort and relief. Spread the influence and power of that gospel which teaches love to God and love to man, as the duty and privilege of all who hear it, in every portion of our land, and make this nation an example and an agent of its influence in blessing throughout all the earth.
May all the exercises of this day be made to awaken a spirit of union, loyalty and love, among those who are here assembled, and all the inhabitants of this land. And may this monument, and this ground, consecrated by the honored dead, be, in years to come, a token and a witness to all who shall ever visit this place, of Thy blessing upon this people, and of all the interests which Thou hast preserved for them, and an admonition to every coming generation, that Thy favor is life, and Thy loving kindness is better than life.
Thus, O God, do we look up unto Thee in praise and prayer, and ask Thine acceptance and favor in the name of our glorious Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The National Union Musical Association of Baltimore, then sung “ FRENCH'S HYMN.”
The hymn by Benjamin Brown French had been composed for the earlier Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. At the 1863 ceremony, the singing of French's Hymn immediately preceded Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address.
- Honoring the Union dead in Melville's Gettysburg
- Hayward's Monumental Ode
Friday, November 4, 2022
Thursday, November 3, 2022
|via NYPL Digital Collections|
Voiced by a victor, Melville's Civil War poem Gettysburg (subtitled "The Check.") offers a patriotic post-war take on the awful battle--not a conclusive Win from this perspective but the terribly costly turning point that curbed the progress of "impious" invaders. As portrayed here it's Good v. Evil all the way through. Figuratively, Union-Israelites backed by the omnipotent Lord of Hosts versus Confederate-Philistines, worshippers of the false god Dagon. Melville's speaker, like his presumed audience of loyal Northern readers, remains untroubled by any uncertainty or moral ambiguity about which side was right in the American Civil War. Like the idol of ancient pagans, the South's unholy cause of Rebellion was foredoomed to fall. The strong pro-Union stance is still evident in the final stanza of "Gettysburg," particularly in Melville's closing allusion to the formal ceremony of July 4, 1865 in which the cornerstone was laid for the Soldier's National Monument to be placed in the recently established National Cemetery. Melville's own prose note enables future readers and commentators to get his drift by explicitly identifying the historical referent in the last two lines of verse:
On the 4th of July, 1865, the Gettysburg National Cemetery, on the same height with the original burial-ground, was consecrated, and the corner-stone laid of a commemorative pile.
-- from Melville's Notes to Battle-Pieces (New York, 1866) page 249.
|Laying the Cornerstone of the Soldiers' Monument at Gettysburg, July 4, 1865.|
Harper's Weekly - July 22, 1865 - page 453
Neglect of Melville's note and the historical context it supplies (not to mention the bad influences of Mikhail Bakhtin and Garry Wills) allowed David Devries and Hugh Egan to imagine a generous "inclusiveness" in Melville's forecast that "every bone / Shall rest in honor" at the new National Cemetery.
Devries, David and Hugh Egan. ""Entangled Rhyme": A Dialogic Reading of Melville's Battle-Pieces." Leviathan, vol. 9 no. 3, 2007, p. 17-33. Project MUSE muse.jhu.edu/article/492809.
In their 2007 Leviathan essay, Devries and Egan assert that Melville's "non-specific and general" phrase every bone applies equally to "Confederate and Union dead," poetically mingling their remains in a transcendental gesture that looks forward to a more enlightened and ultimately trans-national future. Equally unconcerned with the details of Melville's prose note, Stanton Garner had the same idea, interpreting Melville's monument before and after transfiguration as a unifying symbol that humanely
"honors all the dead who lay together on the field."
-- The Civil War World of Herman Melville (University Press of Kansas, 1993) page 248.
Just the other day I heard the same take on "every bone" proposed in a thoughtful discussion of "Gettysburg" and other poems from Battle-Pieces on the Critical Readings podcast.
Thankfully, Jonathan Alexander Cook has provided a needful history lesson, reminding us that cemetery and monument specifically and exclusively honor "all the Union dead at Gettysburg" and "their sacrifice for the preservation of the Union":
The individual "warrior-monument" in Melville's poem becomes synonymous with all the Union dead at Gettysburg, whose graves now have an "ampler" meaning with the civic rituals ("Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer") performed at the national cemetery to honor their sacrifice for the preservation of the Union.
-- "Melville and the Lord of Hosts: Holy War and Divine Warrior Rhetoric in Battle-Pieces" in This Mighty Convulsion, edited by Christopher Sten and Tyler Hoffman (University of Iowa Press, 2019) pages 135-152 at pages 142-3.
Looking further into the relevant background as reported in Melville's time and ours, I think even more might be said about both the original "warrior-monument" and later "civic rituals" to which Cook points. Hopefully, closer examination of the historical record will enable a better understanding of Melville's poem "Gettysburg," the last stanza in particular:
Sloped on the hill the mounds were green,
Our centre held that place of graves,
And some still hold it in their swoon,
And over these a glory waves.
The warrior-monument, crashed in fight,
Shall soar transfigured in loftier light,
A meaning ampler bear;
Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer
Have laid the stone, and every bone
Shall rest in honor there.
First, about the original "warrior-monument" as Melville termed it, "crashed in fight." Melville explained the reference in the first part of his note to "Gettysburg":
Among numerous head-stones or monuments on Cemetery Hill, marred or destroyed by the enemy's concentrated fire, was one, somewhat conspicuous, of a Federal officer killed before Richmond in 1862.As shown previously on Melvilliana
the "warrior-monument" in Melville's poem refers to the damaged grave stone of Sergeant Frederick A. Huber (1842-1862) at Evergreen Cemetery, adjacent to the National Cemetery at Gettysburg. To this day, Gettysburg historians and tour guides continue to visit what's left of Sgt. Huber's grave marker.Twenty-Third Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry aka Birney's Zouaves was killed at Fair Oaks, Virginia in the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862. A number of contemporary newspaper accounts relate the sad story of Sgt. Huber's death in battle and the damage to his tall grave marker in Evergreen Cemetery one year later. One of the best, by a friend and former classmate, was signed "W." and published in the Cleveland Weekly Plain Dealer on December 16, 1863.
|Cleveland, Ohio Weekly Plain Dealer|
December 16, 1863
A Bit of Sad Romance.
GETTYSBURG, Dec. 3, 1863
EDITOR PLAIN DEALER--I have just been glancing over a letter of "G. H.," written to you from this place. Much interested as I was in his account, pardon me if I add a few words to one paragraph. It is in reference to the broken tombstone of a Union volunteer.
It was at Fair Oaks, and not at Mill Spring, that FRED. A. HUBER, Orderly Sergeant of Co. F, 23d Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, gave up his life for the glorious Union. Poor FRED! I knew him well. We were college mates and friends, in the years that are gone, and a braver, truer heart than his never beat. From the striking of the first war note, his heart was in the field, but family reasons for a long time held him at home. When he did make up his mind to go, it was after serious and sober reflection, and from a stern sense of duty. He went from sheer patriotism. To prove this it is only necessary to say that he rejected the offer of a Lieutenancy in a Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment and enlisted as a private in BIRNEY's 23d. Well instructed in the duties of a soldier--for he had for months made military matters a study--he was offered the post of Orderly Sergeant, but with native modesty rejected it, preferring to win his laurels. Well read in the theory of medicine--almost ready to practice--he was offered a post of comparative safety about the hospital--if I am not mistaken, that of hospital Steward--but his answer was: "I am able-bodied, strong, young, and fit to carry a musket; my place is in the ranks." Through the long winter in front of Washington I would receive letters from him, every one praying for a fight.
At length came the move on the Peninsula, and in his first charge FRED fell, shot through the lungs. His friends would have carried him off, but his practiced soul--cool even amid the horrors of battle and death--knew the wound was mortal, and told them to desist. "Tell my parents that I died for my country," were the last words mortal man ever heard him utter.-- When the roar of battle was over--when the thunder of artillery and the rattle and crash of musketry had ceased--when the foe was vanquished and the field of Fair Oaks was won, they found him where they had left him--dead on the field of battle. They brought him home, and as I helped to consign his corpse to its final resting place, I could only murmur, "If he had only lived!"
When our thinned and mangled lines went grimly back before the surging charge of the rebel hosts, and the fortunes of the day looked red and lowry, I watched the flashing of the artillery as it kept guard around the tombs of the departed, and wondered then if amidst the storm of battle I could reasonably expect FRED's tomb stone to remain untouched. Five days later I found it almost the only one destroyed. Gallant soldier! He needs no monument, for he lives in the hearts of his friends.
|The 1869 Soldiers' National Monument |
via Library of Congress
In this context, civic honors may only be accorded to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and thus gave what Lincoln at Gettysburg famously called "the last full measure of devotion" to save the United States of America. The Soldiers' National Cemetery continues to be introduced as
"the final resting place for more than 3500 Union soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg."
Considered together the carefully arranged headstones demonstrate "the magnitude of the loss and the cost to preserve our Democracy." -- Gettysburg Foundation - Gettysburg National Cemetery
In his chosen role as national bard, Melville could and did portray the kinship and common humanity of boy-soldiers on both sides of the divide. As required by setting and theme, he might fittingly respect, lament, mourn, or remember any one of the Confederate dead. Characteristically, Melville sympathizes most readily with grieving widows, mothers, and sisters. Grief felt and expressed in the defeated South over loved ones killed in the war is natural, of course--and no less holy than grief experienced in Northern families, as Melville insists in the prose Supplement to Battle-Pieces:
The mourners who this summer bear flowers to the mounds of the Virginian and Georgian dead are, in their domestic bereavement and proud affection, as sacred in the eye of Heaven as are those who go with similar offerings of tender grief and love into the cemeteries of our Northern martyrs.
While heartfelt grief must be equally "sacred in the eye of Heaven" the expression of that grief here on earth normally occurred in separate cemeteries. With the fall of Richmond, the side of secession and slavery lost. For all of his generous forbearance and post-war regard for the losers as countrymen, it could never be in Melville's power to bestow national honor on the remains of fallen Confederate soldiers.
"Each column is pannelled, and bears the names of the eighteen States whose troops have shed their blood upon the consecrated field. The dead are gathered in circular rows, those of each State in separate lots, and the names of all identified carved upon the curb. The unknown dead are gathered to themselves and form a large proportion of the heroes who sleep. Thus far, it is estimated, that 3,800 soldiers rest within the enclosure. The Confederate dead sleep strewn apart in the valleys and on the hills."
-- "The Gettysburg Memorial," Baltimore Sun, July 6, 1865.
"Confederate soldiers were not reburied in Gettysburg National Cemetery. Samuel Weaver – the man in charge of overseeing the disinterment of original graves to move the bodies to the new cemetery – was zealous in his goal not to have a single Rebel buried alongside Union men in the national cemetery. (We now know that at least two Southern soldiers are buried in the national cemetery)."In his formal statement of March 19, 1864, reprinted in Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (Indianapolis, 1865), Samuel Weaver attested "that there has not been a single mistake made in the removal of the soldiers to the Cemetery, by taking the body of a rebel for a Union soldier."
|Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania|
With the approach of planting season in 1864, Pennsylvania farmers were ready to plough the battlefield under, corpses and all. From the Annapolis Gazette of April 7, 1864:
THE REBEL DEAD AT GETTYSBURG.
From evidence developed to the workmen and others engaged in removing the dead bodies on the battle-field, they are fully convinced that not less than seven thousand Rebels lost their lives in this conflict, the bodies of whom are still there.-- In one space of three acres was found three hundred and twenty-five confederates slain; and elsewhere, in a single trench two hundred and fifty more. A considerable portion of the battle-ground is likely to be ploughed up this spring and summer, by farmers owning it, preparatory to planting corn and other grain. As a matter of course the Confederate graves must be obliterated, and the trenches which now indicate their places. There is a strong desire with the people, in respect to humanity, to have these bodies, though of the enemy, respectably and decently put away in some inclosure where they may not be disturbed. Our common humanity should impel us to such a step.-- Gettysburg Star and Banner
In the summer of 1865 "CASTINE," a special correspondent of the Sacramento Daily Union, noted the contrast in reporting on "The Graves of Gettysburg":
Several years ago the citizens of Gettysburg laid out upon the summit of what is now Cemetery Hill a beautiful burial ground, adjoining which is the National Cemetery, where lie buried the remains of those who fell here fighting for the Union. The rebel dead are buried in spots all over the field; but here all of the Union soldiers, representing nearly every loyal State, are gathered. -- Sacramento, California Daily Union, July 14, 1865.
To the same effect, another observation of "Gettysburg Battle-Field" two years after "the terrible conflict" there appeared in a letter from regular correspondent "CYMON," printed in the New York Times on July 10, 1865:
"Reopened graves on the easterly slope of the hill mark where our gallant dead were first buried, now exhumed and interred with honor in the nation's cemetery. Down in the ravine where the rebel line of battle issued are mounds, grass-grown, unmarked and untouched, where the enemy's dead were buried, a trench their sepulchre, an army blanket their winding-sheet, and the sighing of the forest breezes their only requiem."
When the Soldiers' Monument was finally installed in July 1869, three years after Melville's poem "Gettysburg" first appeared in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, featured speakers at the formal ceremony noted and variously deplored the continuing neglect of the remains of fallen Confederate soldiers. Henry Ward Beecher, George G. Meade, and Oliver P. Morton all remarked on the pitiful sight of these shallow, unmarked mounds and trenches. Gen. Meade made a strong plea for the decent burial of "the bones of the Rebel dead." Elsewhere, obviously, not in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg.
From the New York Semi-Weekly Tribune ("Gettysburg. / The National Monument. / Dedication Services") of July 2, 1869:
"Then Henry Ward Beecher uttered a solemn prayer in the large, and loving, and fervent words so familiar from his lips. Gen. Meade said a few earnest words, recalling the history of the place, recognizing the courage, and self-sacrifice, and patience that made this day possible, and feelingly pleading that the bones of the Rebel dead should be gathered, and kindly and decently interred."
|New York Journal of Commerce - July 2, 1869|
There is one subject, my friends, which I will mention now and on this spot where my attention has been called to it, and in which I trust my feeble voice will have some influence. When I contemplate this field I see here and there, marked with hastily dug trenches, the graves in which the dead with whom we fought are gathered. They are the work of my brothers in arms the day after battle. Above them a bit of plank indicates simply that these remains of the fallen foe were hurriedly laid there by the soldiers who met them in battle. Why should we not collect them in some suitable place? I do not ask that a monument should be erected over them. I do not ask that we should in any way indorse the course of their conduct, or entertain other than feelings of condemnation for their course. But they are dead; they have gone before their Maker to be judged. In all civilized countries it is the usage to bury the dead with decency and respect, and even to fallen enemies respectful burials are accorded in death. [Applause.]
I earnestly hope this suggestion may have some influence throughout this broad land, for this is only one among a hundred crowded battle-fields. Some persons may be designated by the Government, if necessary, to collect these neglected bodies and bury them without commemorative monuments, but simply indicate that below sleep the misguided men who fell in battle for a cause over which we triumphed.... --Boston Daily Evening Transcript, Friday, July 2, 1869.
Without going as far as General Meade before him in urging their removal and proper burial, featured orator Oliver Perry Morton of Indiana called attention to the plainly unhonored "graves of the rebel dead":
|New York Commercial Advertiser - July 2, 1869|
"In the fields before us are the graves of the rebel dead, now sunk to the level of the plain, "unmarked, unhonored, and unknown." They were our countrymen, of our blood, language, and history. They displayed a courage worthy of their country, and of a better cause, and we may drop a tear to their memory. The news of this fatal field carried agony to thousands of Southern homes, and the wail of despair was heard in the everglades and orange groves of the South. Would to God that these men had died for their country and not in fratricidal strife, for its destruction. Oh, who can describe the wickedness of rebellion, or paint the horrors of civil war!" --reprinted in John Russell Bartlett, The Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg (Providence, Rhode Island, 1874) page 91. A digitized version of this 1874 volume is accessible online courtesy of the Internet Archive:
Henry Ward Beecher the influential Congregational minister was reportedly "shocked at the exposed remains and robbery of the shallow graves and trenches in which the Southern slain were not decently buried, and whose proper reinterment has never been cared for since." As quoted in the Alexandria, Virginia Gazette for October 28, 1869, Rev. Beecher
"... refers to the fact that "We disburden the gibbet tenderly and give sepulture to murderers" and asks "Can it be possible that a great and generous nation will much longer suffer the Confederate dead to lie disheveled in such utter and contemptuous neglect?"
|Alexandria, Virginia Gazette - October 28, 1869|
Three years after the first appearance of Melville's "Gettysburg" in print, the "disheveled" remains of dead Confederate soldiers lay in "utter and contemptuous neglect." Mistakes excepted, nobody had any idea of deliberately honoring dead Rebels there in the new National Cemetery at Gettysburg. To receive any sort of honors, remains of fallen Rebels first would have to be disinterred and sent home.
Ladies’ Memorial Associations across the South formed the resolution to raise money, find helpful connections, disinter the Confederate soldiers, and re-bury them in Southern cemeteries. It was clear the Confederate dead were not welcome in the Gettysburg National Cemetery, so the ladies decided to bring their fallen back to Southern soil.
Being inclined to philosophize, Melville when he wanted to could certainly take the long view of things. Differently framed, against the backdrop of classical art and mythology, ancient history, the wisdom of Solomon, geologic time, or the Cosmos, the honors reserved for Union dead might seem a rather trivial affair. To be sure, "Gettysburg" the poem begins in Bible history with Dagon as emblem of unrighteous rebellion. From there, however, the poem rehearses "three waves" of Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863 before moving on to the 1865 proceedings conducted by "soldier and priest," laying the cornerstone of the Soldiers' Monument.As affirmed in Melville's note to "Gettysburg," the poet's present-day in the last stanza must be just after the time of that imposing 1865 ceremony. Two participants, General William H. Hayward and Reverend Stephen Higginson Tyng could be seen as real-life counterparts of Melville's unnamed "soldier and priest." More on them in another post, hopefully. After the singing of Gen. Hayward's Monumental Ode by the National Union Musical Association of Baltimore, the prayer by Rev. Tyng, and the ceremonial laying of the corner stone by Pennsylvania Freemasons, General Oliver O. Howard delivered the featured oration. (Also part of the formal program, the reading of a letter from President Andrew Johnson who was ill at the time and unable to attend. Conciliatory language in the President's message may have influenced some of the words and the tone of Melville's prose supplement to Battle-Pieces.) After Gen. Howard's well-received speech came a reading of the poem composed for the occasion by Charles Graham Halpine aka "Private Miles O'Reilly." The following lines of which seem directly relevant to the imagery and symbolism at the end of Melville's "Gettysburg":
To-day a nation meets to build
A nation's trophy to the dead,
Who, living, formed her sword and shield,
The arms she sadly learned to wield,
When other hope of peace had fled;
And not alone for those who be
In honored graves before us blest,
Shall our proud column broad and high,
Climb upward to the blessing sky,
But be for all a monument.
An emblem of our grief as well
For others, as for these, we raise;
For these beneath our feet who dwell,
And all who in the good cause fell,
On other fields in other frays.
-- One Hundred Choice Selections in Poetry and Prose, edited by Nathaniel K. Richardson (Philadelphia, 1866) pages 46-49.
Herman Melville could have found all of this "exquisite poem" in the July 15, 1865 issue of Harper's Weekly, printed under the heading "Thoughts of the Place and Time." Accessible online courtesy of the great Internet Archive:
Colonel Halpine's poem illustrates the transforming effect then expected of the Soldiers' Monument, yet unveiled but already perceived as emblematic of shared national grief. The "ampler meaning" forecasted in Melville's poem similarly alludes to the unifying function of the still-forthcoming monument. As national symbol, the lofty Soldier's Monument memorializes all the Union dead--not only those soldiers buried State-by-State in the Gettysburg National Cemetery, but
"all who in the good cause fell,
On other fields in other frays."
Including poor Fred Huber, who gave up his life for the glorious Union, and whose broken tombstone may still be found in Evergreen Cemetery.
- Remarks and prayer by Rev Stephen H Tyng at Gettysburg
- Hayward's Monumental Ode