This essay Walt Whitman's view of the Civil War has a total of 892 words and 5 pages.
Walt Whitman\'s view of the Civil War
Like most of the unprepared, naïve Americans who believed the Civil War would consist of a few short battles and little casualties, who then after the war reached it’s second year truly saw the Civil War for what it really was- the bloodiest in America’s history; Walt Whitman’s "Drum Taps" represents this ideal from start to finish. From the war’s first battle in 1861 when Whitman saw the endeavor as a chance for the North to put to rest all of the turmoil the South created, to the see-saw battles and first hand knowledge of the detriments war could create, the poet’s attitude evolved. Though many poems in "Drum Taps" is indicative of this development, "The Wound Dresser" is the best example of the author looking back upon his own initial opinions of the war, while stationed at a field hospital carrying his latest and final thoughts regarding what he held as an unnecessary encounter.
However, to understand the contrasts between his first, then ultimately conclusive belief, one must delve into his earlier works. In the first poem of "Drum Taps", "First O Songs For A Prelude" the poem indicates to the reader that Whitman is staunchly enthusiastic towards the first battle:
The tumultuous escort, the ranks of policemen preceding,
clearing the way, The unpent enthusiasm, the wild cheers
of the crowd for their favorites…War! Be it weeks, months,
or years, an arm’d race is advancing to welcome it.
As we can see, like most Americans, Whitman was proud of the engagements to come because at the time, war was only viewed by those who had never seen the ugly side of it.
Like a diary of prose, "Drum Taps" follows the war and the attitudes that accompany such an event. A further example of the author’s excitement for war and take no prisoners attitude can be read in "Beat! Beat! Drums!"
Beat! Beat! Drums!- blow! Bugles! Blow!
Make no parley- stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid- mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting
Again we can see Whitman’s encouragement to begin something that he will later wish never happened.
Eventually, Whitman finds himself working in a field hospital during the second half of the Civil War and through his writings, takes a self-reflexive view concerning his former wartime mentality. Though most of his Civil War poems following 1862 demonstrate the authors matured viewpoint, no better work describes this evolution or contributes to the overall theme of "Drum Taps" better than "The Wound Dresser."
This poem describes Whitman working for the Union Army and questioning his earlier, incognizant attitude. The unique asset of this poem is it’s ideal involvement of self reflection:
Arous’d and angry, I’d thought to beat the alarum, and urge
But soon my fingers fail’d me, my face droop’d and I resign’d
To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the
This passage in the poem demonstrates the authors discontent for his earlier feelings, and ultimate realization of the role he has taken to aid in the war effort.
Another guise of "Drum Taps" this work embodies is Whitman’s unyielding compassion for the soldiers involved in the war effort:
…With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,
One turns to me his appealing eyes-poor boy! I never knew you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that
would save you.
This display of pity is common throughout "Drum Taps."
Like most wars, and in particular the Civil War was a war of attrition. The side that had the most to spare usually won for reasons of sheer numbers. Because of this style of fighting, shotgun hospitals were constructed near the fields of battle in order to receive the uncountable casualties. Because Whitman held the position of wound dresser, he encountered first hand the atrocities that took place during battle:
On, on I go…The crushed head I dress…
The neck of the cavalry- man with the bullet through and through
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life
struggles hard…From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the
Topics Related to Walt Whitman's view of the Civil War
Brooklyn Eagle, Mystics, Walt Whitman, Drum Taps, Taps, War poet, The Wound-Dresser, Whitman, Tap dance, Drum-Taps, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomd
Essays Related to Walt Whitman's view of the Civil War
What are the values of the Revolution and how areWhat are the values of the Revolution and how are they portrayed? Values.doc January 10, 2004 Microsoft Word 97 War, whether it takes place in modern times, in ancient Greece or the eighteenth century, embodies specific values of the cultures that take part in them. The Revolutionary War was no different, and considering it’s unique status as the struggle out of which this country was founded, in many ways it became the cornerstone of the values that would later pervade American culture. We may
Walt WhitmanWalt Whitman Biography Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Long Island, New York. He was the second of six children. From 1825-1830, he attended public school in Brooklyn. After his years of education, Walt Whitman experimented with many different jobs. From 1836-1838, Whitman taught at several schools in Long Island. After teaching, Walt Whitman returned to printing and editing in New York. During this time he edited many papers such as the Aurora (daily newspaper), Evening Ta