Randall Fuller, author of From Battlefields Rising: How the Civil War Transformed American Literature (Oxford, 2011), has an interesting essay in the current Humanities Magazine on the impact of the battles of Bull Run and Fredericksburg on Walt Whitman’s poetry.
Here is a taste:
…Whitman would be changed forever by Bull Run. Never again would he boast so confidently about the future of America. “The dream of humanity, the vaunted Union we thought so strong, so impregnable,” he wrote after the war, recalling the first summer of war, “lo! it seems already smash’d like a china plate.” Implicitly criticizing the poetry of Leaves of Grass, with its confident assertions of national destiny and personal freedom, he asked of the young recruits, “Where are the vaunts, and the proud boasts with which you went forth? Where are your banners, and your bands of music, and your ropes to bring back prisoners? Well, there isn’t a band playing—and there isn’t a flag but clings ashamed and lank to its staff.”
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