SATURDAY | Yes, another McClellan poetry day has arrived. We'll look at Ball's Bluff inspired poetry today, tomorrow and next Saturday.
General Frederick Lander is, unfortunately, best known for his own funeral because of the famous words McClellan spoke there, wishing that he could exchange places with his late messmate. In July of 1861, McClellan had said that with more officers like Marcy, Stone, Lander and Sackett he could accomplish great things quickly.
McClellan's Own Story points to certain strains in the relationship after Ball's Bluff, before Lander died of disease, but with Mac assuring us they were friends to the end. A modern writer has compared Lander, the explorer, to the screen persona of John Wayne.
Lander was a Massachusetts native deeply involved in the attempt to recover the setback at Ball's Bluff and he wrote a notable poem about the affair.
Aye, deem us proud, for we are more
Than proud of all our mighty dead;
Proud of the bleak and rock-bound shore,
A crowned oppressor cannot tread.
Proud of each rock, and wood, and glen;
Of every river, lake and plain;
Proud of the calm and earnest men
Who claim the right and the will to reign.
Proud of the men who gave us birth,
Who battled with the stormy wave
To sweep the red man from the earth,
And build their homes upon their grave.
Proud of the holy summer morn
They traced in blood upon its sod;
The rights of freemen yet unborn;
Proud of their language and their God.
Proud that beneath our proudest dome
And round the cottage-cradled hearth
There is a welcome and a home
For every stricken race on earth.
Proud that yon slowly sinking sun
Saw drowning lips grow white in prayer,
O'er such brief acts of duty done,
As honor gathers from despair.
Pride, it is our watchword; "clear the boats"
"Holmes, Putnam, Bartlett, Peirson-Here"
And while this crazy wherry floats
"Let's save our wounded", cries Revere.
Old State -- some souls are rudely sped --
This record for thy Twentieth Corps --
Imprisoned, wounded, dying, dead,
It only asks, "Has Sparta more?"
Let me break the spell by adding these notes: the "Twentieth Corps" refers to the 20th Mass. Vol. Inf.; captured Union soldiers included a grandson of Paul Revere, a son of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and a nephew of James Russell Lowell; Peirson wote about the battle later (Peirson, Charles L. Ball's Bluff; An Episode and Its Consequences to Some of Us: A Paper Written for the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts. Salem, MA: Salem Pr, 1913); Bartlett is that amazing soldier who rose from private to corps commander; and Putnam is also styled cousin to the poet Lowell. Putnam died a POW.
The poem is rather about the military character and society of Massachusetts, with a little battle vignette tacked on at the end. That sets up tomorrow's Ball's Bluff poetry. Meanwhile please read Lander again, without my comments to distract you, "As honor gathers from despair."