McClellan poetry: more happytalk

SUNDAY | I mentioned last week the amount of trivial "feelgood" war material in the periodicals of the Civil War and that it often took the form of bad verse. Last week we had an example from a Union point-of-view ("Skedaddle") and this week switch sides with a Rebel lampoon of McClellan's perceived delay in opening the first Richmond campaign.

Frank Moore's Anecdotes, Poetry and Incidents of the War: North and South; 1860 – 1865 anthologized a lot of this material and this piece, "McClellan's Soliloquy," comes from that source too. It'not poetry, per se, but it has been written to scan like Shakespeare's monologue for Hamlet.

I think it was in Harvard's Houghton Library collection of McClellan papers that I saw a letter from General Thomas (Tim) Sherman to McClellan written wrom South Carolina, where Sherman was contending with Lee and Pemberton. He said something along the lines of, Your waiting strategy has strained every nerve in this section of the country. Keep it up. They are going crazy.

In light of Sherman's insight, we have this bit of whistling in the graveyard from "a Daughter of Georgia" who seems to want the Northern Army unleashed on Virginia ASAP.

McClellan's Soliloquy
by A Daughter of Georgia

Advance, or not advance; that is the question;
Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer
The jeers and howlings of outrageous Congressmen,
Or to take arms against a host of rebels,
And, by opposing, beat them? - To fight - to win -
No more; and by a victory, to say we end
This war, and all the thousand dreadful shocks
The flesh's exposed to - 'tis a consumation
Devoutly to be wished. To fight, to win,
To beat! perchance be beaten; - ay, there's the rub;
After a great defeat, what would ensue?
When we have shuffled off the battle-field,
Must give us pause; there's the respect
That makes calamity a great defeat.
But shall I bear the scorn of all the North,
The "outward" pressure, and Old Abe's reviling,
The pangs of being scoffed at for this long delay,
The turning out of office (ay, perchance,
When I myself might now my greatness make
With a great battle)? I'd not longer bear
To drill and practice troops behind intrenchments,
But that the fear of meeting with the foe
Or dread Manassas, from whose plains
Few of us would return - puzzles my will
And makes me rather bear the evils I have,
Than fly to others which are greater far.
These Southerners make cowards of us all.