Realist Poetry Of Walt Whitman And The Civil War

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Walt Whitman and the Civil War Walt Whitman, son of Walter Whitman, Sr. and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, is regarded as one of nineteenth century America’s most significant and influential poets (Poetry Foundation). He is best well known for his realist poetry and his political works during and shortly after the Civil War. Whitman’s involvement in the war first began when he traveled to Virginia to find his brother, whom he believed had been injured during battle. Whitman then began aiding the Union during the war by tending to the needs of wounded soldiers that were hospitalized (Folsom). This essay will discuss how the Civil War, and the events following shortly after, affected the content of Whitman’s poetry. The Civil War affected Whitman’s …show more content…
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As Whitman became more involved in the war by aiding the wounded soldiers in the hospitals, he realized the horrifying consequences of going to battle. In his journal entry for December 22, 1862, he talks of how he came across “a heap of feet, legs, arms, and human fragments, cut, bloody, black and blue, swelled and sickening.” These gruesome aftereffects of war inspired Whitman to write even more powerful poetry in response to the war (Folsom). An example of this powerful poetry is Whitman’s “A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Grey and Dim”:
A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.
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The difference between “Beat! Beat! Drums!” exciting and exhilarating energy, and “A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Grey and Dim’s,” more somber tone reflect how Whitman’s experiences during the Civil War affected his writing. Another event that occurred during the Civil War period that had an immense effect of Whitman’s writing was the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Though Whitman was a great admirer of Lincoln, and was devastated by his death, he saw Lincoln’s death as a tragedy that would unify America (Reynolds). Lincoln’s death prompted the writing of Whitman’s most well-known work, “O Captain! My Captain!” In this poem, Whitman mourns the death of Lincoln, and also reveals to the reader that Lincoln’s death will bring about the unification of America:
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor 'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won (lines

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