This week has been the 150th Anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, a tragic affair that was fought almost exclusively on American soil and almost exclusively by Americans. It was the first war that was photographed extensively, and a big chunk of our national literary heritage was born of this period. The following is a selection that is typical of the poetry from that era. It is sad, and it is real, and it is a picture of war as clear as any photograph ever taken by Matthew Brady.
HE'LL SEE IT WHEN HE WAKES by Frank LeeAmid the clouds of battle smoke The sun had died away, And where the storm of battle broke A thousand warriors lay. A band of friends upon the field Stood round a youthful form, Who, when the war cloud's thunder pealed, Had perished in the storm. Upon his forehead, on his hair, The coming moonlight breaks, And each dear brother standing there A tender farewell takes. But ere they laid him in his home There came a comrade near, And gave a token that had come From her the dead held dear. A moment's doubt upon them pressed, Then one the letter takes And lays it low upon his breast -- "He'll see it when he wakes." 0 thou who dost in sorrow wait, Whose heart in anguish breaks, Though thy dear message came too late, "He'll see it when he wakes." No more amid the fiery storm Shall his strong arm be seen, No more his young and manly form Tread Mississippi's green; And e'en thy tender words of love -- The words affection speaks- Came all too late; but O thy love Will "see them when he wakes! No jars disturb his gentle rest, No noise his slumber breaks; But thy words sleep upon his breast -- "He'll see them when he wakes."