Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

The Victor of Antietam


(1862.)


When tempest winnowed grain from bran;
And men were looking for a man,
Authority called you to the van,
        McClellan:
Along the line the plaudit ran,
As later when Antietam's cheers began.

Through storm-cloud and eclipse must move Each Cause and Man, dear to the stars and Jove; Nor always can the wisest tell Deferred fulfillment from the hopeless knell-- The struggler from the floundering ne'er-do-well. A pall-cloth on the Seven Days fell, Mcclellan-- Unprosperously heroical! Who could Antietam's wreath foretell?

Authority called you; then, in mist And loom of jeopardy--dismissed. But staring peril soon appalled; You, the Discarded, she recalled-- Recalled you, nor endured delay; And forth you rode upon a blasted way, Arrayed Pope's rout, and routed Lee's array, McClellan: Your tent was choked with captured flags that day, McClellan. Antietam was a telling fray.

Recalled you; and she heard your drum Advancing through the glastly gloom. You manned the wall, you propped the Dome, You stormed the powerful stormer home, McClellan: Antietam's cannon long shall boom.

At Alexandria, left alone, McClellan-- Your veterans sent from you, and thrown To fields and fortunes all unknown-- What thoughts were yours, revealed to none, While faithful still you labored on-- Hearing the far Manassas gun! McClellan, Only Antietam could atone.

You fought in the front (an evil day, McClellan)-- The fore-front of the first assay; The Cause went sounding, groped its way; The leadsmen quarrelled in the bay; Quills thwarted swords; divided sway; The rebel flushed in his lusty May: You did your best, as in you lay, McClellan. Antietam's sun-burst sheds a ray.

Your medalled soldiers love you well, McClellan: Name your name, their true hearts swell; With you they shook dread Stonewall's spell,* With you they braved the blended yell Of rebel and maligner fell; With you in shame or fame they dwell, McClellan: Antietam-braves a brave can tell.

And when your comrades (now so few, McClellan-- Such ravage in deep files they rue) Meet round the board, and sadly view The empty places; tribute due They render to the dead--and you! Absent and silent o'er the blue; The one-armed lift the wine to you, McClellan, And great Antietam's cheers renew.


Whatever just military criticism, favorable or otherwise, has at any time been made upon General McClellan's campaigns, will stand. But if, during the excitement of the conflict, aught was spread abroad tending the unmerited disparagement of the man, it must necessarily die out, though not perhaps without leaving some traces, which may or may not prove enduring. Some there are whose votes aided in the re-election of Abraham Lincoln, who yet believed, and retain the belief, that General McClellan, to say the least, always proved himself a patriotic and honorable soldier. The feeling which surviving comrades entertain for their late commander is one which, from its passion, is susceptible of versified representation, and such it receives.


* At Antietam Stonewall Jackson led one wing of Lee's army, consequently sharing that day in whatever may be deemed to have been the fortunes of his superior.


Herman Melville