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A Dirge for McPherson


Killed in front of Atlanta.

(July, 1864.)


Arms reversed and banners craped--
    Muffled drums;
Snowy horses sable-draped--
    McPherson comes.

But, tell us, shall we know him more, Lost-Mountain and lone Kenesaw?

Brave the sword upon the pall-- A gleam in gloom; So a bright name lighteth all McPherson's doom.

Bear him through the chapel-door-- Let priest in stole Pace before the warrior Who led. Bell--toll!

Lay him down within the nave, The Lesson read-- Man is noble, man is brave, But man's--a weed.

Take him up again and wend Graveward, nor weep: There's a trumpet that shall rend This Soldier's sleep.

Pass the ropes the coffin round, And let descend; Prayer and volley--let it sound McPherson's end.

True fame is his, for life is o'er-- Sarpedon of the mighty war.


The late Major General McPherson, commanding the Army of the Tennessee, a major of Ohio and a West Pointer, was one of the foremost spirits of the war. Young, though a veteran; hardy, intrepid, sensitive in honor, full of engaging qualities, with manly beauty; possessed of genius, a favorite with the army, and with Grant and Sherman. Both Generals have generously acknowledged their professional obligations to the able engineer and admirable soldier, their subordinate and junior.

In an informal account written by the Achilles to this Sarpedon, he says: "On that day we avenged his death. Near twenty-two hundred of the enemy's dead remained on the ground when night closed upon the scene of action."

It is significant of the scale on which the war was waged, that the engagement thus written of goes solely (so far as can be learned) under the vague designation of one of the battles before Atlanta.


Herman Melville