Herman Melville

Robert C. Ryan, Harrison Hayford, Alma A. MacDougall, and G. Thomas Tanselle (eds), The Writings of Herman Melville: The Northwestern-Newberry Edition, Vol. 11: Published Poems: Battle-Pieces; John Marr; Timoleon

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pg 23Editor’s NoteDonelson(February, 1862)

  • Editor’s Note1The bitter cup
  • 2    Of that hard countermand
  • 3Which gave the Envoys up,
  • 4Still was wormwood in the mouth,
  • 5    And clouds involved the land,
  • 6When, pelted by sleet in the icy street,
  • 7    About the bulletin-board a band
  • 8Of eager, anxious people met,
  • 9And every wakeful heart was set
  • 10On latest news from West or South.
  • 11"No seeing here," cries one—"don't crowd"—
  • 12"You tall man, pray you, read aloud."
  • Critical Apparatus13Important.
  • Editor’s Note14                    We learn that General Grant,
  • 15    Marching from Henry overland,
  • 16And joined by a force up the Cumberland sent
  • 17    (Some thirty thousand the command),
  • 18On Wednesday a good position won
  • 19Began the siege of Donelson.
  • Editor’s Note20This stronghold crowns a river-bluff,
  • 21    A good broad mile of leveled top;
  • 22Inland the ground rolls off
  • 23    Deep-gorged, and rocky, and broken up
  • pg 2424A wilderness of trees and brush.
  • 25    The spaded summit shows the roods
  • 26Of fixed intrenchments in their hush;
  • 27    Breast-works and rifle-pits in woods
  • 28Perplex the base.—
  • 29                    The welcome weather
  • 30    Is clear and mild; 'tis much like May.
  • 31The ancient boughs that lace together
  • 32Along the stream, and hang far forth,
  • 33    Strange with green mistletoe, betray
  • 34A dreamy contrast to the North.
  • 35Our troops are full of spirits—say
  • 36    The siege won't prove a creeping one.
  • 37They purpose not the lingering stay
  • 38Of old beleaguerers; not that way;
  • Editor’s Note39    But, full of vim from Western prairies won,
  • 40    They'll make, ere long, a dash at Donelson.
  • 41Washed by the storm till the paper grew
  • 42Every shade of a streaky blue,
  • 43That bulletin stood. The next day brought
  • 44A second.
  • 45            Later from the Fort.
  • Editor’s Note46Grant's investment is complete
  • 47        A semicircular one.
  • 48Both wings the Cumberland's margin meet,
  • 49Then, backward curving, clasp the rebel seat.
  • 50    On Wednesday this good work was done;
  • 51    But of the doers some lie prone.
  • 52Each wood, each hill, each glen was fought for;
  • 53The bold inclosing line we wrought for
  • 54Flamed with sharpshooters. Each cliff cost
  • 55A limb or life. But back we forced
  • 56Reserves and all; made good our hold;
  • 57And so we rest.
  • 58Events unfold.
  • 59On Thursday added ground was won,
  • pg 2560    A long bold steep: we near the Den.
  • 61Later the foe came shouting down
  • 62    In sortie, which was quelled; and then
  • 63We stormed them on their left.
  • 64A chilly change in the afternoon;
  • 65The sky, late clear, is now bereft
  • 66Of sun. Last night the ground froze hard
  • 67Rings to the enemy as they run
  • 68Within their works. A ramrod bites
  • 69The lip it meets. The cold incites
  • 70To swinging of arms with brisk rebound.
  • 71Smart blows 'gainst lusty chests resound.
  • Editor’s Note72Along the outer line we ward
  • 73    A crackle of skirmishing goes on.
  • 74Our lads creep round on hand and knee,
  • 75    They fight from behind each trunk and stone;
  • 76    And sometimes, flying for refuge, one
  • 77Finds 'tis an enemy shares the tree.
  • 78Some scores are maimed by boughs shot off
  • 79    In the glades by the Fort's big gun.
  • 80    We mourn the loss of Colonel Morrison,
  • 81    Killed while cheering his regiment on.
  • 82Their far sharpshooters try our stuff;
  • 83And ours return them puff for puff:
  • 84'Tis diamond-cutting-diamond work.
  • 85    Woe on the rebel cannoneer
  • 86Who shows his head. Our fellows lurk
  • 87    Like Indians that waylay the deer
  • 88By the wild salt-spring.—The sky is dun,
  • 89Foredooming the fall of Donelson.
  • 90Stern weather is all unwonted here.
  • 91    The people of the country own
  • Editor’s Note92We brought it. Yea, the earnest North
  • 93Has elementally issued forth
  • 94    To storm this Donelson.
  • 95Further.
  • 96A yelling rout
  • 97Of ragamuffins broke profuse
  • pg 2698    To-day from out the Fort.
  • Editor’s Note99    Sole uniform they wore, a sort
  • 100Of patch, or white badge (as you choose)
  • 101    Upon the arm. But leading these,
  • 102Or mingling, were men of face
  • 103And bearing of patrician race,
  • Editor’s Note104Splendid in courage and gold lace
  • 105    The officers. Before the breeze
  • 106Made by their charge, down went our line;
  • 107But, rallying, charged back in force,
  • 108And broke the sally; yet with loss.
  • 109This on the left; upon the right
  • 110Meanwhile there was an answering fight;
  • 111    Assailants and assailed reversed.
  • 112The charge too upward, and not down
  • 113Up a steep ridge-side, toward its crown,
  • 114    A strong redoubt. But they who first
  • Editor’s Note115Gained the fort's base, and marked the trees
  • 116Felled, heaped in horned perplexities,
  • 117    And shagged with brush; and swarming there
  • 118Fierce wasps whose sting was present death
  • 119They faltered, drawing bated breath,
  • 120    And felt it was in vain to dare;
  • 121Yet still, perforce, returned the ball,
  • 122Firing into the tangled wall
  • 123Till ordered to come down. They came;
  • 124But left some comrades in their fame,
  • 125Red on the ridge in icy wreath
  • 126And hanging gardens of cold Death.
  • 127    But not quite unavenged these fell;
  • 128Our ranks once out of range, a blast
  • 129    Of shrapnel and quick shell
  • 130Burst on the rebel horde, still massed,
  • 131    Scattering them pell-mell.
  • 132            (This fighting—judging what we read—
  • 133            Both charge and countercharge,
  • 134            Would seem but Thursday's told at large,
  • 135            Before in brief reported.—Ed.)
  • 136Night closed in about the Den
  • 137    Murky and lowering. Ere long, chill rains.
  • pg 27138A night not soon to be forgot,
  • 139    Reviving old rheumatic pains
  • 140And longings for a cot.
  • 141    No blankets, overcoats, or tents.
  • 142Coats thrown aside on the warm march here
  • 143We looked not then for changeful cheer;
  • 144Tents, coats, and blankets too much care.
  • 145    No fires; a fire a mark presents;
  • 146    Near by, the trees show bullet-dents.
  • 147Rations were eaten cold and raw.
  • 148    The men well soaked, came snow; and more
  • 149A midnight sally. Small sleeping done
  • 150                But such is war;
  • 151No matter, we'll have Fort Donelson.
  • 152"Ugh! ugh!
  • 153'Twill drag along—drag along,"
  • 154Growled a cross patriot in the throng,
  • 155His battered umbrella like an ambulance-cover
  • 156Riddled with bullet-holes, spattered all over.
  • 157"Hurrah for Grant!" cried a stripling shrill;
  • 158Three urchins joined him with a will,
  • 159And some of taller stature cheered.
  • 160Meantime a Copperhead passed; he sneered.
  • 161     "Win or lose," he pausing said,
  • 162"Caps fly the same; all boys, mere boys;
  • 163Any thing to make a noise.
  • 164    Like to see the list of the dead;
  • 165These 'craven Southerners' hold out;
  • 166Ay, ay, they'll give you many a bout."
  • 167    "We'll beat in the end, sir,"
  • 168Firmly said one in staid rebuke,
  • 169A solid merchant, square and stout.
  • 170    "And do you think it? that way tend, sir?"
  • 171Asked the lean Copperhead, with a look
  • 172Of splenetic pity. "Yes, I do."
  • 173His yellow death's head the croaker shook:
  • 174"The country's ruined, that I know."
  • 175A shower of broken ice and snow,
  • 176    In lieu of words, confuted him;
  • pg 28177They saw him hustled round the corner go,
  • 178    And each by-stander said—Well suited him.
  • 179Next day another crowd was seen
  • 180In the dark weather's sleety spleen.
  • 181Bald-headed to the storm came out
  • 182A man, who, 'mid a joyous shout,
  • 183Silently posted this brief sheet:
  • 184        Glorious Victory of the Fleet!
  • 185        Friday's great event!
  • 186        The enemy's water-batteries beat!
  • 187        We silenced every gun!
  • Editor’s Note188        The old Commodore's compliments sent
  • 189        Plump into Donelson!
  • 190"Well, well, go on!" exclaimed the crowd
  • 191To him who thus much read aloud.
  • 192"That's all," he said. "What! nothing more?"
  • Critical Apparatus193"Enough for a cheer, though—hip, hurrah!"
  • Critical Apparatus194"But here's old Baldy come again"—
  • 195"More news!"—And now a different strain.
  • 196    (Our own reporter a dispatch compiles,
  • 197        As best he may, from varied sources.)
  • 198Large re-enforcements have arrived
  • 199    Munitions, men, and horses
  • 200For Grant, and all debarked, with stores.
  • 201    The enemy's field-works extend six miles
  • 202The gate still hid; so well contrived.
  • 203Yesterday stung us; frozen shores
  • 204    Snow-clad, and through the drear defiles
  • pg 29205And over the desolate ridges blew
  • 206A Lapland wind.
  • 207    The main affair
  • 208    Was a good two hours' steady fight
  • 209Between our gun-boats and the Fort.
  • Editor’s Note210    The Louisville's wheel was smashed outright.
  • 211A hundred-and-twenty-eight-pound ball
  • 212Came planet-like through a starboard port,
  • 213Killing three men, and wounding all
  • 214The rest of that gun's crew,
  • 215(The captain of the gun was cut in two);
  • 216Then splintering and ripping went
  • 217Nothing could be its continent.
  • 218    In the narrow stream the Louisville,
  • 219Unhelmed, grew lawless; swung around,
  • 220    And would have thumped and drifted, till
  • 221All the fleet was driven aground,
  • 222But for the timely order to retire.
  • 223Some damage from our fire, 'tis thought,
  • 224Was done the water-batteries of the Fort.
  • 225Little else took place that day,
  • 226    Except the field artillery in line
  • Editor’s Note227Would now and then—for love, they say
  • 228            Exchange a valentine.
  • 229The old sharpshooting going on.
  • 230Some plan afoot as yet unknown;
  • 231So Friday closed round Donelson.
  • 232Later.
  • 233            Great suffering through the night
  • 234A stinging one. Our heedless boys
  • 235    Were nipped like blossoms. Some dozen
  • 236    Hapless wounded men were frozen.
  • 237During day being struck down out of sight,
  • 238And help-cries drowned in roaring noise,
  • 239They were left just where the skirmish shifted
  • 240Left in dense underbrush snow-drifted.
  • pg 30241Some, seeking to crawl in crippled plight,
  • 242So stiffened—perished.
  • 243    Yet in spite
  • 244Of pangs for these, no heart is lost.
  • 245Hungry, and clothing stiff with frost,
  • 246Our men declare a nearing sun
  • 247Shall see the fall of Donelson.
  • 248    And this they say, yet not disown
  • 249The dark redoubts round Donelson,
  • 250    And ice-glazed corpses, each a stone
  • 251            A sacrifice to Donelson;
  • 252They swear it, and swerve not, gazing on
  • Editor’s Note253A flag, deemed black, flying from Donelson.
  • Editor’s Note254Some of the wounded in the wood
  • 255    Were cared for by the foe last night,
  • 256Though he could do them little needed good,
  • 257    Himself being all in shivering plight.
  • 258The rebel is wrong, but human yet;
  • 259He's got a heart, and thrusts a bayonet.
  • 260He gives us battle with wondrous will
  • Editor’s Note261This bluff's a perverted Bunker Hill.
  • 262The stillness stealing through the throng
  • 263The silent thought and dismal fear revealed;
  • 264They turned and went,
  • 265    Musing on right and wrong
  • 266    And mysteries dimly sealed—
  • 267Breasting the storm in daring discontent;
  • 268The storm, whose black flag showed in heaven,
  • 269As if to say no quarter there was given
  • 270    To wounded men in wood,
  • 271Or true hearts yearning for the good—
  • 272All fatherless seemed the human soul.
  • 273But next day brought a bitterer bowl—
  • 274    On the bulletin-board this stood:
  • Editor’s Note275Saturday morning at 3 A.M.
  • 276    A stir within the Fort betrayed
  • 277That the rebels were getting under arms;
  • pg 31278    Some plot these early birds had laid.
  • 279But a lancing sleet cut him who stared
  • 280Into the storm. After some vague alarms,
  • 281Which left our lads unscared,
  • 282Out sallied the enemy at dim of dawn,
  • 283    With cavalry and artillery, and went
  • 284    In fury at our environment.
  • 285Under cover of shot and shell
  • 286    Three columns of infantry rolled on,
  • 287    Vomited out of Donelson—
  • 288Rolled down the slopes like rivers of hell,
  • 289    Surged at our line, and swelled and poured
  • 290Like breaking surf. But unsubmerged
  • 291    Our men stood up, except where roared
  • 292The enemy through one gap. We urged
  • 293Our all of manhood to the stress,
  • 294But still showed shattered in our desperateness.
  • 295            Back set the tide,
  • 296But soon afresh rolled in;
  • 297    And so it swayed from side to side—
  • 298Far batteries joining in the din,
  • 299Though sharing in another fray—
  • 300    Till all became an Indian fight,
  • 301Intricate, dusky, stretching far away,
  • 302Yet not without spontaneous plan
  • 303    However tangled showed the plight:
  • 304Duels all over 'tween man and man,
  • 305Duels on cliff-side, and down in ravine,
  • 306    Duels at long range, and bone to bone;
  • 307Duels every where flitting and half unseen.
  • 308    Only by courage good as their own,
  • 309And strength outlasting theirs,
  • 310    Did our boys at last drive the rebels off.
  • 311Yet they went not back to their distant lairs
  • 312    In strong-hold, but loud in scoff
  • 313Maintained themselves on conquered ground—
  • 314Uplands; built works, or stalked around.
  • 315Our right wing bore this onset. Noon
  • 316Brought calm to Donelson.
  • pg 32317The reader ceased; the storm beat hard;
  • 318    'Twas day, but the office-gas was lit;
  • 319    Nature retained her sulking-fit,
  • 320            In her hand the shard.
  • 321Flitting faces took the hue
  • 322Of that washed bulletin-board in view,
  • 323And seemed to bear the public grief
  • 324As private, and uncertain of relief;
  • 325Yea, many an earnest heart was won,
  • 326    As broodingly he plodded on,
  • 327To find in himself some bitter thing,
  • 328Some hardness in his lot as harrowing
  • 329                As Donelson.
  • 330That night the board stood barren there,
  • 331    Oft eyed by wistful people passing,
  • 332    Who nothing saw but the rain-beads chasing
  • 333Each other down the wafered square,
  • 334As down some storm-beat grave-yard stone.
  • 335But next day showed—
  • 336    More news last night.
  • 337Story of Saturday afternoon.
  • 338Vicissitudes of the war.
  • 339    The damaged gun-boats can't wage fight
  • 340For days; so says the Commodore.
  • 341    Thus no diversion can be had.
  • 342Under a sunless sky of lead
  • 343    Our grim-faced boys in blackened plight
  • 344Gaze toward the ground they held before,
  • 345And then on Grant. He marks their mood,
  • 346And hails it, and will turn the same to good.
  • 347Spite all that they have undergone,
  • 348Their desperate hearts are set upon
  • Editor’s Note349This winter fort, this stubborn fort,
  • pg 33350This castle of the last resort,
  • 351    This Donelson.
  • 3521 P.M.
  • 353    An order given
  • 354    Requires withdrawal from the front
  • 355    Of regiments that bore the brunt
  • 356Of morning's fray. Their ranks all riven
  • 357Are being replaced by fresh, strong men.
  • 358Great vigilance in the foeman's Den;
  • 359He snuffs the stormers. Need it is
  • 360That for that fell assault of his,
  • 361That rout inflicted, and self-scorn—
  • 362Immoderate in noble natures, torn
  • 363By sense of being through slackness overborne—
  • 364The rebel be given a quick return:
  • 365The kindest face looks now half stern.
  • 366Balked of their prey in airs that freeze,
  • 367Some fierce ones glare like savages.
  • 368And yet, and yet, strange moments are—
  • 369Well—blood, and tears, and anguished War!
  • 370The morning's battle-ground is seen
  • 371    In lifted glades, like meadows rare;
  • 372    The blood-drops on the snow-crust there
  • 373Like clover in the white-weed show—
  • 374    Flushed fields of death, that call again—
  • 375    Call to our men, and not in vain,
  • 376For that way must the stormers go.
  • 3773 P.M.
  • 378The work begins.
  • 379Light drifts of men thrown forward, fade
  • 380    In skirmish-line along the slope,
  • 381Where some dislodgments must be made
  • 382    Ere the stormer with the strong-hold cope.
  • Editor’s Note383Lew Wallace, moving to retake
  • 384The heights late lost—
  • 385        (Herewith a break.
  • pg 34386    Storms at the West derange the wires.
  • 387Doubtless, ere morning, we shall hear
  • 388The end; we look for news to cheer—
  • 389    Let Hope fan all her fires.)
  • 390Next day in large bold hand was seen
  • 391The closing bulletin:
  • 392Victory!
  • 393            Our troops have retrieved the day
  • 394By one grand surge along the line;
  • 395The spirit that urged them was divine.
  • 396    The first works flooded, naught could stay
  • 397The stormers: on! still on!
  • 398Bayonets for Donelson!
  • 399Over the ground that morning lost
  • 400Rolled the blue billows, tempest-tossed,
  • 401    Following a hat on the point of a sword.
  • 402Spite shell and round-shot, grape and canister,
  • 403Up they climbed without rail or banister—
  • 404    Up the steep hill-sides long and broad,
  • 405Driving the rebel deep within his works.
  • 406'Tis nightfall; not an enemy lurks
  • 407    In sight. The chafing men
  • 408        Fret for more fight:
  • 409    "To-night, to-night let us take the Den!"
  • 410But night is treacherous, Grant is wary;
  • 411Of brave blood be a little chary.
  • 412Patience! the Fort is good as won;
  • 413To-morrow, and into Donelson.
  • 414Later and last.
  • 415The Fort is ours.
  • 416    A flag came out at early morn
  • 417Bringing surrender. From their towers
  • 418    Floats out the banner late their scorn.
  • Editor’s Note419In Dover, hut and house are full
  • pg 35420    Of rebels dead or dying.
  • 421    The National flag is flying
  • 422From the crammed court-house pinnacle.
  • 423Great boat-loads of our wounded go
  • 424To-day to Nashville. The sleet-winds blow;
  • 425But all is right: the fight is won,
  • 426The winter-fight for Donelson.
  • 427Hurrah!
  • 428The spell of old defeat is broke,
  • 429    The habit of victory begun;
  • 430Grant strikes the war's first sounding stroke
  • 431    At Donelson.
  • 432For lists of killed and wounded, see
  • 433The morrow's dispatch: to-day 'tis victory.
  • 434The man who read this to the crowd
  • 435    Shouted as the end he gained;
  • 436    And though the unflagging tempest rained,
  • 437            They answered him aloud.
  • 438And hand grasped hand, and glances met
  • 439In happy triumph; eyes grew wet.
  • 440O, to the punches brewed that night
  • 441Went little water. Windows bright
  • 442Beamed rosy on the sleet without,
  • Critical Apparatus443And from the cross street came the frequent shout;
  • 444While some in prayer, as these in glee,
  • 445Blessed heaven for the winter-victory.
  • 446But others were who wakeful laid
  • 447    In midnight beds, and early rose,
  • 448    And, feverish in the foggy snows,
  • 449Snatched the damp paper—wife and maid.
  • 450    The death-list like a river flows
  • 451            Down the pale sheet,
  • 452And there the whelming waters meet.
  • 453Ah God! may Time with happy haste
  • 454Bring wail and triumph to a waste,
  • pg 36455    And war be done;
  • 456The battle flag-staff fall athwart
  • 457The curs'd ravine, and wither; naught
  • 458    Be left of trench or gun;
  • 459The bastion, let it ebb away,
  • 460Washed with the river bed; and Day
  • 461    In vain seek Donelson.

Notes Settings

Notes

Editor’s Note
On Sunday, February 16, 1862, "after three days of the most desperate fighting ever witnessed on this continent," Fort Donelson fell (Richmond Dispatch account, Rebellion Record, 4:187, doc. 46). The fort, on the Cumberland River near Dover in northwest Tennessee, had been under siege by General Ulysses S. Grant as part of a campaign to open up the rivers to Federal shipping.
Editor’s Note
Discussions. 23.1–3 The bitter cup … Envoys up] Confederate commissioners James M. Mason and John Slidell, on a diplomatic mission to seek aid from Great Britain, were seized from the British mail steamer Trent on November 8, 1861, and held at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor until British efforts brought about the State Department "countermand" (line 2) that caused them to be surrendered to the British, at Provincetown, on January 1, 1862.
Critical Apparatus
Emendations. 23.13–17 Importantcommand),] [each line moved to the right so that the leftmost ones (13, 16) have the same left margin as those in the following italic lines] NN; [each line begins to the left of the positions established by the following italic lines] BP
Editor’s Note
23.14–17 General Grant, … command)] On Saturday, February 15, 1862, the New York Times correspondent reported from camp near Fort Donelson this news from Wednesday the twelfth: "The column which thus reached here, by way of the Cumberland, numbered not far from ten thousand men, who were conveyed in fourteen transport steamers; the column which came from Fort Henry, across the country, under Gen. Grant in person, was composed, in round numbers, of twenty thousand men" (Rebellion Record, 4:171, doc. 46).
Editor’s Note
23.20–24.24 This … brush] Frank L. Day (1959, p. 9) indicates the Times account as a probable source, most evidently in the sentence: "To the rear the bluff has been to some extent levelled for the distance of a mile" (Rebellion Record, 4:171, doc. 46).
Editor’s Note
24.39 vim] Day (1959, p. 9) points out the use of this word in the Times account (Rebellion Record, 4:171, doc. 46).
Editor’s Note
24.46–50 Grant's … done] Day (1959, p. 9) compares Melville's phrasing to "the Fort is completely invested" in the Times (Rebellion Record, 4:173, doc. 46) and its description of the Federal forces as deployed "up and down a line parallel with the river … enclosing the Fort in a semi-circular line" (4:171).
Editor’s Note
25.72–88 Along … salt-spring] As possible sources for some of these lines Day (1959, p. 14) indicates two passages from the Times report: (1) "A large number of the wounds were caused by falling limbs, which were wrenched off by the fiery showers of grape sent from the rebel batteries" (Rebellion Record, 4:172, doc. 46); (2) a description of the operations of a regiment of sharpshooters (each of whom wears "a gray felt cap, whose top is rigged 'fore-and-aft' with squirrel-tails dyed black"): "Lying flat behind a stump, one would watch with finger on trigger for rebel game with all the excitement of a hunter waylaying deer at a 'salt-lick.' Woe to rebel caput that was lifted ever so quickly above the parapet for a glance at Yankee operations. Fifty eyes instantly sighted it, and fifty fingers drew trigger on it, and thereafter it was seen no more" (4:171–72). The report in the Missouri Democrat of the sharpshooters uses similar wording: "[W]oe to the unwary rebel who dared to show his head above the entrenchments" (4:178; quoted in Day, p. 14). Both the Times and the Democrat, as Day notes (p. 15), report the "loss of Colonel Morrison" (line 80).
Editor’s Note
25.92–94 earnest North … storm] Day (1959, p. 17) traces these lines to the report in the Missouri Democrat: "But, cold and hungry, and with garments stiff with frost, the soldiers were still hopeful and firm … and it is this self-same spirit of dogged determination, and steady, long-enduring courage, peculiar to the Anglo-Saxon of the North, that at last outwore the perhaps more impetuous bravery of the opposing force" (Rebellion Record, 4:179, doc. 46).
Editor’s Note
26.99–100 Sole uniform … white badge] Day points out (1959, p. 23) that both the Charleston Courier and Richmond Dispatch describe the white armband which Confederate troops wore to distinguish friend from foe (Rebellion Record, 4:184, 186, doc. 46).
Editor’s Note
26.104 gold lace] Day notes (1959, p. 23) the Times correspondent's report that Confederate officers wear uniforms both "regular gray" and "army blue, the only difference from the United States style being in the great profusion of gold lace" (Rebellion Record, 4:176, doc. 46).
Editor’s Note
26.115–18 trees … wasps] Day (1959, p. 24) cites this passage in the Democrat account: "But it was not in the power of man to scale the abatis before them. Brush piled upon brush, with sharp points fronting them everywhere, met them wherever they turned; and so, after a few interchanges of musketry with the swarming regiments which had been concentrated here, the order for retiring was given" (Rebellion Record, 4:179, doc. 46). Day adds that "the swarming regiments" (also called "swarming rebel masses") may have suggested Melville's "Fierce wasps."
Editor’s Note
28.188 Commodore's] Belonging to Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote, commander of the flotilla of naval craft supporting Grant's land assault.
Critical Apparatus
28.193 Hurrah!"] NN; ~!^ BP
Critical Apparatus
28.194 again"—] NN; ~^BP
Editor’s Note
29.210 Louisville's] The Louisville was one of the ironclad gunboats badly damaged in the action at Donelson. Day (1959, p. 19) points to the Times passage (Rebellion Record, 4:172, doc. 46) that Melville draws upon in lines 210–22: "[A] shot disabled the steering apparatus of the Louisville, by carrying off the top of the wheelhouse, and knocking the wheel itself into fragments.… Of course the boat became instantly unmanageable, and swung around, receiving a shot in the woodwork towards the stern, which … wounded several seamen. Under these circumstances, it was thought best to retire, and accordingly the whole fleet fell back to the position it had occupied in the morning. The most serious damage sustained during the action was from one of those monster one hundred and twenty-eight-pound shots, which passed through a bow-port of the Louisville and dismounted the second gun on the starboard quarter, killing three men and wounding six others. A captain of one of the guns was cut completely in two."
Editor’s Note
29.227–28 Would … valentine] Day (1959, p. 20) quotes the Missouri Democrat (Rebellion Record, 4:179–80, doc. 46): "Cavender, Taylor, Woods … and Swartz [artillery commanders] would occasionally exchange a valentine, as they were playfully called," given the mid-February timing of the battle.
Editor’s Note
30.253 flag, deemed black] Day (1959, p. 21) quotes the Times: "The rebels have a flag flying from the Fort which is thought to be a black one" (Rebellion Record, 4:173, doc. 46).
Editor’s Note
30.254–55 Some … night] Day (1959, p. 21) points out Melville's source in this Times sentence: "In some cases, a few of our wounded were cared for by the rebels, although they were without fire, and could give them but little valuable assistance" (Rebellion Record, 4:173, doc. 46).
Editor’s Note
30.261 a perverted Bunker Hill] The book edition of Melville's Israel Potter (1855) is dedicated "To His Highness the Bunker-Hill Monument."
Editor’s Note
30.275 A.M.] In Harvard Copy C of BP, Melville pencil-underlined these italicized letters, penciled and erased an interlocked triple check mark in the left margin, and penciled over the erased check mark what is either a virgule (to indicate a revision) or a marginal mark (to indicate a passage needing revision). His final intention may have been to change the italic letters to roman; but since his intention is ambiguous, NN retains the reading in BP.
Editor’s Note
32.349–33.351 This … Donelson] Hennig Cohen (Battle-Pieces, p. 221) cites comparable lines in Shakespeare's Richard II (2.1.40–50). Melville's edition reads: "This royal throne of kings, this scept'red isle … This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England" (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, 1837; Sealts, no. 460).
Editor’s Note
33.383 Lew Wallace] General Lewis ("Lew") Wallace (1827–1905), later (1880) the author of Ben Hur, commanded a division at Donelson. He was also at Shiloh; see the introductory note to Melville's poem of that name, p. 637 below.
Editor’s Note
34.419–35.420 In Dover … dying] Day (1959, p. 26) quotes the Times report that after the surrender: "Every house in Dover was filled with dead and wounded" (Rebellion Record, 4:176, doc. 46).
Critical Apparatus
35.443 cross] BP\HM; deep BP
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