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Walt Whitman's View Of The Civil War

858 words - 3 pages

Like most of the unprepared, naïve Americans who believed the Civil War would consist of a few short battles and little casualties, who then after the war reached it's second year truly saw the Civil War for what it really was- the bloodiest in America's history; Walt Whitman's 'Drum Taps' represents this ideal from start to finish. From the war's first battle in 1861 when Whitman saw the endeavor as a chance for the North to put to rest all of the turmoil the South created, to the see-saw battles and first hand knowledge of the detriments war could create, the poet's attitude evolved. Though many poems in 'Drum Taps' is indicative of this development, 'The Wound Dresser' is the best example of the author looking back upon his own initial opinions of the war, while stationed at a field hospital carrying his latest and final thoughts regarding what he held as an unnecessary encounter.However, to understand the contrasts between his first, then ultimately conclusive belief, one must delve into his earlier works. In the first poem of 'Drum Taps', 'First O Songs For A Prelude' the poem indicates to the reader that Whitman is staunchly enthusiastic towards the first battle:The tumultuous escort, the ranks of policemen preceding,clearing the way, The unpent enthusiasm, the wild cheersof the crowd for their favorites...War! Be it weeks, months,or years, an arm'd race is advancing to welcome it.As we can see, like most Americans, Whitman was proud of the engagements to come because at the time, war was only viewed by those who had never seen the ugly side of it.Like a diary of prose, 'Drum Taps' follows the war and the attitudes that accompany such an event. A further example of the author's excitement for war and take no prisoners attitude can be read in 'Beat! Beat! Drums!'Beat! Beat! Drums!- blow! Bugles! Blow!Make no parley- stop for no expostulation,Mind not the timid- mind not the weeper or prayer,Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's entreaties,Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaitingthe hearses.Again we can see Whitman's encouragement to begin something that he will later wish never happened.Eventually, Whitman finds himself working in a field hospital during the second half of the Civil War and through his writings, takes a self-reflexive view concerning his former wartime mentality. Though most of his Civil War poems following 1862 demonstrate the authors matured viewpoint, no better work describes this evolution or...

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