23 - Gettysburg
First published in July, 1866, "Gettysburg" is one of five Battle-Pieces poems to appear in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (33:209).
O pride of the days in prime of the months
Now trebled in great renown,
When before the ark of our holy cause
Fell DagonThe ancient Philistine fertility deity Dagon is often associated with fish and depicted as a merman. In 1 Samuel 5, an image of Dagon falls before the Ark of the Covenant. down—
Dagon foredoomed, who, armed and targedTarge is an Old English word for a small round shield.,
Never his impious heart enlarged
Beyond that hour; God walled his power,
And there the last invader chargedThe Union victory at Gettysburg deflected the Confederacy's only invasion of Northern territory. .
He charged, and in that charge condensed
His all of hate and all of fire;
He sought to blast us in his scorn,
And wither us in his ire.
Before him went the shriek of shells—
Aerial screamings, taunts and yells;
Then the three waves in flashed advance
Surged, but were met, and back they set:
Pride was repelled by sterner pride,
And Right is a strong-hold yet.The failure of Pickett's Charge was the turning point of the battle for the North, and the war.
Before our lines it seemed a beach
Which wild September gales have strown
With havoc on wreck, and dashed therewith
Pale crews unknown—
Men, arms, and steeds. The evening sun
Died on the face of each lifeless one,
And died along the winding marge of fight
And searching-parties lone.
Sloped on the hill the mounds were green,
Our centre held that place of graves,
And some still hold it in their swoon,
And over these a glory waves.
The warrior-monument, crashed in fight,h
Shall soar transfigured in loftier light,
A meaning ampler bear;
Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer
Have laid the stone, and every bone
Shall rest in honor there.
[Melville's] Note h, page 85.
Among numerous head-stones or monuments on Cemetery Hill, marred or destroyed by the enemy's concentrated fire, was one, somewhat conspicuous, of a Federal officer killed before Richmond in 1862.
On the 4th of July, 1865, the Gettysburg National Cemetery, on the same height with the original burial-ground, was consecrated, and the corner-stone laid of a commemorative pile.