33 - The College Colonel
The College Colonel.Edmund Clarence Stedman included Melville's poem in his 1900 An American Anthology, 1787-1900, 235.William Francis Bartlett (1840-1876) left Harvard in his junior year to enlist as a private in the Union army at the start of the war, was later commissioned as a captain in the 20th Massachusetts Infantry (aka “The Harvard Regiment”), distinguished himself at Ball’s Bluff, lost a leg in the Peninsular Campaign, and in fall 1862 organized the 49th Massachusetts Infantry (stationed in Pittsfield), Melville’s hometown. Wounded again, he returned to Pittsfield, his arm in a sling, to lead his regiment—reduced by a third—in a parade on August 22, 1863, around the time Melville and his family were preparing to relocate to New York City. Returning to battle, Bartlett was wounded again (in the Battle of the Wilderness), and again (in the Battle of the Crater), where he was captured and spent two months in Libby Prison. At war’s end, he was 25 and returned to Pittsfield where he married and raised a family of six children.
He rides at their head;
A crutch by his saddle just slants in view,
One slung arm is in splints, you see,
Yet he guides his strong steed—how coldly too.
He brings his regiment home—
Not as they filed two yearsThe regiment was formed nine months, not two years, before the parade (Garner 266-69). before,
But a remnant half-tattered, and battered, and worn,
Like castaway sailors, who—stunned
By the surf's loud roar,
Their mates dragged back and seen no more—
Again and again breast the surge,
And at last crawl, spent, to shore.
A still rigidity and pale—
An Indian aloofness lones his brow;
He has lived a thousand years
Compressed in battle's pains and prayers,
Marches and watches slow.
There are welcoming shouts, and flagsAbout the time that Bartlett took command of the 49th Infantry in Pittsfield, in November 1862, the Melville family had moved from their Arrowhead farmhouse and taken residence on South Street in downtown Pittsfield. For the April 22, 1863 parade, the Melvilles decorated their temporary home with "Flags and festoons" (as reported on August 27, 1863 in the Berkshire County Eagle; see Melville Log 2.662);
Old men off hat to the Boy,
Wreaths from gay balconies fall at his feet,
But to him—there comes alloy.
It is not that a leg is lost,
It is not that an arm is maimed.
It is not that the fever has racked—
Self he has long disclaimed.
But all through the Seven Days' FightBartlett was back at Harvard during the Seven Days Battles.,
And deep in the Wilderness grim,
And in the field-hospital tent,
And Petersburg craterSee "The Apparition.", and dim
Lean brooding in LibbyLibby Prison, a warehouse in Richmond, Virginia, held captured Union officers.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libby_Prison, there came—
Ah heaven!—what truth to him.