37 - The March to the Sea* The March to the Sea. First published in February, 1866, "The March to the Sea" is one of five Battle-Pieces poems to appear in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (32:366-67). Melville owned a copy of Major George Ward Nichols’s The Story of the Great March, a possible source for the poem. (December, 1864.) Not Kenesaw high-arching, Nor Allatoona's glen— Though there the graves lie parching— Stayed Sherman's miles of men; From charred Atlanta marching They launched the sword again. The columnsSherman split his infantry and cavalry into four parallel columns (“Scorched Earth,” streamed like rivers Which in their course agree, And they streamed until their flashing Met the flashing of the sea: It was glorious glad marching, That marching to the sea. They brushed the foe before them (Shall gnats impede the bull?); Their own good bridges bore themFlotating or pontoon bridges could be built to bear trains as well as troops. Over swamps or torrents full, And the grand pines waving o'er them Bowed to axes keen and cool. The columns grooved their channels, Enforced their own decree, And their power met nothing larger Until it met the sea: It was glorious glad marching, A marching glad and free. Kilpatrick's snare of ridersUnion General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick repelled a Confederate attack at Milledgeville, then the capital of Georgia (“Scorched Earth,” In zigzags mazed the land, Perplexed the pale Southsiders With feints on every hand; Vague menace awed the hiders In forts beyond command. To Sherman's shifting problem No foeman knew the key; But onward went the marching Unpausing to the sea:In Copy A of Battle-Pieces, Melville used pencil to add a dash after "marching" at the end of the preceding line and deleted "Unpausing." In the left margin, he inscribed "Right onward," an incremental repetition of "But onward" in the preceding line. In addition, Melville inscribed only three tentative revisions in Copy A: this one (on page 129) and one each in "The March into Virginia" (p. 23) and "Lyon" (p. 27). On the verso of the front flyleaf of Copy A, Melville also listed two numbers (27 and 129), which correspond to two of the three pages with revisions. The tentative revision of "Unpausing" to "Right onward" appears on page 129. See "Lyon" for the second listed revision on page 27. The tentative revision in "The March into Virginia" on page 23 is omitted from the list. The editors of the NN Published Poems argue that the appearance of the two page numbers on the front flyleaf indicates Melville's final intention to approve the revisions on pages 27 and 129. See "shame" in "The March into Virginia" for an alternative theory regarding the non-appearance of "23" in the list. It was glorious glad marching, The swinging step was free. The flankers ranged like pigeons In clouds through field or wood; The flocks of all those regions, The herds and horses good, Poured in and swelled the legions, For they caught the marching mood. A volley ahead! They hear it; And they hear the repartee: Fighting was but frolic In that marching to the sea: It was glorious glad marching, A marching bold and free. All nature felt their coming, The birds like couriers flew, And the banners brightly blooming The slavesAround 19,000 slaves joined Sherman’s march (Edmund Drago, “How Sherman’s March Through Georgia Affected the Slaves,” Georgia Historical Quarterly, 363.). by thousands drew, And they marched beside the drumming, And they joined the armies blue. The cocks crowed from the cannon (Pets named from Grant and Lee),According to George W. Nichols’s The Story of the Great March (a volume Melville owned), soldiers kept gamecocks as pets and gave them "such names as ‘Bill Sherman,’ ... ‘Jeff Davis,’ ‘Beauregard,’ or ‘Bob Lee’” (Nichols 46). Plumed fighters and campaigners In that marching to the sea: It was glorious glad marching, For every man was free. The foragers through calm lands Swept in tempest gay, And they breathed the air of balm-lands Where rolled savannas lay, And they helped themselves from farm-lands As who should say them nay?Sherman explicitly ordered foraging: “The army will forage liberally on the country during the march” (Special Field Orders, No. 120, In The War of the Rebellion (Series 1, vol. 39.713). The regiments uproarious Laughed in Plenty's glee; And they marched till their broad laughter Met the laughter of the sea: It was glorious glad marching, That marching to the sea. The grain of endless acres Was threshed (as in the East) By the trampling of the Takers, Strong march of man and beast; The flails of those earth-shakers Left a famine where they ceased. The arsenals were yielded; The sword (that was to be), Arrested in the forging, Rued that marching to the sea: It was glorious glad marching, But ah, the stern decree! For behind they left a wailing, A terror and a ban, And blazing cinders sailing, And houseless households wan, Wide zones of counties paling, And towns where maniacs ran. Was it Treason's retribution— REVISION NARRATIVE: Melville revised lines 91-92 in several stages, before and after the version seen here. In all versions, Melville's wording addresses the necessity and severity of Sherman's still-questioned "scorched earth" policy. In the Harper's New Monthly Magazine version, Melville presents line 91 as a flat, matter-of-fact statement and puts line 92 in parentheses as a kind of laconic aside: “It was Treason’s retribution / (Necessity the plea);”. The implication is that the "terror" of "retribution" can be justified. In the Battle-Pieces version, Melville converts the two lines into a single question: "Was it Treason's retribution— / Necessity the plea?", thereby implying some kind of negative judgment. However, in his Copy C, Melville penciled a thorough revision. First, in light pencil he inscribed two new lines in the blank bottom half of the page, circled the lines, and drew an insertion line up the left margin to an "x" inscribed next to line 92; he also deleted both printed lines in light pencil. Then, at some later time, Melville's wife, Elizabeth Shaw Melville, erased the new lines (beyond legibility), the circle, and insertion line (though not the "x") and, in darker pencil, deleted again print lines 91-92. She then reinscribed over the erased lines two new lines (presumably the same as those erased), and retraced the insertion line adding an arrow point. The two reinscribed revision lines are "Was the havoc, retribution? / But howsoe'er it be," with the second line no longer being part of the first line's question but rather serving now as an introduction to the stanza's final lines and the end of the poem. As noted below, Melville's "necessity" line (sacrificed in his third revision) echoes Satan's excuse making in Milton's Paradise Lost. However, Melville's use of "havoc" in the first new line has a compensating Shakespearean echo. Today, we take "havoc" to mean a general condition of chaos and destruction, but, according to the OED, "havoc" was originally a battle order giving combatants license to pillage and take spoils. Thus, in Julius Caesar, Marc Antony imagines Caesar's ghost seeking vengeance with "Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war." While Melville's use of "havoc" (followed by a rhetorical comma urging the reader to pause) seems a harsh judgment of Sherman's military decision to unleash his "dogs of war" on the populace, Melville's following line "Howso'er it be,"—in addition to removing the submerged association with Milton's Satan—directs the reader away from the implied judgment in "havoc." Necessity the plea?In Paradise Lost, Satan uses "necessity" as an excuse for his "devilish deeds" (4.393-94; see Cohen 260). They will long remember Sherman And his streaming columns free— They will long remember Sherman Marching to the sea.