THE SACRIFICIAL YEARS by John Harmon McElroy

THE SACRIFICIAL YEARS

A Chronicle of Walt Whitman's Experiences in the Civil War
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The sight of defeated soldiers returning from battle is one America hasn—t seen on its own turf since the Civil War. It’s a sight that was vividly recorded by Walt Whitman, whose letters, newspaper articles, and other writings from the war are collected here chronologically for the first time. His descriptions are immediate and chilling. Here are soldiers in the wake of the first battle of Bull Run: “During the forenoon Washington gets all over motley with these defeated soldiers—queer-looking objects, strange eyes and faces, drench—d (the steady rain drizzles on all day) and fearfully worn, hungry, haggard, blister—d in the feet.” So compelled was he by the sight of wounded and dying soldiers that he volunteered as a nurse to attempt to relieve their suffering. Editor McElroy, professor emeritus of American literature at the University of Arizona, gathers here Whitman’s dispatches from his years of service, 1861—66. The great poet’s admiration for those who have seen battle will resound today, when we are re- learning respect for the silent heroism of American GIs: “There is something majestic about a man who has borne his part in battles, especially if he is very quiet regarding it when you desire him to unbosom. I am continually lost at the absence of blowing and blowers among the old-young American militaires.” (16 pages b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-56792-079-9
Page count: 168pp
Publisher: Godine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999