Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
"Army Corps on the March, An" (1865–1866)
Author:
Lulloff, William G.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

The poem "An Army Corps on the March" originally appeared in Walt Whitman's Sequel to Drum-Taps (1865–1866). Its original title was "An Army on the March." In 1865 Whitman engaged Peter Eckler to print the first issue of Drum-Taps but after Abraham Lincoln's death withdrew the book. In the autumn of 1865 he added the Sequel, which included this poem along with seventeen other new poems. Still later, in 1867, the poem became a part of the Drum-Taps annex to Leaves of Grass, in which both Drum-Taps and the Sequel appeared with separate title pages and pagination. In 1871 Whitman selected the present title, "An Army Corps on the March," and he also changed the last line of the poem from the original "As the army resistless advances" to "As the army corps advances." The edited poem became a permanent part of the "Drum-Taps" cluster of Leaves of Grass and appeared in all future editions.

Determining the exact date of composition is not possible; however, since it was not included in the initial issue of Drum-Taps, May 1865, Whitman may have composed it between May and October of that year, when Drum-Taps was republished with the Sequel.

Like several short poems in "Drum-Taps," "An Army Corps on the March" sketches a realistic free-verse portrait of a Civil War scene including images of "dust cover'd men," horses sweating, wheels rumbling, and first the sound of a single shot "snapping like a whip' and later an "irregular volley" of shots. Whitman probably had witnessed scenes like the one described in the poem when he went south in 1863 in the company of Major Lyman Hapgood. James E. Miller, Jr., cites this poem along with other short poems in this part of the cluster as being "among the best in "Drum-Taps" (221).

Bibliography

Allen, Gay Wilson. The New Walt Whitman Handbook. 1975. New York: New York UP, 1986.

Miller, James E., Jr. A Critical Guide to "Leaves of Grass." Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1957.

Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. Ed. Sculley Bradley and Harold W. Blodgett. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1973.

____. Walt Whitman's "Drum-Taps" (1865) and "Sequel to Drum-Taps" (1865–6): A Facsimile Reproduction. Ed. F. DeWolfe Miller. Gainesville, Fla.: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1959.


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