2 Civil War Poetry Anthologies

The Blue and the Gray
edited by Claudius Meade Capps
Copyright 1943, reprinted 1969
Checked out 30 times in 41 years
Last checked out 1 year ago

The Poetry of the American Civil War
edited by Lee Steinmetz
Copyright 1960, reprinted 1991
Checked out 0 times in 20 years

I have no idea why the more recent of these anthologies has been given the cold shoulder by library patrons. It states in the introduction that it does contain more poems that were published in the North than in the South, in part due to printing presses remaining open and functioning. But the editor also mentions that he had ancestors on both sides of the conflict. Regardless of the North-South poetry divide, this anthology is worth keeping because of the amount of commentary that’s included with each poem.

The editor of the older, more popular anthology doesn’t disclose how the book is weighted in terms of North and South. He apparently doesn’t restrict himself to poems that originated during the Civil War. It includes “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which was written about and during the War of 1812, and it includes “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” a slave song that pre-dated the Civil War. The editor of this anthology didn’t restrict himself to published poems or songs. Unfortunately, he doesn’t disclose what the sources of these unpublished poems are–whether letters or diaries. In fact, there is no commentary at all on the poems themselves. This anthology does include “The Ballad of Emma Samson,” a local heroine, which may partly, perhaps even largely, account for the popularity of the book.

Overall, I think these two books complement each other well and it’s good for the library to have them both. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of overlap in contents. I recommend keeping them both. The older book should be watched for wear. It has already been taped and is about ready for rebinding.


About jppoetryreader

Poetry reviewer and poetry consultant for libraries
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