1861 by Walt Whitman

1861 – Secession Completes and the Bloodshed Begins

The poem 1861 by Walt Whitman.

South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. In 1861, the Confederate States of America would gain its full roster of states. Here is a list of the seceding states and their dates of secession from the Union:

  • South Carolina – December 20, 1860
  • Mississippi – January 9, 1861
  • Florida – January 10, 1861
  • Alabama – January 11, 1861
  • Georgia – January 19, 1861
  • Louisiana – January 26, 1861
  • Texas – February 1, 1861
  • Virginia – April 17, 1861
  • Arkansas – May 6, 1861
  • North Carolina – May 20, 1861
  • Tennessee – June 8, 1861

The Confederate States of America now exists. The blood of the Civil War starts flowing on April 12, 1861 as the Confederates fire on Fort Sumter. The Civil War begins.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

For me, Whitman’s 1861 poem shows he knew the year of 1861 brought about a sea change. Before then, it was all about attempts at compromise, politicians debating and arguing, rattling of swords, and talk, talk, talk.

Now the year 1861 brings about bloodshed and death with the gathering of men; “clothed in blue” and of “well-gristled body, and sunburnt face and hands,” with “a knife in the belt at your side,” and “bearing weapons.” Whitman says there should be “No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses” for this “terrible year,” of 1861. War and all of its evil, has arrived for North and South.

It is for the reader to analyze and interpret Walt Whitman’s poem titled 1861, as he or she sees fit.

1861 – Walt Whitman

ARM’D year! year of the struggle!
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you, terrible year!
Not you as some pale poetling, seated at a desk, lisping cadenzas
But as a strong man, erect, clothed in blue clothes, advancing,
carrying a rifle on your shoulder,
With well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands–with a knife in
the belt at your side,
As I heard you shouting loud–your sonorous voice ringing across the
Your masculine voice, O year, as rising amid the great cities,
Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you, as one of the workmen, the
dwellers in Manhattan;
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois and
Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait, and descending the
Or down from the great lakes, or in Pennsylvania, or on deck along
the Ohio river;
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers, or at
Chattanooga on the mountain top,
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs, clothed in blue, bearing
weapons, robust year;
Heard your determin’d voice, launch’d forth again and again;
Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round-lipp’d cannon,
I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.

A commentary about Walt Whitman by EnglishGuyinTexas.



Another post with information about Walt Whitman…


Civil War Poet Walt Whitman Born This Day in 1819

Walt Whitman – A Poet Of The Civil War

Walt Whitman’s father Walter, was a house builder, and his mother’s name was Louisa. The Whitman family had nine children with Walt being the second son. The Whitmans lived in Brooklyn and Long Island in the 1820s and 1830s.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman’s brother George Washington Whitman, fought for the Union during the Civil War and was injured at Fredericksburg in 1862. Walt went to Virginia in search of his hospitalized brother and was relieved to discover that George’s wounds were not serious. The wounded, the conditions, and the plentiful misery of a Civil War hospital led Walt Whitman to volunteer at age forty-two to be a nursing aid. He served for over three years in this capacity.

Whitman wrote two volumes of poetry about the Civil War: Drum Taps (1865) and Sequel to Drum Taps (1866), after witnessing first-hand the suffering, bravery, wastefulness, heroism, and tragedy of war while working in hospitals during the Civil War.

Observations Of Poet Walt Whitman In 1865

’’Unnamed, unknown, remain and still remain the bravest soldiers. Our manliest, our boys, our hardy darlings: no picture gives them. Likely, the typical one of them (standing, no doubt, for hundreds, thousands) crawls aside to some bush-clump or ferny tuft on receiving his death-shot; there, sheltering a little while, soaking roots, grass, and soil with red blood; the battle advances, retreats, flits from the scene, sweeps by; and there, haply with pain and suffering…the last lethargy winds like a serpent round him; the eyes glaze in death;…and there, at last the Bravest Soldier, crumbles in Mother Earth, unburied and unknown.’’

Poems About Abraham Lincoln

Walt Whitman is famous for two poem elegies he wrote about President Abraham Lincoln after Lincoln was assassinated, these poems are: ’’O Captain! My Captain!’’ and ’’When Lilacs Last in Dooryard Bloom’d.’’ Not even the most casual student of the Civil War should ignore these two Walt Whitman poems. Below you will find the first of these two poems.

O Captain! My Captain!

by Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring.

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red!

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.


O captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;Rise up! For you the flag is flung, for you the bugle trills:

For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths, for you the shores a-crowding:

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning.

Here Captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head;

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.


My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won!

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!

But I with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.