After the war, he pursued the life of a poet, translator, and editor, became President of the Virginia Historical Society, and founded his own school in Virginia, where he remained for four decades (during which he received several academic honors, including several honorary degrees). Among his many works was an anthology of poetry, Ballads of Battle and Bravery (1879). One of his most well-known poems was "Dreaming in the Trenches," which dates to 1864:
I picture her there in the quaint old room,
Where the fading fire-light starts and falls,
Alone in the twilight's tender gloom
With the shadows that dance on the dim-lit walls.
Alone, while those faces look silently down
From their antique frames in a grim repose —
Slight scholarly Ralph in his Oxford gown,
And stanch Sir Alan, who died for Montrose.
There are gallants gay in crimson and gold,
There are smiling beauties with powdered hair,
But she sits there, fairer a thousand-fold,
Leaning dreamily back in her low arm-chair.
And the roseate shadows of fading light
Softly clear steal over the sweet young face,
Where a woman's tenderness blends to-night
With the guileless pride of a knightly race.
Her small hands lie clasped in a listless way
On the old Romance — which she holds on her knee—
Of Tristram, the bravest of knights in the fray,
And Iseult, who waits by the sounding sea.
And her proud, dark eyes wear a softened look
As she watches the dying embers fall:
Perhaps she dreams of the knight in the book,
Perhaps of the pictures that smile on the wall.
What fancies I wonder are thronging her brain,
For her cheeks flush warm with a crimson glow!
Perhaps — ah! me, how foolish and vain!
But I'd give my life to believe it so!
Well, whether I ever march home agen
To offer my love and a stainless name,
Or whether I die at the head of my men, —
I'll be true to the end all the same.