September 6, 2012

Stedman: Give us a MAN!

As the Civil War raged, Edmund Clarence Stedman was serving as a field correspondent for the New York Tribune. Infused with a burst of patriotism, on September 6, 1862, he wrote his poem "Wanted—A Man." The poem, printed three days later in the Tribune, called for leadership in the time of crisis (and served as a decent inspiration for enlistment, as well). It is said that President Abraham Lincoln, who was directly addressed in the poem, read it to his cabinet.

Back from the trebly crimsoned field
   Terrible words are thunder-tost;
Full of the wrath that will not yield,
   Full of revenge for battles lost!
   Hark to their echo, as it crost
The Capital, making faces wan:
   End this murderous holocaust;
Abraham Lincoln, give us a MAN!

Give us a man of God's own mould,
   Born to marshal his fellow-men;
One whose fame is not bought and sold
   At the stroke of a politician's pen;
   Give us the man of thousands ten,
Fit to do as well as to plan;
   Give us a rallying-cry, and then,
Abraham Lincoln, give us a MAN!

Is there never one in all the land,
   One on whose might the Cause may lean?
Are all the common ones so grand,
   And all the titled ones so mean?
   What if your failure may have been
In trying to make good bread from bran,
   From worthless metal a weapon keen?—
Abraham Lincoln, find us a MAN!

The same day that pro-Unionist and abolitionist Stedman wrote this poem, a pro-Confederate wrote a poem advocating the other side.

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