Red Ink and Rewrites Too

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‘We Shall See What Stuff You Are Made’

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Opinionator: New York Times

How did American writers respond to the outbreak of the Civil War?

Some of the literature prior to the Civil War by James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville about life on the sea were important. Cooper’s “Ned Myers; or, a Life Before the Mast” (1843) who later wrote the important history of the US Navy was countered by Herman Melville’s “White Jacket”, a copy of which was placed on every Congress members desk in protest of corporal punishment at sea by the US Navy, to promote reform. Melville, who later “rewrote” a poem, “Swamp Angel” which was written in response to the Union bombardment in 1863 of Charleston, SC with incendiaries. The patented Parrott cannon was cast in the West Point Foundry, and transported to the swamp and fired a number of times in 1863 before exploding itself (National Archives). A wooden “gun platform” used was recovered in the Foundry Cove, next to Constitution Island in Cold Spring, NY in an EPA heavy metal remediation in 1992. (production of NIKE missile batteries). There is also a body of literature which seems to reflect the US Civil War, in that most of the works of Jules Verne, the futurist who wrote and published during it, and therein, perhaps, other “causes”.

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