Emily Dickinson wrote many well-known poems during her time on this planet that are study by English students across the nation today. Many of these pieces were, in fact, written during the American Civil War. This way it is reasonable to look at her writings from around this time with an eye towards events happening during that time. With this in mind one can find many works which were talking nearly directly about fights that happened.
Unfortunately, Dickinson published very little of her works and usually did so under fake names and the rest of her works she left undated and unorganized. This has led to argument-causing controversy, between those who later studied her work, over the exact time in which she would have written different pieces.
Keeping in mind when fights happened and how information at the time traveled it is possible to narrow down the time frame in which Dickinson could have begun writing certain pieces.
As is obvious here, sometimes the poems seem to discuss many fights. As a rule of thumb it was best to make sure that each poem was started on at least 2 days after a fight began, as that was the average amount of time it would take for word of the events to reach the general public. With Dickinson’s Poem 216, “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers”, The language used seems like it may involve a description of either the First Battle of Bull Run or Battle of Belmont. In fact, Dickinson wrote two versions of the poem. In both battles The Army of the Ptolemaic and the soldiers from The Army of Northern Virginia faced off in a deadly battle. During the First Battle at Bull Run the Union soldiers were led by Brigadier General Irvin McDowell and the rebels of the Confederate States of America were led by Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard whereas in the Battle of Belmont the blue coated northerners were led by a one Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant and the grey clad southern army was commanded by Major General Leonidas Polk. Both sides lost large numbers in both of these bloody battles.
It is possible that this was meant to discuss coming to terms throughout the whole year of just how deadly this war would be. It is only known that it was fully written by the end of February 1862 in order for it to have been published in Springfield Daily Republican on March 1st. This is also shown and proved on the timeline.
By using the timeline tool, a comparison is possible to be made by putting the fights into their definite time periods and points upon the timeline, placing poems that relate to fights near them, using the two day rule, and giving around a month for completion. This is by no means perfect of definite relating to/about exactly when the poems were written. Only a possibility being proposed. An issue that was found is a lack of poems written around 1864. It is unknown exactly what happened but given the only work that Dickinson wrote during this time one may be able to draw the end/end result that she was feeling a lack of appreciation in her work.
Clearly shown and evidenced here, the timeline collection does not include Dickinson’s works that had no obvious connection to the American Civil War. While there were poems written by Dickinson during the year of 1864 it seems as though none of them were of relation to any battles taking place. “The Poets Light but Lamps”, likely written in 1864, seems to have Dickinson’s usual dark manner in the tone. However, this directly talked to her writing as an action and one she seemed to feel was not given enough attention or respect by the public. While Dickinson would not have published her own works, she was in contact with poets whose works were very much in the public eye.
Dickinson also wrote a poem in 1865 titled The narrow Fellow in the Grass. The poem seems to discuss Lincoln himself related to and specifically looking at both his early life as a simple country boy and the suddenness of his death. Other sections of the poem seem to describe how united the nation became after his death. The “narrow Fellow” is referring to Tall and skinny Abraham Lincoln, who stood at an impressive six feet four inches, weighing around one hundred and eighty pounds.
Outside of the war and something directly related to similar events was also written on by Emily Dickinson, through her poem Revolution is the Pod. This poem talks about the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
In September, when we began discussing what we wanted to do for the project, we decided that we wanted to use Emily Dickinson’s poems. After we decided this, we sat down to figure out what the project would be about concerning her poems; this was when we found the link between her poems and the Civil War, as the most active time of writing was the years of the Civil War. After we found this, we quickly decided that this would be a good topic to do a project on as not many people would likely know about this link. Once we came up with the topic, after reading an article from the Emily Dickinson Museum about her and the civil war; we asked ourselves how the poems connected to the war, if they did at all; to solve this we put together a list of the major battle of the war, and sectioned off the poems from those years in the book. What tools did you choose to use and why? We used Time graphics to create our timeline of the war and the poems, and Google Docs, to type out our list, connect the poems, and analyze them as well, so that both of us could work on them at the same time; especially as only one of us could really work on the timeline site.
At first, we sat down and discussed what we want to do; and until mid-October, that was all that was done. But by the middle of the month we began to realize that we were running out of time. Once we quickly got into gear, we started off with the basics; we created the timeline and began the list of battles. But progress after that for us slowed to a halt again as break came closer; as break came closer, we began to analyze the poems to see which ones would best fit, but after break, we picked up the pace and go to work. First came the finishing of placing the battles in the timeline, and the matching of poems to battles. After that came adding the poems to the timeline, and then the analyzation of each poem chosen to figure out how it matches the battle, or event.
When looking at the challenges that we came across, the biggest would be our tendency for procrastination, which we will freely admit is why the first month of progress was so slow, as every time we sat down to work we always ended up back on YouTube and Netflix having got nothing done, even though we had both said that we would get work done. Once we finally did get into gear we had to deal with other minor problems. As we were putting poems and battles together, we noticed that some poems lined up with multiple battles; occasionally this did work out, but more often than not, the poem had to be split to find which ports matched the different battles. As we came close to finishing the project, we noticed that finding a poem that lined up with Lincoln’s Assassination was a bit more complicated, but eventually we found one which honestly should have been more obvious to us. While analyzing the poems, we would type the analysis next to the corresponding battle on the Google Doc, so that we could both see how the analyzing was going, and make any corrections the other may have missed.
We feel pretty good about the final product of the project, we were expecting there to at least be more poems though, or at least a poems form each battle we had, but that did not happen; that may be because we could have had to many battles, or because we were picking when we analyzed the poems, but even still the timeline turned out better than we had originally anticipated it would. What questions still remain unanswered? Honestly, because of our habit for accidental procrastination, we would probably do what we did for the first two months, but if we did not do that; we would probably try to find poems to correlate with battles in 1864, as there were none in the book that correlated with battles in 1864, as there was only one poem from that year. But we would likely also attempt to go more in depth with the poems and battles that we could connect. Very easily, if they wanted to at least. Finding the dates for the poems of course is challenging because the dates are complete approximations, but if someone who worked more in science or math worked on it, they may be able to do just that. Aldo if people continued this project, maybe they would be able to find poems in 1864 to link to battles, as there has to be at least one or two which connect, as it is hard to believe that if she spent three years doing poems like this, that she would have stopped for a year, in such a pivotal year of the war.
Sources used to create the project: