Here’s one, headed simply “Obituary,” and it carries an introductory note that says, “Died, at Fort Pickens, Florida, Sergeant JAMES W. DAVIS, son of Rev. Henderson Davis, on July 19, 1864. Sergeant Davis was 26 years old, and was a member of Co. B, 25th Regiment U.S.C.T.”
The loved of many hearts is gone,
The light of many eyes;
His race on earth at last is run--
His home’s beyond the skies.
No wife was near him when he died,
No friendly voice to cheer;
He fell the country’s greatest pride--
A noble volunteer.
’Twas hard for one so young and good;
But God had willed it so:
He fell, as every soldier should--
His face turned to the foe.
Short, truly, was his suffering-time;
How wondrous his reward!
His soul has gone to dwell above,
To stand before the Lord.
MRS. E. MORRIS.
Frankford, Sept. 26, 1864.
Notably, Henderson Davis was not only an AME minister but also a Recorder subscriber; I’m still working to definitively identify “Mrs. E. Morris.”
In addition to elegies and praise songs for Black soldiers like this poem, the Recorder also included poems about key battles and other events, about soldiers’ families, and about a host of other wartime experiences, including Black Northerners interactions with newly-freed African Americans in the South.
A diverse handful of other Civil War poems in the paper includes:
*Frederick B. Waugh, “The Song of the Freedman,” 21 March 1863
*Solomon G. Brown, “The New York Riot,” 22 August 1863
*[Jacob Anderson] Raymond, “The Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts,” 22 March 1865
*Isaac Langley, “As We Let Rip!!” (datelined the USS Richmond, Mobile Bay), 8 April 1865
*[Jacob Anderson] Raymond, “The Soldier’s Wife,” 4 November 1865.
Also of real interest is a collection of short poems by “the children and youth of the freedmen, at Arlington Heights,” Virginia, that was submitted by J. R. Johnson and published in the 26 December 1863 Recorder.
The paper also reprinted poems from other sources, including Elsie Ellis’s “Ennobled Bondmen, Written on Reading That the Colored Troops Were the First to Enter Richmond,” which was noted as from “Exchange” and published in the 19 August 1865 Recorder.
It published as well several elegies to Abraham Lincoln, some of which were original to the paper and some of which were reprints. Many of these elegies are discussed in more depth in Black Print Unbound.
All of the poems noted above, like the broader Black poetry of the Civil War and the contents of early Black periodicals generally, demand close and careful study. To facilitate that kind of study, we desperately need to do the kinds of deep and close research evinced in efforts like Elizabeth Lorang and RJ Weir’s edition “‘Will not these days be by thy poets sung’: Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864” in the journal Scholarly Editing and a range of other recovery projects I'll be talking about in subsequent posts.
In short, Black writers and Black periodicals engaged with a range of subjects tied to Black experiences in the war using diverse kinds of poetry. We have much work to do to recover these texts and experiences.