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" Man's Noblest Poem is Man's Bravest Deed"


" Man's Noblest Poem is Man's Bravest Deed"


Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, an educated southern woman of Halifax County, NC had an knack for literary works, especially poems. Poetry allowed for her to express her sentiment regarding the hardships both on the battlefield and at the home front during the Civil War. In this particular poem, written on March 23rd, 1865, she equates the valiant effort of both women and men during the Civil War to the elegance and lasting influence of poetry.


Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston


Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, 1860-1866 (Raleigh NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979), 697-699.


April 17th, 1865



Original Format



Say not we have no Poetry!

The nation’s daily life struggling ‘gainst adverse fate is in itself

a grand unwritten Epic!

See yon long line of fresh lipped boys forth with their Mothers’

prayers  & blessings on their heads-

Forth they wish to meet in their green youth, the stern o’erwhelming

Shock of furious War!

Hear their defiant shout as the thro’ their ranks crashes with deadly

Force the hissing shell!

They rush to Death as to a Carnival! Cheap their lives when laid

Upon their Country’s Altar!

See the Veteran drowning the thought of home, of wife,

Of child, of household joys,

In the stern sense of patriotic Duty! What to him the Camp’s dis-

Comforts? Midst the pelting storm,

Beneath the burning Sun-Aye, pinched with cold & starved,

Unflinching he performs it

Hark to the trumpet call- “ To Arms”! See the long ranks of

Bristling steel, rank after ranm,

Seeming in endless lines, the foeman furious come. Calm he awaits

Them, Till at the word,

Sudden a lurid light breaks like the lightening’s flash along his

Serried lines

Then like a hound unleashed, with yell & cheer, whilst yet the

Shifting smoke

Eddies upon the morning breeze, See! See! Him charge the unbroken



Find ye no Poem here?

Enter with gentle step the darkened Hospital. Bend o’er each couch

Of pain-it holds a Wounded hero!

Hearst thou one murmur , one regret, for having thus in the full

Flush of manhood given their all

To shield their country from the tyrants sway? No! but from

Fevered lips rises the wish

To be once more in the full front of battle. Eyeing his maimed

Limb the wounded veteran

Sighs that n’eer again in the stern crash of arms can her confront

His hated foe!

See that noble matron smiling altho her heart strings burst

The while

She bids her loved one go. Calmly she arms him for the fight

& with a firm endurance

Bears the unwonted weight of wearing care brought on by his

Prolonged absence.

And tho at times faint, weary, almost heart sick, & well nigh

Crushed beneath the unwelcome burden,

Not one murmur, one complaint, escapes her.

Cheerly she writes him,

Let some sad thought of her, or of his loved ones in his distant


Weaken his arm when he confronts his country’s foes.

See yon lone mourner, of husband & of child bereft. She

Wears her grief as tho’ it were a robe of honour.

Looking up from the depth of her resigned woe she buries

In daily care for others

That great sorrow which else would eat & gnaw into her very


She simply says “ I gave them to my country” & passing on

Wears out her life

In ministering to those thrown by the chance of War upon

A bed of pain.

Call ye not that true Poetry?

Tis not in times like these when what we hold most dear,

Most sacred, our hopes, our passions, & our joys

Die in the full vigor of our manly strength, crushed by the

Juggernaut of War!

When ‘een our daily lives, by suffering made sublime, rise by

Self sacrifice to sacramental power.

Tis not now that me write poetry. Our lives are Poems

& in the record of brave deeds,

Of calm endurance, of patient fortitude, the legacy of Blood

We leave behind us,

Our Children yet shall find their noblest poem


CAE-Looing Glass- March 23rd, 1865


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Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, " Man's Noblest Poem is Man's Bravest Deed", Civil War Era NC, accessed September 22, 2023,