I think I like this poem the most out of the ones I have read from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. "An Army Corps on the March" was probably the first one I fully understood without the use of a criticism to help explain it to me, and honestly, I enjoyed reading it. I think it might have had something to do with the obvious subject, as opposed to the confusing topics of love and random thoughts in many of his other poems. The basis of the poem is an army division's march into battle. Gunshots are spread all around them, and dust and debris are in the air, but the brave warriors do not stop or slow down (Whitman). This is a true testament to the bravery that must be in the hearts of soldiers to knowingly press onward to certain death. Whitman makes the situation sound so bleak and hopeless because of the specific word choice he employs in this poem. "Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun—the dust-cover'd men, In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground" (Whitman). A dim glitter from the soldiers' uniforms sounds like a brief glimpse of hope because the sun is reflecting off the men in a bright and sparkling way. Toil is a form of great hopelessness, however. Essentially, the men are seeking a way out of the battle or an easy win, but, no matter what they do, there is no easy way to get out of the army at this point. Dust covered, the men are tired and exhausted, and they have certainly not had good, restful sleep in a long while. In other words, this sentence reads, "Exhausted, the soldiers press hopelessly forward into battle but are easily deterred by the shaking in the ground from heavy artillery fire." However dim the situation appears, there is still nobility to be found in entering the battle with a high heart. The final four lines of the poem suggest a peaceful enough surrounding, despite the troop being under heavy enemy fire (Oliver). This is also truly a story of the American Hero because he is one who stands bravely, whether alone or among brothers, and fights for what he believes in. All of these men, if still alive today, would receive high honors for their glorious conquest in this battle, which is reported in a very Realistic way. Whitman is believed to be the segue into modernism writing, but his writing style in this poem appear to have come from previous years of writers. Again, his word choice is precise, so that there is no stipulation of meaning, unlike many others of his writing. It was not necessarily made for the examination of the Self, nor did it implore the use of Whitman's everyman concept. But, his understood characters represented an elite group of American citizens, one that is rare and usually unseen. In other words, this poem could hardly fit in with any of works I have read from his Leaves of Grass book. It is so radically different, both in concept and writing styles.
Oliver, Charles M. "'An Army Corps on the March'." Critical Companion to Walt Whitman: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CCWW023&SingleRecord=True. 8 Mar. 2011.
Whitman, Walt. "An Army Corps on the March." The Walt Whitman Archive. http://whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/1891/poems/160. 8 Mar. 2011.