Born in New Jersey, Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909) began writing poetry at an early age with the encouragement of his father. When the Confederate Army threatened eastern Pennsylvania during the Civil War, 19-year-old Gilder became a Union soldier, enlisting in the Philadelphia Battery of Light Artillery. After the war, he returned to writing, pursuing a career in journalism. In 1870, he became assistant editor of Scribner’s Monthly, a periodical that was later renamed Century Monthly Magazine. When the editor in chief of Century passed away in 1881, Gilder took over the role. He continued to write poetry throughout his lifetime. While many of his poems focused on artistic themes—music, painting, and acting, especially—Gilder also reflected on the war. In 1897, he published a volume of poems titled For the Country, which included “Sherman” and the sonnet “The Life-Mask of Abraham Lincoln.” Gilder’s “The Dead Comrade,” a poem written from the perspective of a Union soldier, was read at the funeral of Ulysses S. Grant in 1885.
Author: Richard Watson Gilder
Richard Watson Gilder
This poem by American poet and editor Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909) speaks to the special duty of military comrades to bury their fellow soldiers. During the Civil War, Gilder had enlisted in Pennsylvania’s Emergency Volunteer Militia, serving until after the battle of Gettysburg. After the war, he became the editor of Scribner’s Monthly (later Century Magazine), but resumed his role as a Union soldier when he composed this poem, read at the 1885 burial of General (and later President) Ulysses S. Grant.