In 1865 Whitman engaged New York publisher Peter Eckler to print the first issue of Drum-Taps. After President Lincoln’s death, Whitman chose to stop printing efforts and wait for some time to pass. In the autumn of 1865 he added the Sequel, which included this poem along with seventeen other new poems. In 1871 Whitman selected the present title, “An Army Corps on the March,” and he also changed the last line of the poem from the original “As the army resistless advances” to “As the army corps advances.”
Like several other poems in Drum-Taps, “An Army Corps on the March” sketches a realistic free-verse portrait of a typical Civil War scene. They include images of dust cover’d men, sweating horses, the rumble of wheels, and the sound of a single shot snapping like a whip and later an irregular volley of shots. Featuring such descriptive work in small pieces helps us all build the collection of mental snapshots that create modern images of the Civil War.
An Army Corps on the March
With its cloud of skirmishers in advance,
With now the sound of a single shot snapping like a whip, and
now an irregular volley,
The swarming ranks press on and on, the dense brigades press
Glittering dimly, toiling under the sun—the dust-cover’d men,
In columns rise and fall to the undulations of the ground,
With artillery interspers’d—the wheels rumble, the horses sweat,
As the army corps advances.