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Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2013, Volume 34

"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864

Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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Complete Issue: The Anglo-African (12 September 1863)
John A. Dorgan, "The Black Brigade at Port Hudson" The Anglo-African (12 September 1863): [1]View Poem Image
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Not fair, for they too long have borne The badge of shame, the lash of scorn; Not fair, for seamed with many a scar Their spirits like their bodies are; Not learned in books, nor wise in speech, Whom tyrants made it crime to teach; But strong of limb, and true of heart, Behold them in their manhood swart, For this, their trial day, arrayed, The soldiers of the Black Brigade.
Forward! and with one pulse sublime, And ringing tread of ancient rhyme They sweep; and onward as they sweep, The thunders of the cannon leap Upon them, and their bleeding host Within the battle-cloud is lost; Flash sword and bayonet, shot and shell Fly screaming in that mist of hell. But onward, onward, undismayed They hold their way, the Black Brigade.
And on, and on, and on they tread, And all the field was heaped with dead, And slippery grows the grass with gore; But onward! onward! yet once more! In vain! in vain! The moated wall Mocks them, but valiantly they fall; Anselmo[3] dies, but to his breast The flag he bore in life is pressed; Or knave or fool who did not aid The heroes of the Black Brigade.
Again, again, and yet again, They charge; but ah! too few, in vain; The negroes' courage is in vain, Nor can atone the Saxon's brain; The day is lost; on every side Have Saxons fled; let none deride Who mark them as they backward go With eyes of rage and footsteps slow; And all who saw how few, huzzaed In honor of the Black Brigade.
Yet not for them was lost the day, Who made like Winkelried[4] a way; And bridge-like o'er their bodies dead Shall Freedom to their brethren tread; The sickle they shall grasp no more; But harvest in the fields of war; Their history shall keep the fame Of those who, dying, overcame; Their poets in their songs shall braid The memory of the Black Brigade.


  1. The First and Third Regiments of Louisiana Native Guards bravely attacked Port Hudson on May 27, 1863. Some newspaper correspondents mistakenly reported that it was the Second Regiment which had taken part in the assault. In the summer of 1863 Boker's poem circulated in the antislavery press under the title "The Second Louisiana" (see also "The Second Louisiana" in the Christian Recorder, June 13, 1863, and "The Second Louisiana" in the Anglo-African, June 27, 1863). Boker probably wrote the poem in response to early reports, then changed the title to "The Black Regiment" when the mistake became apparent.
    "Col. Daniel's Second Louisiana negro regiment distinguished itself . . . especially in charging upon the enemy's siege guns, losing killed and wounded over 600," reported the Boston Daily Evening Transcript of June 6, 1863 (quoted by James G. Hollandsworth, The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience during the Civil War [Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995], 63). "Nobly done, Second Regiment of Louisiana," proclaimed the Liberator a fortnight later. General Nathaniel Banks's official report praised the First and Third Regiments. The Anglo-African of June 13, 1863, brushed aside reporters' confusion as to which Louisiana regiments had taken part in the battle: "It is immaterial which statement is true, so long as the great fact remains; that no such fighting has been seen since the war began."
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  2. John Aylmer Dorgan (1836–1867), conveyancer, poet. Little is known about his life. His father, Daniel, was a cabinetmaker from Ireland who immigrated to the United States and settled in Philadelphia before John's birth. John trained as a specialist property lawyer. Studies—his first and last collection of poetry, privately published in 1862—is dedicated to Joseph Ball, a conveyancer of Frankford, Pennsylvania. The book received a lukewarm reception in the Liberator (April 10, 1863). Newspaper poetry provides the only extant record of Dorgan's antislavery sympathies. During the Civil War, Dorgan lived in Philadelphia with his father and "Annie" (probably his elder sister). According to the New York Times of December 31, 1867, he died of consumption that year.Go back
  3. Anselmo/Anselmas Planciancios (1822?–May 27, 1863); sergeant, Company E, First Regiment of Louisiana Native Guards. Prior to his enlistment, free-born Planciancios worked as a driver to support his family (Stephen S. Ochs, A Black Patriot and a White Priest: André Cailloux and Claude Paschal Maistre in Civil War New Orleans [Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000], 80). He was chosen to carry the regimental colors during the Port Hudson attack: the dangerous role was perceived as an honor and a mark of military distinction. Early in the battle, Planciancios was mortally wounded in the head: "He hugged the colors to his heart and fell forward on them," reported the Boston Journal (Anglo-African, June 27, 1863, [2]).Go back
  4. Arnold von Winkelried, a Swiss soldier reputed to have turned the tide of the Battle of Sempach (1386). When the Swiss found themselves surrounded by Austrian enemies, Winkelried "seized with both arms as many of the enemy's spears as he was able, buried them in his body, and sank dead to the ground, while the confederates rushed forward through the breach, over the body of their heroic and self-devoted compatriot" (Frederick Kohlrausch, A History of Germany; From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, trans. James D. Haas [New York: Appleton, 1852], 220).Go back